A day in the life of a baggage handler

Baggage handlers really do rough up your luggage Photo credit: Denver Post

Baggage handlers really do rough up your luggage
Photo credit: Denver Post

If you’ve ever wondered why and how your luggage gets lost or stolen, we may have the answers for you.

A baggage handler who currently works for one of the largest airlines in the world, lets loose the awful truth behind your luggage.

Lets start out by asking, what are some of the greatest rewards you get out of employment as a baggage handler?

At the airport where I work there are a lot of young students, which makes it great fun. Furthermore it is a good opportunity to look at the ladies, especially in the summer. After loading a plane you have time for this …!

The most satisfactory part of the job however is making sure that you make the turnaround time of the plane. We have to unload and load a plane in a minimum amount of time, so to make the slots is very important. If you manage to do this with the team, it’s very satisfying.

I also enjoy working outdoors and working with sophisticated equipment and technology, like the aeroplane itself. Baggage handlers love planes.

What’s the weirdest item you’ve seen shipped on an aircraft?

We sometimes handle unusual items, for example, a pole vault and a big canoe, but the strangest thing was probably a walking stick with a dagger hidden in it. After a thorough inspection by customs it was allowed to on the plane (in the hold.)

Are you aware of any baggage handlers who deliberately place luggage on an incorrect flight?

No, I have never seen this happening; at least not on purpose.

When travellers retrieve their luggage from baggage claim, the luggage often appears beat up.  Is it?

Yes, sometimes we make a game out of it. In the hold of the plane we would throw the suitcases to each other, from the belt to stacking them up. We throw them to each other as hard as we can. We don’t want to break the bags or cases, but you can imagine it’s not exactly beneficial to the bag, so sometimes handles might break – especially as the more expensive suitcases, like Louis Vuitton, aren’t very robust.

How frequently are items taken from our luggage?

I have only experienced this once. We see quite a lot of professional football teams going through the airport for international Champions League and Europa League football matches and once the guys who loaded the bags into the plane got hold of a captain’s arm band of a famous club.

Apart from that I’ve never experienced any instances of anything like that.

To avoid lost luggage can you provide some solid advice to travellers?

First of all, get a hard-sided suitcase with wheels. Don’t use luggage without wheels as it tends to be much weaker and very vulnerable. Second of all, don’t make your bag too heavy. If a bag is too heavy, the handles will easily break.

And last but not least, ‘seal’ your suitcase. At a lot of airports there are professionals that can steal from your bag. Sealing it with a layer of film helps prevent damage and is also an extra security precaution against people who want to sneak something into your bag.

What’s the most widespread reason for lost or misplaced luggage?

The most common cause of lost luggage is when people check in their bags at the very last minute. Another common occasion is when people transfer between flights.

Do you ever dread being a baggage handler?

The worst thing is loading planes in high temperatures in the summer. Because of the tarmac, it really feels like it’s 50C, but we still have to work even then. It gets especially hot when you’re in the hold of the plane and you have to be very precise with the way you stack the bags, to make sure that they all fit in the plane.

You have to imagine that an average suitcase weighs about 30 kilograms and that we normally have to load about 200 bags.

Another unpleasant experience I had was when we had to carry a guy who couldn’t walk onto the plane. The guy had really bad body odour … and had peed his pants. Furthermore, the guy weighed about 130 kilograms. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience.

Check out a baggage handler ranting about you!


About Author

Tracee Tuesday

Tracee Tuesday is a travel writer, radio and television personality.Her mission is to inspire, inform and equip you with information necessary to experience the most amazing trips that are fun, affordable and culturally broadening.In her pastime, Tracee enjoys: white water rafting, astrobiology, zoology, traveling, music, horseback riding, and is an all-out foodie.