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Int’l flight loaded with couriers? GUA-ATL

Int’l flight loaded with couriers? GUA-ATL

Old Sep 30, 17, 5:44 am
  #1  
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Int’l flight loaded with couriers? GUA-ATL

Friday’s flight from Guatemala to Atlanta was rather curious.

I knew something was different when I arrived at GUA and the terminal floor was COVERED with large denim bags. All the bags were pretty ragged, but they were all stuffed full. Just to give an idea of size, each bag could probably hold 6 or 7 of the old military-style duffle bags stuffed full. I thought maybe there was a large soccer tournament that had just ended or something....but then I noticed each bag had a big strip of neon duct tape with a US state written on it. Texas, Idaho, Norte Carolinas....curious.

So I go to the gate and as we board, we pass the duty-free pick-up....good lord! I have never seen so many duty free bags. That’s when I began to notice a trend...about 1/3 of the passengers on the flight were Guatemalans, with DM tags on their backpacks, each picking up two armfuls of duty free liquor. They all knew each other and were laughing and joking.

I boarded and took my seat which happened to be almost directly over the baggage door. I watched as the ‘baggage train’ pulled up, and cart after cart full of these large denim bags were loaded onto the plane. Then I notice passenger luggage being unloaded from the plane and put back onto the train. Then a few more denim bags went onto the plane....
There were still two more carts full of luggage waiting to be loaded....when a woman with a clipboard and a radio came out and seemed to take charge of the situation. A couple more pax bags were removed and the last big denim bag was loaded. The two cart loads full of passenger luggage (some I could clearly see yellow “priority” tags attached), were hooked up to a truck and driven away, presumably to catch tomorrow’s flight to ATL. Loading bags delayed the flight about ten minutes, and the captain came on the PA to apologize for the baggage delay.

In ATL, baggage claim at customs became a nightmare. As 100+ large denim bags quickly filled the conveyor and jammed the entire works. Most of the couriers were still going through customs. I was talking to an older Guatemalan woman who confirmed the couriers have become a regular sight.(This is my 7th trip to GUA and the first time I’ve seen this). She cautioned me that, in April, the couriers’ bags are loaded with fresh fish, and everybody’s luggage comes out damp and stinking of fish.

Eventually, small groups of couriers, arms loaded with duty free liquor, begin showing up at baggage claim. They clearly have this all down to a system...grabbing denim duffle bags and tossing them onto push carts. No personal bags other than their backpacks (with DM tags) and six bottles of liquor each. My guesstimate is about 1/3 of the passenger load was couriers. Each courier picks up 2-4 bags, all with the same state written on neon tape, and pushes his comically-loaded luggage cart off to customs inspection.

I’ve no idea what was in the denim bags, other than whatever it was, it was clearly more important than any passenger luggage...including “priority” tagged luggage.

Last edited by airmotive; Sep 30, 17 at 11:59 am
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Old Sep 30, 17, 7:32 am
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Well I'd at least rest easy that it isn't illegal because that's just way too obvious!
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Old Sep 30, 17, 10:27 am
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Assuming that the couriers were all DMs with coach tickets, did the stuff exceed their baggage allowance in number of pieces, size, or weight? If so, was there chaos at check in to collect the additional baggage fees?

I'd be extremely annoyed if my checked bags were offloaded to the following day's flight in order for DL to accommodate a gang of couriers and their cargo. To have so many couriers and so much cargo on a single flight seems abusive to me.
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Old Sep 30, 17, 10:31 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
To have so many couriers and so much cargo on a single flight seems abusive to me.
Why? If they paid the fare offered how is it abuse? And why should your bags be any different than another DM's bag?

Of course presuming they were all DM's.
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Old Sep 30, 17, 10:39 am
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Last edited by bitterproffit; Sep 30, 17 at 11:09 am Reason: Deleted
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Old Sep 30, 17, 10:47 am
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The courier bags were definitely the priority for the ground crew. None of the courier bags had priority tags. And I saw at least one priority-tagged bag get removed to make room for courier bags.
And I don't think all (if any) the couriers were DMs. Coach was sold out. I was #1 of 8 for 11 empty FC seats. I think we now have an answer for the question, "Who the heck buys DM tags for $50 on eBay?" Answer: Courier companies.

It was all quite strange.

I am wondering what happened to all the couriers with the disruptions in ATL last night? I know I saw two courier bags with IND destination tags, but none made my flight to IND (the last flight of the day). My flight had 40+ standby pax.

Last edited by airmotive; Sep 30, 17 at 11:57 am
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Old Sep 30, 17, 11:07 am
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Originally Posted by airmotive View Post
The courier nags were definitely the priority for the ground crew. None of the courier bags had priority tags. And I saw at least one priority-tagged bag get removed to make room for courier bags.
And I don't think all (if any) the couriers were DMs. Coach was sold out. I was #1 of 8 for 11 empty FC seats. I think we now have an answer for the question, "Who the heck buys DM tags for $50 on eBay?" Answer: Courier companies.
Ah, that wasn't all that clear in your OP. Presumed DM bag tags = DMs (meaning they did this a lot - not out of the question). There must be a contract (implicit or otherwise) to prioritize the bags. Though one has to wonder why they aren't just shipped cargo and why the courier is required for commodity items like fish or coffee.

I sat next to a courier on a LAX-NRT flight once. He was young, a DM, and enjoyed the travel. Lot's of back and fourth across the Pacific. Don't know what he was traveling with though.
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Old Sep 30, 17, 11:56 am
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Originally Posted by CommentatusMaximus View Post
Well I'd at least rest easy that it isn't illegal because that's just way too obvious!
I commented to the old Guatemalan woman that either this was the world’s worst drug operation...or the world’s best.
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Old Sep 30, 17, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Assuming that the couriers were all DMs with coach tickets, did the stuff exceed their baggage allowance in number of pieces, size, or weight? If so, was there chaos at check in to collect the additional baggage fees?

I'd be extremely annoyed if my checked bags were offloaded to the following day's flight in order for DL to accommodate a gang of couriers and their cargo. To have so many couriers and so much cargo on a single flight seems abusive to me.
Oh every one of them had to be way over any limit, regardless of status.
So I did a little googling of Guatemalan couriers, and it appears to be a major industry in that country. The going rate is about $9.50 per pound. Looks like around 150 individual courier companies based right around GUA, with branch offices in LAX, MIA and JFK. Even DHL offers courier service, in spite of having two of their own 757s fly in every day.

I have to admit, life doesn’t seem too easy in Guatemala....I’d imagine these jobs are highly sought after. (I would also imagine there’s a lot of under the table maneuvering going on across the whole industry....hence the offloading of passenger bags).
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Old Sep 30, 17, 4:54 pm
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I was on that flight too! I didn't realize that they had actually removed regular passenger bags. Check in at GUA and then bag pickup at ATL was indeed quite chaotic. I was surprised in ATL that no baggage handler came over to stack all the denim bags off the carousel, because they were so problematic.
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Old Sep 30, 17, 5:33 pm
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Originally Posted by Mandafly View Post
I was on that flight too!
The OP says he/she was #1 of 8 on the upgrade list for 11 F/J seats. Did you <as a Silver> get an upgrade?
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Old Sep 30, 17, 7:49 pm
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Originally Posted by davetravels View Post
The OP says he/she was #1 of 8 on the upgrade list for 11 F/J seats. Did you <as a Silver> get an upgrade?
Yeah...I had never seen the upgrade list under-populated before!
Were you (the other FTer on the flight) the minister sitting next to me in 3C or one of the happy trio heading to Rochester whom I chatted with at baggage claim?
Amazingly small world that airlines+internet has created.
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Old Oct 7, 17, 8:43 am
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The OP says he/she was #1 of 8 on the upgrade list for 11 F/J seats. Did you <as a Silver> get an upgrade?
Not to F/J, no, I was way down the list on the app, had no shot at all so didn't even look at the monitor. I did get upped to C+... and did just make it to Gold!
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Old Oct 14, 17, 6:34 am
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How does one get a courier job?
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Old Oct 14, 17, 8:03 am
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Originally Posted by hockeyinsider View Post
How does one get a courier job?
1. Buy a DM tag from EBay.

2. Move to Guatemala.
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