We’ve all seen our luggage go up that conveyor belt or scissor lift that reaches the underside of an airplane. But few of us have ever seen the guy inside who has to Tetris everything into place. Here’s what that looks like:
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Reading through the Reddit comments thread on the subject was illuminating, as people who have had this job elaborated on it. There’s a reason he limbers up in the beginning, and lays down when he can: The job is murder on the body. He’s in a crawlspace, and kneepads aside, he’s kneeling on metal. It’s either incredibly hot or incredibly cold in there. The bags are heavy, and there’s no good way to get the body leverage required to lift them safely.
One former loader writes “I never had the [conveyor] slide thing when I did this” and when shorthanded, “you had no one pass you bags.”
– “Your knees are on steel, and need knee pads break or still hurt, even with the padding.”
– “Not uncommon to load over 200 bags and thousands of pounds of mail and freight in a flight–and your flight can’t be a minute late or you’ll get in trouble.
– “I’m in my 40’s and did this job in my 20’s and my back is still jacked as are my knees.”
– “My aunt was a baggage handler. She always hated the counter agents who wouldn’t put the red, ‘heavy’ tag on bags, because you’d get in a rhythm like this guy, with mostly 30-50 pound bags, then out of nowhere you try to grab a 75 pounder and fuck up your back.”
Yet another points out that this is where theft can happen:
“Remember to put a lock on your shit, ’cause only some planes from American and Delta had cameras, the rest hardly did. [I’ve seen workers] steal shit from the passenger bags since they’re not monitored in there.”
Wondering how the pandemic affects flight delays? This:
– “Now imagine someone tells him that he needs to unload the baby blue bag from the beginning because the passenger did not board the plane.”
– “This is called ‘offloads,’ and it’s happening a lot this year due to passengers not having their COVID documentation in order. It’s causing lots of days and very unhappy baggage handlers doing triple work (first baggage in, then out, then in again).”
Another found footage of the unloading process. It doesn’t look any easier.
I can’t think of any easier way to do this that doesn’t involve machines, and I assume the guy crawling around is in there because he needs the job, not because he loves the work.
I’ll be a bit more patient the next time a flight is delayed due to luggage issues.