Royal Mail to halve UK domestic flights in bid to cut carbon

Image: Royal Mail. 18 flight routes are being phased out.

The postal carrier is discontinuing half of its flights within the UK – equivalent to 18 routes. 11 routes made their final journeys in June and an additional three routes will host their last Royal Mail flights later this month. The final route discontinuations will happen early next year.

Royal Mail has stated that it is only retaining domestic flights that are “essential” for it to fulfil its obligation to provide a next day delivery service to all 32 million addresses in the UK. These include routes connecting mainland Scotland with the Scottish islands, and England’s Midlands with Belfast.

Discontinued flight routes will largely be replaced with road transport, with Royal Mail promising an improvement in the reliability of next-day delivery services.

Royal Mail anticipates that the change will reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions footprint by 30,000 tonnes as the firm works towards a 2040 net-zero target.

The climate target covers emissions across the value chain and is validated in line with the Science-Based Targets Initiative’s (SBTi) Net-Zero Standard. The Standard requires businesses to aim for a 90% reduction in absolute emissions across the value chain. Royal Mail has chosen a 2020 baseline for the target.

Royal Mail has also set SBTi-verified interim emissions targets for 2030 covering all key emission scopes.

Chief operating officer Allistair Cochrane said the flight discontinuations represent “a major step towards our net-zero by 2040 target”.

Cochrane said: “Moving letters and parcels by air has played a significant role in Royal Mail’s history, enabling us to fulfil our commitment to provide a next day delivery service to every address in the UK. However, we are continually modernising and these changes to our network mean that we can reduce our reliance on air which is good for our customers and the environment.”

As well as cutting carbon emissions, Royal Mail’s business transformation plans for the coming decades are centred around modernisation to account for trends such digitisation and an increased demand for next-day parcel deliveries – especially for bigger parcels.

In the last six years, the number of parcels bigger than shoebox size handled annually by Royal Mail has more than doubled.

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