There used to be times when I had no idea about miles and points. Well, not that I really didn’t know — I knew about loyalty programs and that they did exist, but I wasn’t interested at all. These programs were for business travelers, and I wasn’t one. Credit card programs were not lucrative at the time, and, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly a stellar example of responsible credit use. I was an adept of that incredibly convenient theory that you must live today! Even if you’ll have to pay tomorrow, living today was the mantra. Yes, the 90-s were cool. The majority of people were stupid, and I was stupid along with them, which made it all OK, I guess.
But there were always ways to find real goodies. Not some fake deals and misleading discounts fed to us by travel online aggregators, but some genuine savings. Budget Travel Real Deals, as I call them.
Who Is (Was) an Air Courier
Since I’ve always wanted to travel to my heart’s content, but never had enough money, my modus operandi back then was very simple. I flew as an Air Courier most of the time. An air courier or casual courier as they called us sometimes was just a regular fellow like yours truly, who would be given a deeply discounted flight ticket in exchange for the delivery of cargo documents to the destination point. All you needed to do was to meet a complete stranger at the airport before your flight, get a manila envelope along with your tickets, fly to your destination, and give the envelope to a complete stranger who would meet you upon arrival. That’s it! While it sounds a bit sketchy today, it never went wrong, at least in my experience. There was never an issue of any kind. A dozen or so flights that I remember taking as an air courier, went smoothly and uneventfully. And it made a cool conversational topic — what do you do — I’m an air courier — Oh, really? How cool!
I used to fly to London for $75-150, to Brazil for $180, to Santo Domingo for $60, to name just a few. The more flexible you were, the better you would fare. Some folks even scored free tickets when the cargo company got desperate, although I was never that lucky. This conviction of mine, that it’s OK to be flexible about where you want to go, comes from those days, and I still live by it!
There were trade-offs, of course. You couldn’t take your own luggage. You couldn’t usually bring a companion, although I did fly with my girlfriend once — only as two couriers “working” for different companies. You often had a set time at your destination, since the cargo companies usually wanted to run you twice for their money
Then I discovered Flyertalk and all that credit card greatness. My first trip on miles was to Brazil on Continental — courtesy of Chase. But even after I discovered miles and points flying, I kept using my air courier credentials, LOL, up until the point when it was practically dead soon after 9/11. It was air courier days of my life — and not miles or points that introduced me to the wonderful world of premium class travel. But that’s a topic for another post.
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