New report demonstrates how critical speed of parcels delivery is for UK businesses to compete in international markets

A new report by York Aviation, commissioned by the Association of International Courier and Express Services (AICES), highlights the essential role that express parcel services play in UK companies’ growth and international competitiveness.

York Aviation surveyed 255 express customers from across the economy, representing an annual turnover of over £15 billion. Most of these businesses use express parcels services every day or at least once a week – with speed of delivery being the most commonly cited reason for using express services.   This demonstrates why aviation capacity and in particular night flights are so important to our customers.

Read UK Business Survey: Importance of Express Services.

Amanda Francis, CEO, AICES, said, “As this report recognises, express services are a vital part of the UK supply chain, ensuring that UK businesses are able to meet customer demands for quick and reliable delivery to compete internationally.   Next day delivery services rely on the UK’s air connectivity through cargo flights and bellyhold, and crucially the ability to move shipments through the night period.

“Meeting the Government’s growth targets requires a recognition of the importance of air cargo to the national infrastructure and the need to ensure capacity particularly in the South East.  To achieve this goal the Government needs to ensure that the UK’s air cargo connectivity is first class and continues to support UK businesses to grow.”

“With almost half of businesses surveyed expecting to increase their use of express parcel services in the future, night flights will need to be protected and new night slots ringfenced for cargo services to ensure that the UK’s growth and exports targets can be met.”

James Brass, Partner, York Aviation, said, “Express services are now an intrinsic part of the infrastructure that supports the UK economy.  They are an essential tool for a wide range of international businesses across the UK.  In a global economy and society where ‘next day’ delivery is now the expectation rather than a luxury, express services are vital to UK competitiveness.  This study demonstrates this reliance clearly and, importantly, it explains why express services are so important and the potential costs of not having them.”

The report found that:

  • Express parcel services are essential to doing business in the UK, with 95% of businesses surveyed stating that they were vital to or important for their business operations.
  • Express services are essential to UK international competitiveness, with 93% of businesses surveyed saying that express services were very important or important to their competitiveness. 89% said that this was because of speed of delivery and 62% valued reliability of service as integral to their own reputation.
  • The curtailing of express services would have real implications. 80% of respondents saying that if express services were not available it would have a serious or very serious impact on their businesses. 68% said that orders could be lost and 42% said that UK operations could be reduced.
  • Growing demand of express services is expected in the future, with 49% of companies expecting to use express services more. This demonstrates the need for an increase in cargo and bellyhold capacity, particularly during the night period.


Customer expectations were the main driver for the need for speed, but emphasis was also placed on the high value of the goods transported, use in just in time production lines, and items being perishable. Six in-depth case studies explored this emphasis on speed of delivery with a key theme being the high degree of value placed on late afternoon pick-ups and early morning deliveries – which enables maximum productivity for UK businesses.  In depth-interviews were conducted with:

  • A healthcare company producing diagnostic screening kits which depends on express services for all of its distribution including many perishable items;
  • A high end, niche car manufacturer which depends on express services to guarantee next-day delivery of parts from a UK distribution centre to dealerships worldwide;
  • An electronics components company which uses express services for outbound goods where customers require urgent receipt of their products;
  • A manufacturer of home safety and security equipment which depends on goods imports to keep production lines running;
  • A mechanical components manufacturer which uses express for most of its exports; and
  • A digital manufacturing services company specialising in injection moulding and 3D printing, which uses express services for nearly all of its exports.


AICES is the UK trade association for the international express parcels sector. Express operators provide fast, time-definite door-to-door movement of international shipments which are tracked and controlled throughout the journey.

Our members import and export over 250 million international shipments to and from the UK each year. These consignments range from legal documents and spare-parts, to pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, to e-commerce goods. Express operators were designated key worker status during the Covid 19 pandemic, working throughout the crisis to bring in large volumes of coronavirus testing kits, PPE and vaccines, as well as connecting vulnerable people relying on home delivery for medicines and other supplies. Our model relies on picking up consignments throughout the day, then moving them by road to hubs so they can be transported overnight to their destination.

Our members include, DHL, DPD, Evri, FedEx, Parcelforce and UPS in addition to our SME membership.

For more information please contact  Amanda Zambon, Policy Director, at or 07494065670.

About York Aviation

York Aviation is a specialist aviation strategy consultancy based in the UK.  It provides advice on a wide range of topics around aviation and air transport, including aviation policy advice, economic impact assessment, air traffic forecasting, and specialist advice on airport capacity assessment and planning.  Its clients include airport operators, airlines, financial institutions, government agencies, and regional authorities.  It has a particular specialism in helping stakeholders to understand the role and importance of aviation in the economy.

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