On board Couriers – while being the most secure and fastest way to move everything from thumb drives to boxes of parts or product, they also offer the personal touch to the delivery. Here is a rundown of what the typical USA Couriers Onboard Courier does do – and I say USA Courier style because there are different modes of operation between companies and I can only speak for our practices and couriers. Our couriers typically meet the shipper at the pick-up point. Depending on the shipment details, the item is placed in a backpack, suitcase or taken as is in the case or larger items. Items are all securely packaged by the shipper prior to the couriers’ arrival. The courier will check the packaging and alert the customer to any irregularities. In general, boxes must be completely sealed and taped shut. Items going into the cargo hold must be able to withstand handling by the airlines as well as having items placed on top on the box.

Benefits: Speed, Security, Careful Handling, Real time status updates from the courier

If the courier is moving multiple large items, the courier will arrive at the airport 3-4 hours in advance of the flight to check in. Items are weighed and excess baggage and weight fees paid. This can be a time taking job as oversized packages must then be taken to another counter that is built for such items and sometimes the ticket counter must call and get approval for the excess “luggage”. (This is really to make sure they are charging enough if you ask me). For high valued items and electronic data storage items (that can be damaged by x-ray, the courier requests the TSA inspection and accompanies the shipment during inspection.

When the courier is carrying a small item that is under 25 pounds, the courier maintains custody of it during the entire flight – placing it either under the seat or in the overhead compartment. Either with or without the shipment in the main cabin, the courier clears the security checkpoint and gets onto the plane with everyone else.

Seating is totally dependent upon what is available at time of purchase of the tickets. Most likely the courier sits towards the rear of the plane in economy and stays there the duration of the flight. Recently, for a courier going to Benevento Italy, that included a flight delay, then 6 hour flight to Dusseldorf, Germany, followed by a 2 hour wait to board a flight to Rome.

Upon arrival and depending upon distance to be traveled, the courier either picks up the arranged rental car/van or utilizes the local taxi or Uber service. The courier then drives to the delivery point directly. USA Couriers use GPS to find the delivery location and are sure to keep both the shipper & recipient updated. Upon delivery the shipper is notified. Depending on the unique needs of the job, the courier may verify receiver’s identity and photograph the exchange.

Once the delivery has been made the courier is “free” to roam. On international or cross country flights, our OBC’s are allocated 24 hours before the return flight. During that time we cover the cost of their hotel and rental car, if they choose to stay longer they may, but without the car and at their expense. Why 24 hours? Blood clots, complications from sitting too long, just being humane.

On the before mentioned trip, the courier spent the 24 hours touring Pompeii and Sorrento Italy, however the next day she was up at 07:00 and returning to the airport in Rome for a flight to Lisbon, Portugal with a 12 hour overlay. She had breakfast in Sorrento, lunch at the Vatican and dinner at midnight in Lisbon, Portugal. Sounds exotic, right?! She then caught the morning flight back to the States, arriving 7 hours later. Essentially, 4 days of travel to make the delivery, plus one day to stretch the legs.


The benefits to the shipper: transport was faster than any overnight or express service and without customs delays. Cost was not that much more than express shipment of the 200+ lb. shipment carried as luggage.

Example of another international onboard courier: The couriers picked up at a manufacturing plant in Michigan – placing the package in a backpack and bag to stow under the seat, flew to Mexico City, met the company representative at customs to transfer the packages carried in the main cabin. No luggage. The major benefit for this company was not only the speed in which the items were delivered, but the lack of loss of merchandise in customs, baggage and shipment handling which had been a huge problem for them.

Within the States we’ve had couriers hand carry electronic tapes, medication, museum pieces, and art and body parts. The option are endless.

On board couriers typically must pass background checks and receive security training. They are reliable people who happen to love travel (and the movies they watch while sitting aboard the plane). Their primary purpose is to maintain positive control of the shipment and delivery it safely to the recipient quickly. It is a perfect solution to customs delays and loss prevention.