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We interviewed a baggage handler at a major airport who revealed the plane truth about baggage.
Baggage jobs can be quite stressful and it is important that the baggage handler is able to quickly and correctly sort baggage to minimise delays and to ensure that everybody gets their correct luggage.
A baggage handler needs to be physically strong because they will be expected to lift heavy loads for extended periods of time.
To be a baggage handler, the individual needs to be able to cope with working at height because the cargo ramp and the aeroplane itself could be 20+ft off the ground. Those with baggage handler jobs are expected to work outside in all conditions ranging from the cold and windy weather of January to the heat of July and August and the baggage handler needs to be able to deal with this.
The baggage handler needs to be able to work calmly but quickly under pressure as large volumes and baggage and freight can come at once which needs sorting and routing to the correct place (either baggage collection or to an aeroplane). Everybody that applies to baggage handler jobs will be subject to a medical examination as well as stringent background security checks due to the nature of baggage jobs and the proximity of the baggage handler to the aeroplane moments before take off. If you feel that the work of a baggage handler appeals to you, you can search for baggage handler jobs here on Airport Jobs. As a general rule, most baggage jobs do not require anything by way of formal qualifications but there are some extra qualities that will be required to be able to perform the role of baggage handler quickly and effectively.
The only qualifications that are required for basic baggage handler jobs are GCSEs. Everybody that works in an airport is subject to very stringent background security checks and baggage jobs are no different, especially as the baggage handler will have access to the aeroplane only moments before take off.
For baggage handler jobs, a medical will probably be required and you will have to meet some particular physical characteristics. A basic command of the English language, both written and oral is essential as you will need to be able to communicate with co workers as well as being able to read the labels on luggage to ensure it gets sorted correctly.
To work in baggage handler jobs, you need to be able to work quickly and without mistakes as any lost luggage will cause delays and have knock-on effects for the rest of the airport. The bag room agent has one of the most important baggage handler jobs because they ensure that passenger’s all get their correct bags and that the luggage unloaded by the baggage handler finds its way on to the right carousel. Because of the nature of the airports, the baggage handler in the bag room may have to deal with the luggage from several flights at once as it is brought in by others with baggage handler jobs and it is up to them to read the labels and ensure that the correct baggage gets sent to the correct carousel. These baggage handler jobs require the individual to be physically strong as they will be lifting large amounts of heavy luggage for extended periods of time. Another aspect of these baggage handler jobs is that they will also involve taking the baggage from check in and loading it onto the correct cart to ensure that the baggage handler loads it onto the correct aeroplane. People with these baggage handler jobs need to be able to work quickly and in an organised manner to minimise delays.
When it comes to baggage jobs, the crew chief is at the top of the tree and oversees the entire range of baggage handler jobs, reporting to his management in the process.
Baggage handler jobs carry with them an inherent danger as the baggage handler will be operating in small spaces, around aeroplanes and other heavy machinery, as well as having to lift heavy loads. These baggage jobs are concerned with ensuring that the baggage handler does his job correctly and quickly so that all the bags are loaded on the correct plane in the correct way, nothing gets lost and there is the absolute minimum of delays.
The job of a crew chief carries with it a lot more responsibilities than other baggage handler jobs and the pay will reflect this.
The job of a baggage handler is one of the most important airport jobs because the baggage handler team ensure that the passenger’s bags are loaded and unloaded in good time to ensure that the passenger turnaround can go as planned and the airport functions as it should. Like all airport jobs, it is essential that the baggage handler team can work quickly and effectively to minimise delays and ensure that all the passengers get their correct luggage.
Those with baggage handler jobs need to be able to work under pressure and although baggage handler jobs may seem simple, they require just as much attentiveness and care as other airport jobs as even small delays can quickly escalate.
Airport jobs like that of a baggage handler require employees to be physically strong.

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Joshua Vina works as a baggage handler at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — the site of Washington state’s first push for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The airline argued that the Port of Seattle, not voters, has the authority to regulate business at the airport, and a King County judge agreed with them last year. As the debate over the minimum wage has gained national attention this year, first with President Barack Obama calling for $10.10 an hour in his State of the Union address, and most recently, fast food workers striking for $15 an hour, Alaska Airlines has been listening.
Which is why, even with a challenge to Proposition 1 pending, Alaska decided to broker a $12 an hour starting salary for its contractors beginning with the April pay period.
So why is Vina still making $9.50 an hour when Alaska Airlines’ first-quarter profits more than doubled since last year? The raises Alaska Airlines is offering, if Menzies were to extend them to all of its ramp workers, would be a step up for Vina, but these new rates are still several steps below what Alaska was paying its employees a decade ago — before they outsourced these jobs to Menzies and other contractors in 2005. Paul Solman spoke with Vina and a fast food employee in Seattle about needing to supplement their near-minimum wages with public assistance to make ends meet for their families. Paul Solman speaks with an airport contractor and McDonald's employee whose near-minimum wage salaries keep them on public assistance.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Joshua Vina does not handle baggage for Alaska Airlines. PBS NewsHour allows open commenting for all registered users, and encourages discussion amongst you, our audience.
Correspondent Paul Solman covers all things business and economics in these online exclusive reports. 14 things to remember about your frozen greens and the Listeria recall 2She’s 91 but she feels 15. The FBI served 25 search warrants and made six arrests Wednesday night at Los Angeles International Airport, accusing workers there of stealing items from travelers' luggage.
Altogether, 14 people have been detained for questioning with officials saying it remains an ongoing investigation.
The bust comes after a months-long investigation into property stolen from passengers' luggage, the Los Angeles police department and Los Angeles Airport police said. LAX is known as having one of the worst records for keeping passengers' luggage secure in transit -- behind only Miami International Airport and JFK International Airport in New York. Take valuables with you on the plane in your carry-on bag; don't store electronics, jewelery or large amounts of cash in your checked luggage. TSA-approved locks don't do much, according to a former TSA employee who told ABC News that many employees know how to pick the locks to gain access to the bags. Baggage handler jobs are certainly not suited to everyone but to find out whether these baggage jobs are for you, read on.
Apart from strength, agility is also fairly important because baggage handler jobs involve working in the cramped conditions of an aeroplane cargo hold.
All baggage jobs form part of a team and the ability to work and communicate well with people in the other baggage handler jobs is essential. However, because of the nature of baggage jobs, an LGV or forklift truck license would be advantageous and set you apart from the crowd when it comes to the interview for a baggage handler. Good levels of physical strength are important for baggage handler jobs because you will be lifting heavy bags and freight for extended periods of time.

In baggage jobs, the luggage will be delivered in large loads and needs to be sorted as quickly as possible. These baggage jobs need to be done quickly and correctly to ensure that there are no delays or other problems.
It is also essential for people with these baggage jobs to be able to work quickly as the baggage will be arriving quickly and the airport needs to deal with passengers as quickly as possible. The crew chief’s primary role then is to ensure that the baggage handler stays safe while performing his role. Crew chief baggage handler jobs require the individual to be able to deal with busy, high pressure situations and work in a calm and organised way.
Those with baggage handler jobs will also be tasked with loading and unloading commercial cargo items. Although baggage handler jobs are available to both men and women, it is generally men that hold these baggage jobs as there is a large amount of heavy lifting for long periods of time. Many baggage handler jobs also work a ‘condensed week’ which means that the baggage handler may work three shifts of 12hours rather than 5 shifts of 8 hours and then have three days off. Baggage jobs need to be done regardless of the weather conditions so those with baggage handler jobs should expect to have to work in the summer heat as well as the winter cold and rain.
But nearly 5,000 workers at the airport still haven’t gotten their raises because Alaska Airlines, which represents half of the airport’s traffic, has challenged the initiative in court. They’re constantly evaluating the condition of their “vendors” (contractors), says Paul McElroy, managing director of strategic and corporate communications at Alaska Airlines. Last October, Alaska Airlines and Menzies Aviation, the contractor that Vina works for, agreed on a $10.88 starting salary for baggage handlers. The only Menzies contractors who are eligible for the $10.88, and now, $12 raise are those contractors who are assigned exclusively to Alaska Airlines, according to McElroy. However, if a commenter violates our terms of use or abuses the commenting forum, their comment may go into moderation or be removed entirely.
Airlines will cover up to $3,400 worth of lost, delayed, or damaged luggage, but traveler's insurance can help add extra coverage in case your items are stolen. Depending on the airport, some baggage handler jobs have working hours of 12 hours at a time in a condensed week. Previous experience of working in a warehouse environment will also be advantageous when it comes to baggage jobs.
It is also important for a baggage handler to be able to fit into small and confined spaces. The bag room agent, like other baggage handler jobs, will come under the management of the crew chief. The baggage handler will be directly responsible for any freight or baggage that is lost of damaged. Like all airport jobs, especially those that deal directly with aeroplanes, safety is the key and a baggage handler needs to observe strict health and safety guidelines.
As he explains in our broadcast piece, below, the two days he was out with bronchitis will cost him — and his family. Vina has been injured on the job three times, and when he was in pain and had to stay home, he lost those days as well. He, his wife and his young son already rely on public assistance — a $290 monthly housing allowance, $378 in food stamps and subsidized health care. By submitting comments, you agree to the PBS Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which include more details.

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