THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
The cost of sending mail to the US is to set to rise dramatically from July 1, as the combination of COVID-19 international flight restrictions and changes in US policies on postal rates for incoming mail combine to create a worrying precedent for international mail.
Royal Mail in the UK is one of a number of international mail providers affected by the circumstances, with the price of sending International standard parcels to the US increasing by 49% on average, and the price of International signed and tracked parcels sent to the US increasing by an average of 38%.
The impact of flight restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic is one cause of the price rise, with Royal Mail explaining that "Most of Royal Mail's international mail is carried on commercial passenger flights. There has been a 95% reduction in air passenger flights globally following the outbreak of Covid-19. We are having to use air freight to keep the mail moving instead." According to Royal Mail, this has led to a "five-fold increase in our air freight costs to the US".
A more notable trend in international mail, though, comes from a change in US policy towards incoming mail from outside of the USA, which will contribute a long term cost increase in sending mail to America. Royal Mail explain that "The increase in the rates we pay for last mile delivery in the US are a result of decisions taken at the UN's Universal Postal Union (UPU). This met the US administration's stated objective – to increase how much they charge other countries for delivery. We expect other countries to follow suit. We are likely to see price increases to elsewhere in the world in due course."
The complex relationship between the US and the UPU was first raised in 2018, when the Trump Administration announced plans to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union, citing unfair trading conditions which they alleged favored China. The US opted against withdrawl from the UPU when a deal was struck to allow the US Postal Service to set its own postal rates, which, according to Royal Mail, will see "A significant increase of more than 100% in the rates we pay for last mile delivery in the US from 1st July".
Responding to the price increase, Richard Snowdon, Managing Director of Royal Mail International, said that "Changes to the way in which international mail services charge each other for the last mile delivery, as well as significant increases in the cost of securing air freight has resulted in Royal Mail experiencing substantial costs outside of our control. We have absorbed the higher costs of air freight to date. This is no longer possible. These changes are necessary to help ensure the sustainability of the universal service to the UK and internationally. We have kept international mail flowing throughout the Covid-19 crisis, supporting UK business and keeping families connected. It is with regret that we are making these parcel pricing changes to the US from 1st July. In passing on these costs, which are outside our control, we will not profit in doing so."
For further details on how these price increases will affect you, check out the website of your regular postal supplier, or to see Royal Mail's price finder, go to www.royalmail.com/price-finder