I think I’d like to try being a baggage handler. It looks like a fun job, active and physical, if perhaps a little monotonous.

Baggage handlers are a problem for the airlines. Actually, they’re a problem for the airports, but it’s the airlines that feel the problem. Baggage handlers handle baggage onto and off the planes in the full glare of passengers watching from the departure lounges. They are a wonder of economy of physical effort, moving tens of thousands of pounds of luggage every day.

Unfortunately, they also pay scant regard for the contents of bags, and from a customer-oriented point of view this is a problem. I recently spent an idle 20 minutes watching guys loading bags onto a conveyor belt into the plane’s hold. One chap pulls the luggage off the luggage truck, from the top bag down so that each stack falls closer to him, then pivots from the baggage truck 180 degrees behind in and throws each bag onto the belt. Then the chap standing in the door of the hold takes each bag of the belt and launches them left and right over runners in the hold.

The bags take a hell of a beating, to borrow from a well known Norwegian soccer commentator. And that’s just the parts of the process we see plane-side. We don’t see the bags getting onto the trucks outbound and off the trucks inbound. If you don’t have the sturdiest of baggage materials, you risk losing anything that’s remotely brittle or fragile, and that creates a bad impression with the paying punter, at least this one.

I think I’d be a gentler handler if I got the chance. But perhaps I’d be too careful, too slow, too poorly productive, and be relieved of my duties.

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