There are several catches. Despite the growth of the market, there are still relatively few of these fares available. Many companies have just one seat a day to fill, and even a large firm such as IBC Pacific can offer only seven seats a day from LAX. Among all courier companies, routes lead only to major business cities. Also, to get the best bargains, a courier must be prepared to fly on a few days’ notice and to accept limitations on the timing of the return trip.
Another restriction is that you may bring only carry-on luggage. The courier company is using the space that would go to your bags in the cargo hold.
It’s possible for a couple to travel as couriers, but logistics are far simpler, and it’s easier to get the ticket you want, if you’re going it alone. Couriers usually are required to sign a contract and sometimes asked to put up a deposit, to be refunded upon completion of the round trip. (Some companies require a $35 to $50 payment the first time you fly with them each year.)
Courier flights leave North America principally through gateway cities: Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Among the most common destinations: England, Australia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Venezuela. Courier travel experts agree that Asia is gaining routes faster than any other area–especially among departures from LAX.
Tracy Arato, vice president of East West Express, estimates that for each seat she controls, she receives calls from five to seven would-be couriers