Missed opportunity, travelling as an air courier
It’s highly likely that you’ve seen The Simpsons; certain channels seem to put it on a loop. There is an episode titled ‘Bart on the Road’ where Bart Simpson fakes a driving license he, Milhouse, Martin and Nelson go on a road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. You might be struggling to remember what was luring them there in the first place. Three words: ‘World’s Fair’ and ‘Sunsphere’. The whole trip turns into a disaster, which is what the writers and we the audience obviously crave. In order to get the boys back to Springfield Homer arranges for Bart to act as a courier shepherding a new part for the nuclear power plant. Whilst he sits up top in a comfortable airline seat the others share crate space. Acting as an air courier isn’t fiction and back in the 1990s (when the episode was made) it could actually gain you a cheap air fare. It’s an interesting stage in the development of cheap air travel.
Following the increased airport security checks that came into being following 9/11, in addition to the development of faster and more sophisticated delivery networks provided by firms like FedEx and UPS, air courier work is not what it was. In fact opportunities are now rather scarce and you’re more likely to get bargain tickets via an airline fare sale. But if you go back several decades when the internet was still in its embryonic stages, air couriers would help companies ensure the swift and secure delivery of ‘time-sensitive documents’ or spare parts that were needed urgently. it was also a cheaper alternative than companies sending them as air freight.
The courier gave up their baggage allowance to allow the storage of the shipment in the hold of the airplane. You would meet a courier representative at the airport you were departing from and pick up your ticket and transport documents with the latter being handed over to another representative once you’d reached the airport you were flying to. The attraction of courier work for would-be globetrotters was cheap international air travel, which wasn’t so prevalent back in the 1980s. By acting as a courier you could get for instance get a one-way flight to New York for £100.
The air courier work that does still exist involves a range of restrictions and responsibilities that you might find irksome. You might not even qualify, as many air couriers are now just office staff who have been asked to carry out an assignment. However if you do get in touch with a courier company and they’re responsive then here’s a bit of information you should know. For starters it’ll be handy if you live near a major international airport like Heathrow, Charles De Gaulle, Schiphol, JFK, Chep Lap Kok, et al, because business routes are the priority. Don’t go expecting a generous baggage allowance as on the whole it’ll be hand luggage only. You’ll need to book well in advance and don’t go expecting a refund if you have to cancel. Nice history lesson but I think I’ll wait for the next airline ticket sale.
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