Confessions of an Airline Baggage “Thrower”

February 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Airline baggage handlers get a bad rap sometimes. We never hear about the bags that make it safely to their destinations, unscathed, dry, and smelling like roses. We hear about the irreparably damaged guitars, the priceless belongings lost, and the rest of the horror stories in the life of travelers’ luggage.

But it’s a tough job, and somebody’s got to do it. Which is why we were happy to see an article from Fox News about what goes on behind those flapping plastic curtains at the airport. They interviewed a baggage handler for some real talk about what his everyday life looks like, and there were some surprising revelations.

The on-the-job environment is crazy: fast paced, loud, occasionally wet, snowy, freezing-cold or swelteringly hot, and often quite dangerous. Two words: jet engines. There are plenty of downsides to working as a baggage handler, but the biggest upside is, of course, the travel perks. Buddy passes and free standby flights are almost always part of the gig.

Now, on to your bags.

First of all: The logistics of flying are tough — there are so many moving parts in the process that it’s hard for everything to go smoothly — and as the handler says, airlines are only making money when they’re actually in the air.

If your connecting flight comes in late, for example, handlers have to rush to get your bag to the next leg. There isn’t much time to be delicate with bags and do their jobs with finesse.

Another eye-opener: It’s often not baggage handlers’ fault that bags are damaged. Loose pieces of material can get caught in conveyor belts and in turn damage straps, handles, zippers and more. And if you’ve bought a cheap bag with a handle that’s glued or sewn on — or if you’ve overloaded your checked bag — it can come right off.

Your bag may be lost or not make it to your destination for a lot of reasons, again — not always the handlers’ fault. If someone has marked the wrong airport code on your bag or it literally falls off the cart during an especially busy time, you may not see it for a while. And while handlers try to scan every bag that goes onto a plane, the scanners don’t always work the way they should.

We at Travelpro were happy to see that baggage handlers endorse four-wheel “spinner” bags — like our Crew 9 or Maxlite 2 Spinner bags — because they don’t have to throw them. They just glide right on.

What other airline employees’ jobs are you curious about? Would you love to be a fly on the wall somewhere in an airport? Tell us who and where in the comments.

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