#international air travel
While companies face tough times, rock bottom fares have disappeared
By Alexander Basek and George Hobica
updated 11/8/2007 1:02:25 PM ET 2007-11-08T18:02:25
“Get to Hong Kong or London for cheap,” the pitch goes, “and all you have to do is accompany a package with some documents!”
It sounds like an opportunity that’s too good to be true, and, of course, it is. Courier travel is hardly cheap these days, and courier companies are fast disappearing, victims of 9/11 and technology. A few remain, but like Madonna or George Michael, they are shadows of their former selves.
Today, documents route seamlessly via the Internet, while physical cargo (and travelers with one-way tickets) are scrutinized more closely than ever. Both these facts of modern-day life make for tough times at courier companies.
“Between new international trade agreements, post-9/11 air travel rules, and a surfeit of ways to find budget fares online, courier services are merely a barely surviving vestigial quirk of the old school of budget travel,” said travel expert Reid Bramblett, founder of ReidsGuides.com.
There’s even pressure from overnight delivery services: why send a courier to Hong Kong when FedEx has 30 frequencies weekly to China?
Even Kelly Monaghan, who wrote a highly regarded book on the subject, admits that, “Because of changes in the air freight industry and worldwide concerns about airline security in the wake of 9/11, air courier travel is, effectively, a thing of the past. Yes, there are still places that advertise ‘courier’ flights, but the prices they are asking are seldom competitive with those offered by airfare consolidators or bucket shops.”
Getting squeezed from all sides, the remaining courier companies can’t afford to offer the rock bottom fares of yore. Still, it’s easy to get on board with one: call the couriers and announce that you’re interested in traveling during a window of dates; they’ll tell you if they have vacancies, and you purchase the ticket from them. But it’ll cost more than you expect.