If you’ve ever checked in a half-empty bag ahead of a flight or flown without bringing any hand luggage, then you may well be missing out on a tidy profit from your travels.
One start-up company Airmule is offering to team up lightly-luggaged flyers with people hoping to deliver packages at cheaper rates than express mail. The company said their ambition was to create a system whereby people could even “fly anywhere for free” simply by carrying somebody else’s belongings. Co-founder Rory Felton told Lonely Planet: “It’s very expensive to express ship anywhere in the world. We realised there’s an opportunity for travellers to be couriers for senders at a fraction of the current express shipping cost. “Travellers can also deliver faster. I can find a traveller leaving Los Angeles tonight for Beijing and have a package arrive in less than 24 hours [while] it’s difficult to achieve faster than three to five business days with current shipping options.”
The obvious security issue of carrying somebody else’s belongings is dealt with comprehensively in advance of flying by the company. “All restricted items are not allowed to be transported via the platform,” explained Mr Felton. “Senders use a credit card and billing address, upload photos of the item, and their location is geo-tagged so there’s quite a paper trail. Travellers inspect all items and can decline any items they don’t want to travel with. Travellers, similar to Uber drivers, have to verify their identity both online and offline, and connect a US bank account to receive payment.” The company said they also provide insurance of up to $200 per package, to cover the possibility of damage or loss in transit. Airmule’s business is concentrated in the US and China currently but their base is growing strongly right around the world with thousands of items already shipped successfully. Both the passengers – and those looking to have their items transported – can build up a reliable reputation over time, as with most services in the sharing economy.