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Casual Yogurt
Jun 30, 2005

Cool tricks kid, I like your style.

In an attempt to save this forum I will share my trips to London this Fall.

In our modern gig economy hellscape a couple of logistics/aviation companies have started On-Board Courier(OBC) divisions. Basically they operate like Fedex or UPS but they only have one service level: immediately. Customers who ship with OBCs are paying for someone to hand carry their shipment on the next flight out. When I explain this to the Uber driver on the way to LAX they just go "yea you are a drug mule" or "I'll see you on Locked Up Abroad."

I applied to be an OBC at a couple places 1 or 2 years ago, you kind just give them your home airport and passport info and they will reach out if they have a shipment out of your area. Over the past 2 years I think I only got 1 request and I couldn't do it.

Fast forward to September/October 2020 Pandemic America and suddenly I'm getting hit up to travel like every week. I had a lovely weed 9-5 job so I couldn't commit under such short notice but it was starting to slow down and was getting some random weekdays off:

"Casual Yogurt are you available?"

"Yes!"

"Ok, you are on the 21:35 tonight to LHR"


Trip Report:

LAX-LHR-LAX
Oct 2nd-4th 2020

After accepting the mission they sent me the booking codes and the shipping manifest for my cargo. The paperwork is super vague, "electronic components" it says, two boxes at 11"x11"x11".

The boxes are coming from Mexico, they send me the contact info for the driver, he is driving from San Diego with the cargo and I will meet him at LAX. Not sketchy at all!

I meet the driver in the LAX horseshoe and do the swap. At this point I'm like "well everything is going according to how they said it would so I guess this is real." Moment of truth as I hand my passport to the British Airways check-in lady, she smiles and tells me there are only 30 people in Economy today.

Boarding pass in hand I went back outside and smoked a joint before going thru TSA.

An ancient 777 to take me to the UK:


The goods:


Once I got to Heathrow baggage claim I realized I wasn't the only courier on this flight. There were 3 other dudes with many more boxes than me on the flight. I think we had over 20 total between the 4 of us. There is a customs broker waiting for us with all the paperwork, which I was very relieved to see. She escorted us thru Customs and after 10-15 mins we were curbside and the driver arrived for the final hand off.

Before I knew it the handoff was done, the last signature was complete and I was free. Mission Accomplished. Now my only obligation is to be back at Heathrow in 20 hours.

The OBC companies book hotels for their couriers, they booked me a room with the rest of the couriers at a hotel near the airport but I was like 'gently caress that I'm on Holiday" so I had booked my own near King's Cross.

The Tube!:


I checked in, cleaned up and went for a walk. I'm a soft Southern California person so I don't really have proper gear for cold + rain. Once my feet got wet I found a Pub went inside. Coming from LA where everything was closed it was crazy to see people inside Pubs, girls walking around in heels like they were going to the club. As an American I was not prepared for all the QR code scanning, track and trace apps and contactless credit cards. All Pubs and restaurants have a super strict 10pm close so I was back in my hotel bed by 10:05pm.

I slept for most of the flight so I didn't sleep much at the hotel. Lots of 4am Sunday morning BBC news and Peppa Pig.

Before I knew it, it was time to pack up my poo poo and get back to Heathrow.

View from the hotel Sunday Morning:


My quick turnaround got me flagged in British Airways system because it took a while to get checked in at LHR and they marked my boarding pass. They stopped me at the gate and asked me some questions I just told them "I was doing a courier shipment" and they said "oh ok, have a nice flight".

International travel sucks during the Pandemic, everything is closed, you can't meet new people, morale is low across the board. Long Haul flying in the Pandemic is kinda awesome though. Yes, wearing a mask for 10+ hours is uncomfortable but being on a 777 with 50 people is rad.

BA Speedbird beer is👍:


Then I came back to reality. It was nice to pretend I was some sort of VIP for a minute.

Once I completed my first mission I must have gained someones trust because they were seeing if I was available to travel again. I denied them a couple times but 2 weeks later another Friday-Sunday job came up and I had to say yes.

Trip Report:

LAX-LHR-LAX
Oct 23rd-Oct 25th 2020

This time I had much more cargo. 10 of the same size boxes as before, but I wasn't a n00b anymore so I was ready when I got to LAX.

First, lurk the Philippines Airlines check in counter, specifically the Business Class check-in. Within 3 minutes I was able to come up on someone's discarded Smarte Carte(TM).

The goods Part II:


Nice to get a newer 777 that had USB and an IFE screen bigger than my phone.


The flight routine was the same: Wine + food and after the first 20 mins of whatever movie I put on I was out until we started our descent into London.

The parcels were auto parts(I think they are side view mirrors) going to Hungary. Another courier met me after I cleared customs to take receipt of the parcels. He was flying out of a different terminal so I had to help him bring the boxes there. Kinda weird and awesome that you have to use The Tube to do terminal transfers:


This time I was able to get a $75 hotel reimbursement so I booked a cheap room I found in the financial district(Tower Hill) in the hopes of getting upgraded since no one is staying at hotels right now.

Back at the Pub:


Jet lag is a bitch because I can't manage to get any real sleep in the hotel and Sunday morning things don't open til like 8am.

I spent my Sunday Morning lurking around Shoreditch as the sun came out:






Sensing a theme?:


After doing 2 trips in 3 weeks I was burnt out to be honest. I almost had to turn my phone off because they were checking to see if i could fly almost everyday.

The dispacters quickly learned I was a weekend girl so after rejecting multiple requests they knew I wouldn't say no on a Friday.

Trip Report:

LAX-LHR-LAX
Dec 11th-Dec 13th 2020

This one was going to be a little different. I had even more cargo then before and I was going to have to take one of the boxes as a carry on. Also the driver bringing the cargo to LAX was actually a courier and would be on the flight with me.

I got to LAX nice and early to help because I knew we had a lot of cargo between 2 people. I had this dudes contact info but he was unresponsive, which I can understand if you are driving, but at least send a ETA or something. Anyways he finally texted me that he was at check in and I stumble over there to see some elderly man with a sky high stack of boxes on a cart. I couldn't help but laugh to myself because this guy was transporting a bunch of boxes and could barely walk. I made sure to separate my stuff from his and went about my business.



As I went thru the TSA line they had a gap where one of their dogs would sniff everyone's bags. The dog put his nose right up against the box and sniffed his little dog heart out, no drugs or a bomb. Not sure if I was relieved or disappointed.

My courier colleague got airport services to bring him via the wheelchair to the gate and onto the plane, the Flight Attendant helped put his cargo in the overhead.(Unprofessional IMO but who am I to judge)

787 descending into LHR:


At baggage claim the broker and I waited 20+ minutes for the other courier to show up, he decided to bring me thru, solo, and go back for the other guy after. I handed my parcels off to another courier and I was free again. Mission accomplished.

The Pandemic was raging in the UK and US, new lockdowns in affect so I played it safe on this trip. Stayed close to Paddington Station, got some fantastic Lebanese take away and stayed in the hotel until Sunday morning.



It was cold and rainy the whole time, I grabbed a coffee and walked around Kensington Gardens:





This time they booked me back to LA on Virgin Atlantic, I was excited to mix it up and I had never been on the A350 before so I was stoked.

Social distancing on TFL rail:


What long haul looks like in 2020:


Approach to LAX:



They hit me up 2 days after I landed to see if I was available again. I declined and that was the last time I heard from them. Now with the testing requirements in place I doubt I'll go International for quite a while. It was a fun ride while it lasted.

I understand how this could be perceived as being incredibly irresponsible to engage in non-essential travel between two Covid hotspots and I really can't debate that.

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Saladman
Jan 12, 2010


I used a courier just this week, from the US to Europe. Interesting to see your side of it. Mine was a professional courier service, but I guess it must be relatively similar to your experience.

PS: you might want to black out the destination and recipients of your packages and not just the faces of people. Not that it really matters, but your company probably wouldn't like it if they somehow found out. Although it's gig economy so they probably don't GAF.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





Thanks for sharing this! This was a fun way for some friends to do international travel for cheap when we were younger. I didn’t know if it was still a viable business post 2001.

Casual Yogurt
Jun 30, 2005

Cool tricks kid, I like your style.

Saladman posted:

I used a courier just this week, from the US to Europe. Interesting to see your side of it. Mine was a professional courier service, but I guess it must be relatively similar to your experience.

I like to think I'm quite professional when I'm "on the clock"


Midjack posted:

Thanks for sharing this! This was a fun way for some friends to do international travel for cheap when we were younger. I didn’t know if it was still a viable business post 2001.

I know this has been big business during Covid due to traditional logistics networks being overloaded. Too bad I could only travel to the UK though.

Thesaurus
Oct 3, 2004




what does it pay for a trip like that?

do they ever let you extend the dates for your return trip? If it's the same cost and you haven't committed to s trip the next day, i don't see why not.

it seems like the risk of getting busted with something illicit could actually be high? I'm assuming "im just the courier!" won't get you too far as a defense.

tranten
Jan 14, 2003

^pube

Seconding the pay question. You don’t need to be specific if it bothers you.

Also, do you get to keep any sort of frequent flyer points doing this? I know you probably don’t pick your airline or flights, but if you end up flying to the UK a bunch you’d probably rack up a decent amount of points across multiple carriers. Maybe not enough for “status” but enough to get a free domestic trip or something, no?

Casual Yogurt
Jun 30, 2005

Cool tricks kid, I like your style.

tranten posted:

Seconding the pay question. You don’t need to be specific if it bothers you.

Also, do you get to keep any sort of frequent flyer points doing this? I know you probably don’t pick your airline or flights, but if you end up flying to the UK a bunch you’d probably rack up a decent amount of points across multiple carriers. Maybe not enough for “status” but enough to get a free domestic trip or something, no?

For my most recent mission:

$600 courier fee
75$ hotel stipend
Transportation to and from the airport + cell roaming covered.

Keeping the miles is one of the best parts! I credited all my flying(except the Virgin flight) to American and already got Gold status until the end of 2022. The airlines were so lax with their qualifications last year I almost regret not doing more missions just to get a higher status. Pre pandemic that was my alure to all this: Have someone else pay for your flights, get status, fly around the world in first class and get paid.

I was halfway there with my hotel situation because I have a hotel credit card that gets me automatic status. So I would always bug them to give me the hotel stipend instead of booking me a room(for insurance purposes the company much prefers to book the courier's rooms). I end up losing a little bit of money as I spend like $100usd on a hotel but I usually get upgraded and I'd rather do that then stay in a hotel right next to the airport.

Thesaurus posted:

do they ever let you extend the dates for your return trip? If it's the same cost and you haven't committed to s trip the next day, i don't see why not.

it seems like the risk of getting busted with something illicit could actually be high? I'm assuming "im just the courier!" won't get you too far as a defense.

Since this is a "long haul mission" they allow for 2 nights. I have a "real" job and had to be back in LA Monday morning, but if I didn't I would have stayed for longer.

I think this would be the dumbest way to move something illicit but ultimately I'm taking responsibility for parcels I didn't pack myself. There are manifests, invoices, shipping labels + an entire support network set up for me to courier this but the "what if" still runs thru my head.

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feedmegin
Jul 30, 2008




Sounds like you hit the about 2 week window where pubs were still open here in London. They're all closed now because our case rate skyrocketed at the end of last year (funny that!)

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