Court was told during the trial of Steven Von Holtum that in December 2007, the Air Canada employee picked up four pieces of luggage that had arrived from Mexico and tried to remove them from the airport without going through customs.
The bags contained 50 kilograms of cocaine.
A B.C. Supreme Court jury found Von Holtum guilty in November.
The Crown said Von Holtum deserved an 18-year sentence for playing the role of inside man in an international drug smuggling ring.
In sentencing Friday, the judge said there was no question that Von Holtum played an important role in a sophisticated criminal operation. But she said there was no indication he was one of the men at the top.
All the same, she said that Von Holtum had been motivated by greed and that being a drug courier required a serious sentence.
Von Holtum's lawyer had suggested a two-year sentence, noting that his client had no previous criminal record and had spent the last number of years caring for his elderly mother, who's in failing health.