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What does a Baggage Handler do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A baggage handler sorts, loads and unloads luggage, packages and freight for incoming and outgoing aircraft. She is also commonly responsible for guiding aircraft into the appropriate gates and ensuring the ramp is secure and safe for passengers to enter and exit the plane. She may work at a local or community airport serving small aircraft and private clients or be part of a staff at an international airport that serves thousands of commercial airline customers per day.

In some cases, a baggage handler is required to assist the ground crew in aircraft maintenance. This normally includes cleaning the airplane lavatories and replacing water supplies. In the event of inclement, subzero weather, she may be required to help deice certain exterior areas of the aircraft to reduce safety hazards.

Her duties may also entail assisting in the organization and positioning of aircraft on the airport ramps. This responsibility normally requires her to assist in pushing planes away from the gate. She may also help direct the parking of arriving aircraft. If a plane requires towing, a baggage handler is commonly required to help direct it into the proper storage area.

As passengers board and deplane, a baggage handler is customarily the person who makes sure the items they are carrying are safe to take onto the aircraft. Questionable items generally include strollers, oddly shaped packages and health aids, such as crutches or walkers. If a passenger requires assistance in carrying these items onto or off of the plane, a baggage handler is customarily expected to provide help with courtesy and warmth.

If a piece of luggage requires inspection or needs to be X-rayed, a baggage handler customarily performs this task. She may be required to ask passengers questions about the contents of their luggage. If substances unsuitable for transport are discovered, she is generally required to remove them and advise her superiors of the infraction. The equipment she uses for inspection normally requires maintenance, and she is ordinarily required to arrange for its inspection and repair.

In the event luggage, packages or freight is lost, damaged or misplaced, a baggage handler is frequently required to initiate a trace or assess the damage per airport and airline guidelines. If the luggage is located, she is usually expected to arrange its delivery to the customer’s home. If problems regarding lost or damaged luggage arise, she may be required to ask for assistance from a customer service associate or manager.

A high school diploma or equivalent is a normal requirement for this position. No formal education is generally expected. Most baggage handlers receive on-the-job training and are required to be in good physical condition to meet the demands of the job. A background in customer service or the transportation industry may be helpful in obtaining employment.

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