Airmule is offering flights from Los Angeles to either Beijing or Shanghai for only $300 round trip. This deal is good for March and April. In return for this cheap price you let Airmule use your checked bags for shipping goods. Airmule delivers the luggage to you on the day of departure and meets you at the airport upon arrival. This is more like the courier services of the past than the peer to peer delivery websites that just connect travelers with people wanting stuff and let them work out the details.
To book these flights you have to submit a request to Airmule specifying your dates of travel. They list a number of airlines, including the major carriers between these routes. Airmule confirmed for me that they are purchasing the best price option through Expedia so you could end up on any airline that flies these routes. These are ordinary paid tickets. Travelers will earn miles on these flights and could be eligible for upgrades, just like any other paid ticket. The bookings also come with a 24 hour cancellation and refund policy.
You have the choice of letting Airmule use both your allocated checked bags, for a $300 ticket price, or just letting them use one, for a $420 ticket. You must pay without knowing the flight details, Airmule emails you the confirmation and details after you submit payment. I suppose there’s a chance you end up with a really bad multi-stop routing. More important to me is that you won’t know what airline you’re flying until you get the confirmation. But with a 24 hour cancellation option you can always back out if you don’t want to go on China Eastern.
As an added bonus, if you have the flexibility of departing within two days the cost of the flight goes down to zero.
This may be a trend among crowdsourced delivery companies. Shypmate is offering flights between New York/DC and Ghana for $527. The price is only good for departures from March 9-14, but I anticipate similar deals from them in the future as Shypmate is focused on the U.S. – Ghana delivery route.
(Hat tip to my friend Tonei for finding these $0 close in flights)