Want to potentially put a sizable dent in the cost of your plane ticket to China?
The Airmule service has an idea: Sell your unused luggage space — for up to $150 per bag.
How's it work? It's a little convoluted. First, you decide you're going to China and buy your ticket — so far, so normal. (Airmule focuses on China, though you can post other routes as well.)
Then, you decide if you'll have space available in your luggage assignment: If you're an elite traveler with a couple free bags — who doesn't need that space for himself — you qualify. (To risk being over-obvious, the math decidedly will not work if you need to pay for bags.) That's up to $300 per flight for two bags, or $600 round-trip.
Next, you'll advertise your space available and flight details on Airmule. Potential shippers will reach out with their shipping needs. Maybe a mom in San Francisco needs to get a box of home-baked snacks to her kid in Shanghai. Maybe an expat banker left his favorite slippers behind. You can yea or nay their requests, pocketing a fee determined by the weight of the package. You'll need to organize receipt of the packages — "mules" are paid extra to pick up pieces — and check them out to ensure that you're traveling with cookies and not, say, crack. Airmule says shippers are "TSA certified."
A couple additional asterisks: You might be flying into an airport where you, and your packages, are met by an Airmule rep. You might not be — in which case, you'll need to arrange delivery, maybe in a city you don't know very well, and maybe on the first day of a vacation you'd like to kick off doing something other than delivering someone's snacks. (Or you might end up like this Forbes writer who tested the service, tasked with mailing a one-pound envelope from Rio to Sao Paolo on a weekend, for a total fee of around $4 — sounds like fun! Note that Airmule has since instituted minimum flat fees since then; mules earn extra for last-minute shipments and for picking up packages prior to travel.)
In short: Might be more hassle than it's worth. On the other hand, if you sell out all your luggage space and encounter charming shippers and welcoming recipients, it could be an oddball way to take $600 off your airfare while meeting friendly people around the world. Win-win?