MY EXPERIENCE AS A INTERNATIONAL AIR COURIER (AIRMULE)
The word "Mule" rings a bell isn't? For me as a film guy, the first word that came in my mind was Drug Mule and no that doesn't sound fun at all.
I flown in direct to Los Angeles on Singapore Airlines A359 Premium Economy, spent a couple of days and flying out to China on Hongkong Airlines A359 Business Class. Yes for those well informed, that was the USD$600 error fare ticket. You can find the review of the respective flights above.
At the very right time while i was doing some research on my travel plans, an Airmule review came up on the google search. Having vividly heard about it a couple of years ago, i decided to explore this option and test it out on my own.
Founded in late 2015 and built with love in Los Angeles, California, Airmule is a technology platform that lets travelers earn money during their flights by flying as on-board couriers. Their goal is simple: dramatically reduce the cost of international travel by utilizing an often wasted resource – checked baggage allowance.
There were several media coverage on this program since their launch in Year 2015. Some notable coverage were from ABC News, Lonelyplanet, Forbes & Los Angeles Time.
First impression of this : Really? How on earth could anyone possibly be an air courier and carry package on behalf of others from country to country? But after careful consideration, reading up reviews online and some risk assessment, i decided to go for it.
With all the typical Asian parent upbringing, we were taught never to carry bags on other behalf of others. More even carrying bags from one country to another. My parents didn't know that i was doing this and i would prefer to leave it this way. Else i will be getting a earful from them even as a grown up adult.
About 2 months out, i listed my trip on Airmule.com but there was no match till about 2 days before the trip. An Airmule representative got in touch with me via Wechat call and briefly went through the procedures with me. Soon i was invited to a Wechat group with 7 other people from Airmule and sure it looks like a massive package delivery operations. Serious Business Folks!
On D-Day, i was told to go down to arrival hall and wait for a courier company van to handover the package to me.
Soon the van pull up in front of the agreed location and here's the start of the important process.
Make picture of the package that you are about to carry for record purposes. Then start your verification process. Have your manifest ready on your phone so that you can go thru the content as you go along. (Can be located on your Airmule Dashboard)
Airmule only assigned a maximum of two packages per passengers. So for today's assignment i was given just one package slot. No reasons was given. That being said, even if you have extra baggage allowances, you will still be assigned a maximum of two and that's not guaranteed. You may even not get assigned any bags if there's no demand but what i understand from Airmule is that the match rate for US to China is 95%. So there's a very high chance you will get at least one out of the US.
I would usually get USD$150 per package but i entered a promo code from one of the bloggers online and with that i got extra USD$50 per package.
Start going thru the content and match it to your manifest. It could be a tricky process here as the item didn't exactly look like the photos provided. What do i mean?
I was a little shocked that the item wasn't packed in a transparent way. So there's really no way to confirm what was inside. For example, the 3 UPS package i assumed was the cigars but i can't be 100% sure of it until today because i can't see beyond the wrapping. There's a certain risk to it for sure and i took it.
I wasn't sure if i was allowed to open the nicely wrapped packing but let's just say no. I was thankful that there were a few transparent packages that i was able to verify.
These are the 3 interesting item i am carrying in the package today. 60 cigars, iphone and some Exotic Sweet Perfume in a wine bottle.
Before i left, they needed me to sign the Release of Liability. It stated that they bear full responsibility of the content as long as the security seal is intact. I asked this question during the phone call 2 days ago and they mentioned that in the last 3 years of the company operation, there hadn't been any unusual case so far. It wasn't the most convincing explanation but i decided to taste it myself.
So here was my last photo, i mean a photo of me taking over the package. The courier guy took this and sent it on the Wechat group to prove that the package is now under my hands.
Check in at LAX was smooth and there wasn't any questions asked like "Did you pack this bag on your own" (i was prepared for it)
So after a long flight to china, i arrived safely and so did the luggage. Just as i thought the job was easily over, i realised there was another hurdle : Customs.
As i said earlier, there was no way to verify the sealed package which i assumed contained the 60 cigars that was on the manifest. So naturally there was a little fear because you can't be 100% sure of the content inside the luggage.
Besides the fear of the content being illegal, there was another issue to vex about: Custom Taxes. But from what i understand, Airmule reimburse any custom tax should we get slapped with the bill.
Needless to say, i live another day to tell the world this thrilling experience. I arrived safely and met up with the Airmule representative from China who was readily waiting for me outside the arrival area.
Do remember to take photo once again to prove that it was handed over to the Airmule representative.
As i do not have an US bank account, i requested Airmule to pay me thru Paypal. Even so, they had to deduct USD$5 as a admin charge. No biggies and i received the payment just 2 days after the trip. The amount above is in SGD after conversion.
Overall, i think this is a great platform to get some spare cash while you are travelling. But definitely not a career as an Air Mule. This will come in even more handy if you are travelling on Economy with Elite Status which gives you extra luggage allowance. So that you can carry both your personal luggage and 2 of these Airmule Packages. Heck you could even cover your airfare!
To be neutral, i think it's really dangerous not to have all content packed transparent for my inspection. So long as they are willing to make it transparent, i believe more people will feel at ease to use this service. To be assigned just one luggage, i felt that there could be little demand on this service.
Airmule seems to operate from the US to China and not to Singapore or anywhere nearby me. So i am really thankful to have this unique experience as a Singaporean and happened to be flying from US to China.
This post was not sponsored by Airmule in anyway. If any of the Airmule guys managed to read this, with all due respect while it was a great service to use, the transparency part has got to change in order for your business to sustain.
Happy & Safe Flying,