Want to be a courier?

You can get a discount on flights almost anywhere in the world, in exchange for delivering documents. Rhiannon Batten explains how
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The Independent Travel
What to expect: Travelling as a courier enables you to make long- haul (and shorter-haul) journeys at discounted fares in exchange for taking documents to your destination. The process is a great deal more relaxed and user-friendly than it was a decade ago. For a start, baggage allowance, which used to be severely restricted, is now the same as for any other passenger, and you can wear what you want - within reason. You need to book a few months before you intend to travel, although if you're lucky you might find a flight at shorter notice. Once you've booked, arrangements are pretty inflexible and if you cancel at short notice you may end up losing the entire amount you paid for your ticket. Two companies in the UK offer courier arrangements: Bridges Worldwide specialises in flights to the Far East using a variety of airlines, while British Airways has flights across the US, South America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The journeys are usually fixed return trips varying from one to six weeks in length. One-way journeys are occasionally possible.

What you pay: Fares are cheaper than for regular scheduled flights by around 10-40 per cent, with the usual minimum saving being pounds 100. Just as with scheduled prices, the fares are seasonal. Current high-season fares include Bangkok for pounds 399 return and Tokyo for pounds 520 return, both with Bridges Worldwide. BA fares range from pounds 180 to New York to pounds 448 for Mauritius.

What you do: The courier travels alone and must look presentable but not overly smart, the only restriction being a no jeans, no trainers, no shorts rule. BA prefers its couriers to wear a shirt and tie or a smart dress or skirt. The usual baggage allowances apply and it is perfectly acceptable to travel with a worn, well-travelled rucksack. Check-in is also the standard two hours before the flight and when you arrive at the airport you will be handed the documents you have to carry, unless the company has arranged for them to be placed in the hold, which is fairly unlikely. The documents themselves are usually in an A4-sized envelope and won't weigh more than a bag of sugar. However, it's a good idea to check the full details from each company before you book.

Where you book: Bridges Worldwide, 01895 465065; British Airways Travel Shop, 0181- 564 7009.