On-board couriers are a special breed. They need to be skilled, knowing customs procedures, have to have many visas in their passports and be available 24/7 in case there is need for an urgent air transport. Sometimes, even industry leaders do not hesitate a minute to take their bag ad board a plane with a much needed document or spare part under their arm.
AOG, “Aircraft on Ground” – that’s the much feared acronym any airline can be hit by. The consequences, seen from a financial perspective, are sometimes brutal. In case an aircraft has to be
grounded due to technical or any other problems the carrier can lose easily €100,000 or more per day, depending on the market served and length of the standstill of the aircraft, reveals a
leading manager of a maintenance firm.
Once the error is spotted, replacement parts such as new electronic instruments or control units have to be brought to the stranded plane by the fastest possible means. That’s when Stephan Haltmayer, Managing Director of Frankfurt-headquartered agent QCS – Quick Cargo Service, occasionally mutates from an executive to an on-board courier (OBC). “Only some weeks ago I had to fly to Mexico City to hand over important components to a car maker that without these items couldn’t manage keeping the production running,” he recalls.
OBC missions are a matter of trust
On an annual average, QCS manages 60 transports of this kind, handing over a package to one of their staff and sending him on the next available flight to where the consignment is urgently needed. Costs play a rather subordinate role in contrast to speed. “Have the item reach my place in the fastest and safest way” is an often heard phrase shippers exclaim.
“Mostly we instruct our own personnel to accomplish these missions since they know our customers and their products best,” Stephan says. However, sometimes there are hurdles that are hard to overcome, like acting as on-board courier when an urgently needed item has to be handed over to a consignee in – say – India, Russia or China, where visa admissions are needed for being allowed to pass by immigration and set foot on the country’s soil. “In such cases we closely cooperate with a specialized travel agency that has built up a network of experienced couriers that possess travel documents entitling them to enter different market places, like Southeast Asia, the CIS Countries, Iran and Afghanistan, Latin America, Israel or the neighboring Arabian States,” Stephan explains. “These chaps really know all about local customs procedures and immigration requirements,” he says.
Taxi beats plane
Once there, somebody from a partnering forwarding agency is usually meeting the OBC at the arrival zone for assisting him to navigate through the customs practices. “The support of local agents is extremely helpful to speed up the entire processes at an airport of destination,” manager Haltmayer states. This job is mostly accomplished by members of the worldwide acting Aerospace Logistics Group. They meet the OBC at the security zone of a given airport and navigate him through customs and immigration procedures. According to Stephan the ALG partners are also responsible for the last mile, by delivering the items to the final consignee.
But sometimes it is hard even for local experts to find a suitable solution. This happened when a courier responsible for a package filled with electronic instruments and bound to Vologda some five hundred kilometers into Russia, northeast of Moscow, had his flight canceled. The chap was smart – instead of spending some sixteen more hours until the next Vologda flight was scheduled, he took a cab and drove up to the city. “It took us eight hours and it had cost a bit more than a flight ticket, but our client was more than pleased in receiving his certified documents the earliest possible way,” recalls the courier.