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Commercial airlines will not allow a package or a document to be sent unless it is accompanied by a paying passenger. Businesses hire air courier companies to provide someone to accompany items they wish to send on commercial flights. Air couriers travel at bargain rates on tickets provided by courier companies, meaning that they can travel the world inexpensively.
Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, when the U.S. suffered its worst terrorist attack, the air courier business was thriving. There was an astonishingly diminished interest in this service following the event, but the air courier business then rebounded to the extent that certain destinations became difficult to find.
Why Companies Hire Air Couriers
Companies often have time-sensitive items they want to send by commercial airlines and hire air courier companies because it is more economical to do so. Furthermore, since the service is used for foreign destinations, the cargo or document is more likely to make it through customs without significant delay if it is accompanied by a person who provides the paperwork. Air couriers are never asked to transport anything illegal.
Let's say the courier company has a customer that wants to use its services to ship cargo to Athens, Greece. The courier company purchases a round-trip ticket for, say, $1,000. It will then charge the customer a fee for shipping the cargo, and generate income of significantly more than $1,000. The courier company then sells the ticket to the air courier at a substantial discount. Instead of paying $1,000, he may only pay $250.
If you want to become an air courier, you will have to be able to travel on a moment's notice. Furthermore, there may be instances where you will be able to stay in the destination only a brief time because often the air courier company dictates the time you can spend at a foreign destination. Finally, you will be limited in what luggage you can take because the cargo you are accompanying most likely has already been checked. Often, you will be limited to what you can carry with you on board.
You need to be at least 18 years of age, and have a valid passport to become an air courier. Australia, Europe, Africa and Asia are but a few of the destinations available. Many older people who enjoy traveling have a flexible schedule that enables them to see the world while saving 50 percent, or more, on airfares. But please remember that the air courier business is not for those people who are not used to traveling alone because only one person is needed for each assignment.
- "The Courier Air Travel Handbook," Mark Fields; 1999
Bill Herrfeldt specializes in finance, sports and the needs of retiring people, and has been published in the national edition of "Erickson Tribune," the "Washington Post" and the "Arizona Republic." He graduated from the University of Louisville.