9 confessions of an airport baggage handler
Lost luggage? The Secret Baggage Handler reveals the truth about what really happens to your suitcase
Has an airline ever lost your bag? Want to know what really happens to your bags when you wave them goodbye at the airport? We interview a baggage handler at a major airport who reveals the truth about your suitcase.
1. What’s the most common cause of lost baggage?
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.
2. How often do things get stolen from bags?
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 have never experienced any instances of anything like that.
3. Do baggage handlers ever purposely put bags on the wrong flight?
No, I have never seen this happening (at least not on purpose).
4. What is the worst thing about being a baggage handler?
The worse thing is loading planes in high temperatures in the summer. Because of the tarmac it really feels like it is 50 degrees C, but we still have to work even then. It gets especially hot when you are 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 unpleased 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.
5. What’s the best thing?
The contact you have with the other staff. 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 is very satisfying.
I also enjoy working outdoors and working with sophisticated equipment and technology, like the aeroplane itself. Baggage handlers love planes.
6. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen someone trying to transport on a plane?
We sometimes handle unusual outsize 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)
7. Sometimes it looks like bags get rough treatment – do baggage handlers ever break stuff on purpose?
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 that it is not exactly beneficial to the bag, so sometimes handles might break, especially as the more expensive suitcases, like Louis Vuitton, aren’t very robust.
8. What tips would you give to travellers to avoid their bags getting lost or damaged?
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/suitcase too heavy. If a bag is too heavy 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/suitcase. Sealing your bag 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.
9. Do you still check in your bag or travel hand luggage only?!
Yes, I still check in suitcases. I have got a good solid suitcase with wheels. Such a suitcase normally doesn’t cause any problems loading it on a plane. And over all, it's actually pretty rare that suitcases and bags break or get lost.