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What is an Air Courier Service?

By Ken Black
Updated May 23, 2024
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An air courier service could refer to one of two things - the matching of travelers with packages going to the same destination, or companies that actually take control of the shipping themselves. Both provide very fast ways to get packages and documents from one place to the other, but it can also be quite expensive. Taking the time to understand what an air courier service offers, and the difference between the two types is very important.

In the first case, an air courier service matches a passenger going to a destination with a package that must also go to the same place. The benefit for the passenger is that they will either get paid directly, or get a highly discounted airfare to their destination. All they must do is give up their checked baggage. The baggage space that would normally be allotted to them goes to the shipper.

In some cases, not all checked baggage would need to be given up. If there is an allotment of two checked pieces of luggage, for example, the individual may only need to give up one piece. The payment is usually higher when there is a need to give up both pieces, because this is seen as a greater inconvenience to the traveler. In most cases, the traveler will not be responsible for actually handling the shipment. His or her job is simply to carry the document listing what is in the luggage, normally referred to as a manifest or packing slip.

The other type of air courier service is the type where the company actually uses its own employees, and often its own equipment, to move packages by air. These are sometimes referred to as express air courier services. Some of these companies may offer both air and ground services. Others will only offer air service, meaning it is up to the sender to drop packages off at the airport, or a nearby location, and the receiver must pick the packages up at a similar location. In some cases, the shippers may contract with commercial passenger liners to use space in their cargo holds to get packages to some destinations more quickly.

An air service will ship packages on a fixed schedule. Some may not consider this to be a true air courier service, because the mission isn't specific to one package, or one client. There are also air courier services that offer what is known as mission-specific air charters. In this situation, the shipper will determine the scenario as to exactly where it ships, and when it arrives. This is, by far, the most expensive option in the industry. That being the case, it also offers the most flexibility for the client.

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