How is airmail processed?

I seem to have a block of cards (from UK) moving very slowly, including two going to Germany that have been in transit over 20 and 30 days respectively. Normally these would arrive in fewer than 10 days.

Yet other more recently posted items have already been delivered.

It seems airmail is not necessarily processed sequentially. I wonder if luck plays a part. Your card ends up in the right pile that gets lifted before others lurking at the back.


Hi Brian, I’d love to know the answer to this too because it seems like everything I send takes 3 times as long to go to a country as it does to come from the same country to me. I have no idea how it works at all but the estimated delivery time on the Royal Mail website seems to be wayyyy off accurate!


Hi Clare. It seems completely random. Cards to Germany taking 5 weeks but one goes to Holland in 5 days and another to the USA in 10.

On the domestic front, a holiday postcard to my folks arrives the following day but one to a friend takes a week and a half. You could explain that through regional problems but I assumed all airmail posted in the same part of the UK would be routed via the same airport.

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From the the sender pincode it gets to airmail sorting station.
There all postcards gets sorted based on countries.
Some countries will have very less mail to process for foreign countries so it goes simultaneously.
Some of the countries which has volume of mails to be shipped, so randomly it goes.
Only registered / EMS has the identification of processing tracking bags.
Normal airmail doesn’t have tracking bags.
So how much each bag can accumulate will be checked and processed.

If volume of mail to be processed is high then there will be delay.

During this covid times, actually less frequency of flights so mail gets delayed.

Some countries according to UPU will connect certain countries, so those mails will also join.

To sum up volume of mails is the critical thing.
But they give high priority to clear those mails - they call normal postcard and normal envelopes as first class mails !!!


Hi Brian,

I think there’s a real problem with Royal Mail at the moment, I have had two letters on their way to the US ( Cleveland ) that haven’t arrived in over 4 weeks, which would normally take 10 days or less.
If I look at my travelling:
China 54 days
Russia 43 days
Russia 41 days
Germany 27 days
USA 27 days
USA 16 days
USA 15 days
France 10 days

All of those cards should have been delivered by now, I accept that some Postcrossers may be on holiday and the card sent to China has probably disappeared into the Ether but either way, these travelling times are the worst I’ve ever seen and have brought my Postcrossing to a grinding halt. So, you are not alone. I wouldn’t take any notice of Royal Mails estimated delivery times for International, if they are anything like First and second class inland mail its just an “aim”, nothing more and the reality is totally different…
Conversely cards seem to be arriving in the UK in record time, Belarus, Russia and Hong Kong have been surprisingly fast.
All in the luck of the Gods to coin a phrase.
Hope yours ( and mine ) arrive soon
Best Regards, D :honeybee: :honeybee:


I’ve just had a forum tag-postcard to Japan arrive, I posted it on the 22nd July, but the recipient told me it was only postmarked on the 10th August, so it sat in the Mail Centre for three weeks before being processed? Then 8 days travelling time?

How is Airmail processed?
A UK specific answer is that all UK airmail arrives and departs through five UK airports (London-Stansted/Heathrow/Gatwick, East Midlands and Edinburgh).
I have a uni friend who has worked with West Atlantic Airlines sorting the Mail at Belfast who told me this.

West Atlantic and British Airways are the main mail carriers of UK mail, however more obscure destinations mail will travel on other airlines or be routed through a partner mail country.

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You haven’t sent anything to a Pepe Silvia, have you? That would explain it…

I think the randomness is also - still - due to the pandemic. It is completely random for most countries. Lately I have stuff taking one month to get to me from Germany (I’m in Singapore). A card I sent to the UK took 5 days (and I think there was even a weekend involved!) but to nearby Ireland it took 50 (I know it’s not the same place but just to use European examples). I received from Ireland in 144 days. Nothing I send seems to get through to the Netherlands, I have two expired with little hope of ever being received…

And instead what I send to Russia is received in 3 weeks, while when I lived in the UK Russia was 30 days minimum, besides some exceptions.

Mail is always a bit random but in the last 18 months there is really no rule.

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