Tell me about being an air courier
February 12, 2007 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about being an Air Courier.

Ask Mefi!,

My girlfriend and I are planning a long-ish vacation this summer (About 6 weeks) to visit our friends scattered all over Europe. Neither of us is particularly into lush, first class travel or accommodations, so we're looking for ways to cut the incredible cost of flying in late June/Early July. One thing we've seized on is going the Air Courier route.

However, many of the courier services feel "off", slightly shady or scam worthy. While I'm not adverse to an adventure, having some Romanian make off with my money and leave me stranded in JFK is not my idea of an adventure. Poking around AskMefi, I found one story of an air courier who seemed to hate his experience. Still, I was hoping other Mefi-ites could vouch for/condemn the idea and maybe provide some trustworthy resources to look into courier-ing (Someone help me with that one!).

A few things: Late nights/early mornings/out of the way airports are all fine. We don't need to fly together, although that'd be a plus, of course.
posted by GilloD to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to know someone from the UK who did the Air Courier thing to travel back home (from Miami) about 10 years ago. According to her, it was great when she wasn't looking to go home at a particular time. She could never schedule air courier travel, they'd just call her at random times and let her know of availability. Usually there was only a couple days advance warning. Also, in the years she was signed up, she had the option to travel maybe 3 or 4 times.

Unless things have changed, air courier options probably won't be the best options for planned travel.
posted by necessitas at 8:33 AM on February 12, 2007

Sure, that's fair. We don't have any exact dates in mind, other than we'd like to happen after June 11th and before, say, August 1st. Is that window unreasonable?
posted by GilloD at 8:38 AM on February 12, 2007

Her experience was that she'd get a call on a random tuesday in march and leave that friday. Then she wouldn't get a call for another 6-8 months.

In other words, your expectations are unreasonable, but only because there is no way to determine whether or not they'll have air courier assignments at any time throughout that window, or any window for that matter. If you wanted to see your friends in europe at some point, and it didn't matter when, even if you were called with an assignment next thursday, air courier is the way.

Also, keep in mind, her travel was never longer than a few days at a time. If you plan to stay for 6 weeks, you are probably going to have to book your own arrangements to get home. It isn't open-ended travel when doing the air courier thing.
posted by necessitas at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2007

Unfortunately, afaik, there's no air courier service to and from the US anymore. I'll explain what I know anyway:

I was using air couriers as a means of travel back in 2003-5 to fly from London to New York and back.

What I'd do is call up a courier company (I had a list) and ask if they had an opening for a certain day. It meant that I'd get a return flight for £100-£120 all inc, which is way better than the £240-£300 minimum you're normally going to spend getting there and back.

My "work" would involve showing up at the airport about three hours before my flight, which would usually mean arriving at Heathrow at 6am. I'd check in as usual and then hang around for a hurried looking guy to rush in and hand me a plastic container full of papers.

What you do as an courier is basically take huge amounts of cargo on as your excess baggage. This means that they clear customs much, much quicker - hours instead of days or weeks.

When I got to JFK, I'd be rushed through passport and baggage to another stressed out fellow who eagerly took my package off me. And... that was it. My return journey was completely normal.

Unfortunately, in 2005 or so, they stopped using these human couriers. I think they switched everything to some sort of electronic method. Confounded technology! No more cheap flights for me...
posted by Magnakai at 6:21 AM on February 13, 2007

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