Airline couriers, also known as air couriers and on-board couriers, have the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world -- sometimes at a moment's notice. They fill a need for air courier services that ship time-sensitive documents, packages and freight overseas via passenger airlines. Couriers give up some or all of their baggage allowance for the goods that need to be shipped.
Airline couriers are independent contractors, performing services for air courier companies and airlines that have their own air courier departments. Assignments are normally to major airline and shipping hubs around the world, such as Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong and Rome. Airline couriers choose their assignments according to where and when they wish to travel. They may sign up for an assignment one or several months before the flight is scheduled. If they have the flexibility, couriers can pick an assignment a few weeks or days beforehand. Some couriers take assignments to coincide with their personal travel plans.
Companies take care of delivering and checking in the freight at the airport and giving the couriers the freight manifest before they board the plane. Sometimes companies give items, such as documents and small packages, to couriers to hold during the flight. At the destination airport, couriers go through customs and wait for the paperwork for the freight after it has been processed. The couriers then meet with representatives and hand them the paperwork for retrieving the freight as well as any items that they may have been carrying, after which the couriers are free to complete their travel plans.
Nearly all airline couriers do not receive any pay for their services. Instead, they get reduced rates on round trip tickets -- the tickets may be greatly reduced, or even free, if the flight date is within a few days. Some professional couriers ask for compensation in addition to low or free airplane tickets; however, if couriers miss the return flight, they must pay for a new ticket out of their own pocket.
Employers require that airline couriers be at least 18 or 21 years old, and because international travel is involved, have a valid passport. Couriers must also be able to pay for their portion of the airfare at the time they receive an assignment. Some employers have a flight dress code for airline couriers, which may range from merely maintaining a neat appearance to wearing business attire.
Finding Courier Work
Apply directly to delivery companies, air courier brokers and airline courier departments for which you want to work. Contact employers on a regular basis to learn about available assignments as well as to update them on your availability. You can learn more about the airline courier job at online sources such as GoNOMAD Mini Guide Flying Cheap: Air Courier Travel and Overseas and Overseas Experience: Air Courier Travel.