Nearly Free Flying: Company Travel
You may not be able to finagle yourself a free ticket to London, Rio or across the US, but you can get almost free tickets if you are a little flexible and willing to do a little work
You can travel as an air courier and transport merchandise to other countries or states while the company that needs the items moved pays for most of your airline ticket. Not even an Internet travel dealer or consolidator can beat these prices.
If you know where you want to go and can leave when the company needs you to, and can travel lightly, air courier travel might be for you. It’s not hard to be an air courier but is a little more involved than paying for a ticket and walking through the gate.
So why travel as an air courier? One word – money. You’ll save lots of it by traveling as the agent of a company that hires you. It’s not uncommon for air couriers to fly, round trip to London, for $100. Or Rio for $150. Or Mexico for free. You will have to pay for your stay once you reach your destination and your trip may not last for weeks but you’ll save many hundreds of dollars off getting to and from your vacation spot.
A courier is essentially a delivery person. You check your baggage allowance, your bags filled with cargo of some sort that the delivery company needs you to escort to the destination. You don’t get additional compensation beyond the discounted or free airline ticket.
Once you reach your destination, you will often be met at the airport by the person or company that is to take possession of your cargo. You may have paperwork instructions from the hiring company to ensure you actually completed your end of the deal and transferred the goods to the right person.
Are pictures of dark figures in back alleys and accusations of working for the mafia or a drug ring running through your mind? Don’t worry – most couriers transport small parcels or paperwork. Being a courier is completely legal and you can always say “no” if you don’t trust that the parcel(s) are on the up-and-up.
To be an air courier, you must be 18 or older and hold a US or European Union passport that is valid for the next six months or more. Many courier companies require a criminal record free of any felony convictions and a clean drug test, others are more lax. Either way, you should adhere to a business-casual dress code during all activities when you are representing the company and escorting their cargo.
The types of companies that use air couriers are varied. Some are looking for one-time freelancers, others are seeking a regular courier to travel between set cities. To find a company looking for a courier job that you’d be interested in, you should begin looking for air courier booking agencies. These “middle men” introduce companies with a need to freelancers looking for a nearly free ticket. Once you’ve provided safe passage of goods for a company, they may request you again through the booking agent or simply contact you for future jobs. There may be a small fee when working with a booking agent but you should never pay until the contract has been signed. The fee and the supplemental airfare should still be far less than any airline ticket you could purchase.
Flexibility is very important when considering the time you’ll have to spend at your destination. Some return tickets will find you above the Earth heading back home after just a day or two, others might permit for a week’s vacation and still others will be open ended, allowing you to choose when you are ready to return. Once the return reservation has been booked, though, you are responsible for catching your flight. If you miss the plane home, you must find your own means of transportation home, whether that means paying full fare for a ticket or renting a car or what have you.
Once you have found a courier company you’d like to consider working for, you will need to tell them which dates and destinations you are available to travel. The more flexible you are here, the more likely you are to be offered the chance to fly nearly free. Should your schedule clear up unexpectedly, you can always call the booking agent and ask for a job over the weekend or week.
The booking agent will either offer you a job when you call in or phone you when one becomes available. At that time, you can inquire about return dates and ticket price. You can then accept or decline the job.
Upon acceptance of the job, you are under a legally binding verbal contract. Many booking agents will require you to sign and fax a written contract soon thereafter, others will ask you to sign one at the airport when you meet.
Check in with the booking or delivery company a few days before your departure. Make sure you know who you’ll meet, when and where you’ll meet and specific instructions about delivery at your destination.
Prior to checking in, meet with the representative and pick up the parcels or documents, as well as your ticket. Check your luggage and keep all paperwork. Should the cargo become lost in transit you may have to prove you did everything you were supposed to do to secure its safe delivery.
Upon arrival at your destination, find the receiving agent at the pre-appointed meeting area. Once you turn over the goods or documents, it’s time to start enjoying your vacation. The rest of the time, until your scheduled departure, is all yours.
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