I’d always figured that low-cost delivery services had killed off the need for passengers to escort packages. Always on the hunt for a bargain, I spent the good part of a Sunday morning poking around to see what I could find out.
As it says on the tin, the general idea is that can get a reduced fare in exchange for accompanying a package, passing it through customs, and meeting a local courier to make the exchange. All in all, it sounds pretty dodgy. But by all accounts, from what I’ve read, very few people have a bad word to say. It seems that you’re charged with man handling paperwork (contracts and the like) that don’t quite make it on the scheduled fleet service (ie. DHL) and that the bounty the airline receives is sufficient to pass it on.
- Heavily discounted prices; you can typically shave off ~50% from the standard fare.
- You get fully fledged tickets for the flight and not just standby tickets (therefore you’re guaranteed a seat).
- There’s typically only one ticket available per flight. Therefore, anyone wanting to tag along with you will need to pay the full fare for their ticket.
- After the ticket has been booked, there is zero flexibility in changing flight times or cancelling.
- You may find yourself hanging around at the arrival airport waiting for the local courier.
The only operator on this side of the pond offering courier flights appears to be BA. They have just two scheduled routes; Tokyo and Bangkok, although the latter will be axed in middle of March. Prices are advertised to be in the £300-£500 bracket for a return trip, all inclusive.
I phoned in and provided some dummy dates in July (10-24th) and was quoted £430. Booking online, the same flight was marked up as £768 – just shy of double the price. Flexing the dates, I could knock this down to £622 (which seems to be the absolute minimum), so I should imagine the courier flight could also be equally knocked down if you pick the right dates, perhaps to as low as ~£350. BA World Cargo operates the service and the direct line for courier flight bookings is +448703200301.
I doubt I will avail of this, but I hope this information proves to be helpful to someone. Make sure to bring back a nice gift if it does.
Update: MoneySavingExpert.com has a superb piece on other methods of obtaining cheaper air travel.
Update #2: BA definitely only now offer courier flights to Tokyo.