Question: What's a vacation without your suitcase? Answer: Not much fun
if you're thousands of miles from home. That's why airlines want to make sure
your luggage arrives when you do. Baggage handlers are the people who get
this job done.
Baggage handlers sort baggage according to its destination tag. They also
load cargo containers on and off planes. Some also do cabin preparation and
cabin grooming. These workers are called "station attendants."
With airlines moving thousands of bags every day, things do occasionally
get misdirected. Some baggage handlers deal with customer complaints about
lost luggage and help trace the missing bags. These workers are called "baggage
Within airlines, workers can move from being a station attendant to being
a baggage agent. Moving from the outside jobs to the inside jobs, even in
the baggage sorting area, usually takes several years of seniority.
Baggage agents may begin their career on the ramp or in some other area
of customer relations with an airline.
Lisa Tecdeschi, a baggage service agent for an airline in Atlanta, says
she worked in about six different areas before bidding on a job as a baggage
Whether they're on the ramp or in front of passengers, baggage handlers
require a comprehensive knowledge of airline codes and flight destinations.
That knowledge comes through on-the-job training and experience.
Since planes fly in all kinds of weather, station attendants have to work
in all kinds of weather. Guy Crane, an attendant in Portland, Oregon, says
he's worked in snow, sleet and even 64 percent humidity (that's pretty clammy!)
Baggage handlers are required to do some lifting, so it's important to
be physically strong. For that reason, the career tends to appeal more to
men than women.
Some unionized baggage handlers work shifts between eight and 11 hours
long in a compressed workweek. That means employees may work four days on
and then have three days off.
Baggage handlers work for airlines at airports across North America and
the world. Many are unionized.
For example, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) is the union
representing employees working with baggage for United Airlines, American
Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Air Canada.