Only Free Beats Courier Class
Carry your own bag, get a cheap fare abroad
Courier flights leave from New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco and, to a lesser degree, from Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. The International Association of Air Travel Couriers in Lake Worth, Fla., (407) 582-8320, publishes a courier newsletter and price sheet ($35 per year for a membership). "The Insiders Guide to Air Courier Bargains" by Kelly Monaghan (The Intrepid Traveler, $14.95, 800-356-9315) includes a 113-page directory of courier firms and the cities they serve.
Historically, the courier industry has treated couriers "as another piece of luggage, really," says Grazia Adriani of Line Haul Services in Miami, (305) 477-0651. Some still do. But many leading firms now realize that making couriers happy generates repeat travelers and good word of mouth. Until recently, for example, couriers were on their own if, say, they wanted to book an additional flight and visit a friend after landing at their destination. Halbart Express, (718) 656-8279, a major New York-based courier company, is making such connections easier. On $330 round-trip flights from New York to Helsinki during March, for example, many couriers paid just an extra $45 to continue on regular flights to Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg, Budapest, Prague or Warsaw. Halbart is doubling fares to the former Soviet bloc next month, however, to cover rising airline prices.
Miami-based Line Haul Services also broke the no-frills stereotype recently by adding an in-house travel agency. Couriers who want to fly Line Haul from Miami to Central and South America can now book hotel rooms, rental cars and additional flights from the in-house staff at competitive rates. New York brokers Now Voyager and Discount Travel International (DTI) both book overseas charter flights, and DTI recently began offering weeklong hotel packages to couriers flying from Miami to Rio de Janeiro. The courier flight costs $375 round-trip, and the optional hotel packages at a clean, comfortable beachfront hotel add about $275 to $325 to the bill.
For prospective couriers who live outside the major courier hubs, the high cost of flying to New York, California or Florida often wipes out the overall savings on their international courier ticket. Halbart Express may soon offer a solution to that, too. Jack Schaper, Halbart development director, says the company hopes soon to offer direct courier service from Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Other industry experts call Schaper's plans a pipe dream and doubt that enough people in those cities will be interested in flying as couriers to fill the daily routes. But Byron Lutz of the International Association of Air Travel Couriers thinks otherwise. The appeal will be the same as always, he says: cheap flights.
What a deal A courier can fly abroad for half or more off the usual fare, as these sample round trips show.
AIRLINE FARE COURIER FARE Trip Adv. purch. Adv. Purch. Last-minute New York-Milan $706 $350 $150 Washington-London $479 $299 $125 Miami-Rio de Janeiro $1,186 $375 $199 San Francisco-Bangkok $896 $499 $300 Los Angeles-Sydney Note: One-month advance-purchase fares; late-April travel. USN&WR--Basic data: Discount Travel International; Polo Express; carriers