Fabulous Ask Me Anything Interview with Airline Luggage Handler

4744505285_b4d0bc8b30Photo Credit: DoNotLick (flickr)

I’m biased, but there’s no other place on the Internet with content as original as what the reddit community creates and discovers. For example, here’s an interview with a baggage handler that bubbled up a day ago on /r/travel. Here’s how he introduces himself:

I figured fellow travellers would like to know a bit about what goes on back there and how to help their stuff survive the flight. I won’t be answering any sensitive, security related, questions, but otherwise, ask away.

To clarify, I load narrow body aircraft for regional aircarriers, these are those little planes which hold <100 people, and tend to bring you to/from smaller “spoke” stations. I am also using my phone to do this since my computer is being repaired, please forgive my typos.

To start I’ll give some general tips/ insights:

1) pack your bags so that the contents can survive a 2.5 or 3 foot fall (this includes your “plane side” or “valet” bags. When we’re unstacking everything in the cargo hold the only ergonomic solution to get the bags from the top of the stack to the belt loader or to our partner who will transfer it to the ground (possibly another short drop) is to drop them straight down from waist height.

2)If your bag says “fragile” we do usually take better care of the item (still can get dropped/bounced around.) If it’s clearly a musical instrument, we treat it like it’s precious (don’t ask me why, maybe it’s because of the “united broke my guitar” vid. Or maybe because we can see exactly why it’s fragile.)

3) buy bags with a handle on the bottom, the bar-type are best. We have to get your bags stacked up somehow, and if the don’t have sufficient handles we will have to grab wheels or other features to get a good grip. Having a good handle keeps those parts from getting strained/broken ,and keeps us from losing our grip and dropping your bag.

Highlights from the crowdsourced interview:

Question from Namelesss:
Have you ever been tempted to peek inside some bags? Maybe because of their shape or something written on them.

Answer:
That’s a big “no-no” in the industry so I don’t even really think about it.

Though sometimes someone’s bag is on its last legs and it busts open. We do our best to stitch ‘em back together & put them on their flight. I will put your cell phone charger back in your bag if it falls out of an unzipped pocket *and * I know whose bag it came from. But other than that I leave your stuff 100% alone.

Oh, and if a bag has rained pocket change all over the bottom of the bin during flight, I call ‘em “pennies from heaven” and buy myself a snickers.

Question from hatten_datter:
What’s the strangest thing that you’ve ever had fall out? Do you find yourself speculating about the type of person that each luggage may belong to? How’s your back holding up?

Answer:
I don’t see much in the way of passenger items (though, like I said, I can tell a vibe turned on mid flight) but the strangest stuff I see is the freight.

I’ve loaded & unloaded eyeballs, horse semen, 84 lbs of non descript “human,” and giant towers of hamsters. All this on top of the only slightly weird, like pet pigs, 1000’s of chickens, and crates of blood urine off to be tested.

Question from fatalvaux:
How exactly do bags go missing?

Answer:
Tag falls off. Doesn’t happen often with those big white tags you get at the ticket counter, but those flimsy little hand written tags or planeside tags will fall off so easily.

If you don’t have your name & phone # on the bag somewhere else, there’s really no way for us to figure out whose it is, and where you were going.

If your bag just doesn’t make it, it’s possible that it’s arrived too late for us to load it, or was “missent to bangkok.” If a bag does get missent oto the wrong country it’s a #$%@ to get back logistically speaking, since on international flights, no bags can legally go without their owner on board unless the owner has already taken the flight. So the company has to do a little song and dance to verify that you’re in your destination country before the bag can get on it’s way.

{Later reply} Smartest thing I’ve seen is name/address written on the bag in permanent marker.

There’s plenty more interview left, click here to read it on reddit!