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The Ultimate Traveling Babysitting Job -- Be An Air Courier

(October 1999)

Want to travel around the world cheaply? Consider traveling as an air courier.

Air couriers fly around the globe at substantial discounts simply in exchange for “baby-sitting” documents or package shipments. Companies often need to send documents or packages quickly and don't want to wait days for the items to clear customs. Having shipments escorted by an air courier enables these items to be cleared through customs immediately. In exchange for your babysitting job, you get highly discounted tickets (often at least 50% off), and once in awhile you may find a free trip (less common).

So how cheap are these tickets? As with any other tickets, price depends on the route. As one example, the average round-trip fare to London these days is approximately $750 or higher. Air courier fares can be as low as $100.

Although flying as a courier is fairly simple, you should keep in mind that you are technically working for your discounted ticket. According to Kelly Monaghan, author of Air Courier Bargains, Fly Cheap and the Intrepid Traveler website, “being an air courier is a serious business that involves a contractual relationship between you and the company you are serving as a courier. While your name might be on the ticket, the courier company still owns it.”

Monaghan, who flies as a courier several times a year offers that as a courier, “you can usually expect to fly for about half price.” “Today, air courier travel is much like other forms of leisure travel,” he continues, “that is, you call a courier company, book a flight to the destination of your choice up to three months in advance, and pay with a credit card right on the phone.”

“If you are really flexible, especially able to travel last minute, you may be able to obtain the free, or dirt cheap flights,” Monaghan points out. At times courier companies find themselves in a bind and need to find someone other than their own employees to send with a shipment. When courier companies get into a bind is when you will find great deals. If you are adventurous, this may be your ticket out of town.

Some companies have a number you can call to check on last-minute opportunities. Others keep a list of people who are willing to fly on very short notice to specific destinations.

Monaghan adds, “You can join an air courier association that sends bulletins of special fares. The largest are the Air Courier Association (800-822-0888) and the International Association of Air Travel Couriers (561-582-8320). Membership is under $50 a year for each. Some air freight companies for which you'd act as a courier might charge a one-time fee for flying for them. New York-based Now Voyager charges $50 for your first time flying with them and requires a refundable deposit of $100.”

Worried that you might end up carrying illegal shipments?

Don't be. Monaghan says he knows of no cases where a courier was arrested due to the contents of a shipment. Most courier companies won’t let you touch the shipments for fear that the courier may try to smuggle something in.

What about your luggage?

You are still allowed to bring one or two carry-on bags. With today’s wheeled carry-on bags, this is sufficient space to accommodate a week’s worth of clothing. Even if you don’t want to bring carry-on luggage, you can usually check a bag as excess baggage for a small fee.

If you are serious about becoming a air courier I recommend that you pick up a copy of Monaghan’s book, Air Courier Bargains. At his Intrepid Traveler website, Kelly offers a complete resource list for air courier companies around the globe.

Related Links:

The International Association of Air Travel Couriers

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