On-Board Courier: Passenger Priority for Your Freight

On-Board Courier: Passenger Priority for Your Freight

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When a client needs their cargo moved quickly from one destination to another, there are many factors to consider. How far does the freight need to travel? Does the client need constant visibility of the shipment? What capacity is available to handle the cargo? Does the client need assistance to clear a shipment through Customs? With many potential constraints facing clients today, 3PLs are continuously using creative shipping methods to ensure the highest level of capacity, priority and customer service. On-Board Courier (OBC) service, also known as hand carry, is a superb option for clients who need a time-sensitive, high-priority global or domestic freight option. Additionally, OBC service provides incredible ease of tracking as shipments are escorted by an individual acting as a courier.

Why Should Shippers Use OBC Instead of Traditional Transportation Modes?

There are several scenarios in which shippers with time-critical shipments may consider non-traditional modes such as OBC. How should a manufacturer whose plant has a critical part shortage that will cause line-down-time within 24 hours, potentially costing thousands of dollars in production loss, quickly solve a supply chain issue? What is the best course of action for a supplier faced with limited ocean availability capacity and customers across the country desperately waiting for their product?

One alternative is sending the urgent cargo via airfreight, as it is much faster to fly than driving cross-country or traveling overseas by ocean liner. However, shipping via airfreight has its constraints. Even at the highest “next flight out” priority service, it is not the highest priority freight within the cargo hold, as passenger luggage takes precedence over all other cargo. Air charter is another alternative; however, the cost of hiring a dedicated plane to move the critical freight may outweigh the option’s value, and in a tight market, capacity can be hard to come by.

These scenarios are precisely when the OBC mode is the right choice for shippers. Passenger freight has the highest priority in an aircraft’s underbelly; thus, a shipment has “passenger” freight priority using a hand carry courier because it travels with a ticketed passenger to its destination. 

What Types of Freight Can Move via On-Board Courier Service?

Any products permitted by the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) rules aboard a commercial aircraft as cargo can be shipped using an On-Board Courier. However, the product must be sized to accepted baggage requirements, being physically carried by the courier and given to the over-the-counter staff at the airport check-in desk.  If the freight is small enough and is an approved commodity, it may be carried on board as the courier’s carry-on allowance.

Does this mean that only suitcase-sized freight, limited to the standard baggage allowance per person, can be shipped at a time? Absolutely not. 3PLs that perform hand carry services, like Ascent On-Demand (AOD), work with the airlines to send various freight amounts. Recently, Ascent’s OBC agents handled a record-breaking trip. With ample space on the flight, AOD arranged a shipment consisting of 35 bags that departed LAX, destined for Detroit, Michigan.

What about weight? Depending on space, this is not limited either. Remembering that the courier and airline agents must handle each piece so individually, they are not too heavy, larger projects can be accommodated. Recently, Ascent handled a project totaling 1,750 pounds, accomplished by repacking the freight into smaller packages suitable for airline acceptance. Completing a shipment of this volume takes creativity, excellent air carrier relationships and a deep, supportive courier network. With the right team and clear communication, anything is possible.

How Have COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Impacted OBC?

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the continually shifting travel restrictions and rules for individuals traveling by plane can be overwhelming. Clients should build a solid relationship with their providers to ensure transparent communication and trust, especially when using an On-Board Courier service. There are far more regulations to consider with new restriction changes occurring daily. 

Ascent is continuously working to protect its clients against failures by taking measures including:

  • Staying ahead of the ever-changing entry bans and limitations across the globe by reviewing each country’s rules at the time of shipment request
  • Pre-qualifying each courier before dispatch to ensure they meet each country’s entry/exit requirements according to IATA travel regulations, confirming that their travel history will permit them into the countries along the planned route
  • Following and enforcing post-arrival quarantine requirements
  • Organizing COVID-19 testing for couriers, ensuring they have a negative test within 72 hours of departure for all required countries  

Ascent Global Logistics offers clients a deep, committed, caring network of On-Board Courier agents. Our network consists of ninety individual On-Board Couriers based in twenty-three countries and eight global partnerships with courier providers to ensure coverage on each request.

Choosing the correct On-Board Courier solution provider is paramount, especially when clients are dealing with the stresses of potential line-down or limited capacity scenarios. By working with a 3PL that has an extensive network of hand carry agents and air carrier relationships, thinks creatively, communicates effectively and has a firm grasp on current industry impacts, you are setting your business up for success.

Who says logistics has to be complicated? We certainly didn’t. Contact the Ascent team to learn more.


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