Ready for the world? If so, flying courier will enable you to see foreign places at deeply discounted prices. Companies turn to courier firms when they need a passenger to hand-deliver sensitive documents or cargo to a waiting party in another country. The passenger acts as a courier by forfeiting check-on luggage, which is replaced by the cargo to be delivered, and as compensation is provided with discounted travel.
Sounds complicated? Not at all. Courier flights offer relatively little hassle in return for discounts of up to 80% off regular fares. For example, a courier flight from New York to Hong Kong would run you anywhere from $150 to $250-much less than the $1,560 round trip you’d regularly pay. What’s more, with nearly 40,000 courier flights available annually, you can visit almost any corner of the globe at any time of the year. These cheap coach seats are made available on popular airlines such as TWA, Air France, and British Airways because "courier companies are in the freight business, not the passenger business," says Kelly Monaghan, author of Air Courier Bargains (The Intrepid Traveler, $14.95; 800-356-9315). By attaching a real person to this cargo, the goods clear customs more easily and reach their ultimate destination quicker and safer. The tickets come cheap because it’s the courier’s job to deliver the cargo to the shipping agent’s representative upon arrival.
"Courier travel is not for everyone," warns Byron Lutz, editor of the Shoestring Traveler, the magazine of the International Association of Air Travel Couriers. Going courier, while fairly simple, still requires some sense of adventure, since you don’t set the destination or itinerary. The steepest discounts are usually found as close to the flight date as possible, as courier firms scramble to find passengers to accompany their goods. Lutz says he’s even seen flights offered for free just hours before departure. Also, most companies require couriers to stay for specific lengths of time, usually seven to 14 days in Europe, seven to 30 days in Asia. Courier companies will only send one courier per flight, so couples looking to travel as couriers will have to take separate flights-say 24 hours apart-to save money on both tickets. As for luggage, most courier firms allow passengers just one check-on piece or even carry-on luggage only. Don’t forget, you’re trading your luggage space for that discount fare, so "going courier makes sense for savvy travelers with some level of flexibility," Lutz advises.
Along with reduced luggage allowances, courier flights come with some additional-albeit standard-restrictions. Tickets are usually nonrefundable and must be paid for in cash and picked up in person, usually on the day of the flight. You should also expect to act as a courier on your return flight as well. Couriers don’t actually carry parcels to and from the airport. The cargo is sent by the courier firm directly to the airport and placed on board with no passenger involvement. But couriers will be given a pouch with forms