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A decision by UK postal service Royal Mail to remove five 737 freighters from service and cut its domestic flights in half will be a blow to their operator, Sweden-based cargo airline West Atlantic.

Royal Mail announced this week that it would discontinue 18 domestic flights in favour of road transport, to “improve customer reliability and minimise carbon emissions”.  

Eleven flights made their final journeys last month, three will cease on 20 July and a further four early next year. 

A spokesperson for West Atlantic told The Loadstar: “Certainly ours will be a smaller UK operation than before, as we have been unable to replace the losses caused by the Royal Mail network revisions.  

“Opportunities for regional cargo operators with a UK registry have been severely restricted since Brexit, and opportunities we are able to capitalise on are few.” 

In total, the carrier will cease operating three 737-400s and two 737-300s for Royal Mail and the surplus aircraft would be returned to their lessors or sold. One B737-300 would be used for parts, added the spokesperson.  

One 737 has already been redelivered, to Automatic in Arizona, last weekend and the West Atlantic spokesperson said the carrier was “in the process of deciding what other aircraft [it] will return”. 

 “We have options in the fleet,” they explained, adding that West Atlantic’s jet fleet focus was “now on 737-800 and A321 operations”. 

Royal Mail said: “The only domestic flights that will remain are those that are essential for Royal Mail to fulfill its universal service obligation to provide a next-day delivery service to all 32 million addresses in the UK. 

“Transporting more mail by road instead of air will improve reliability for customers and help meet growing demand for next-day deliveries, as road vehicles are less likely to be delayed by bad weather, and road fleets are less capacity-constrained, enabling Royal Mail to transport more during busy periods,” it added. 

Shifting to road would also “help meet the demands of growing online shopping habits”, by increasing its capacity for larger parcels.  

A similar move was seen in the US at the end of last year when United States Postal Service (USPS) announced it was cutting its domestic airfreight use in favour of road transport. This saw US carrier and USPS contract holder Amerijet park 22 of its freighters. 

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