Airport Baggage Handler
Airport baggage handlers transport, load and unload luggage and cargo. They are responsible for checking luggage against flight lists and taking it to the aircraft or to the reclaim conveyor belt. They need to work quickly and accurately while taking care not to cause damage.
Also known as
- Baggage Handler, Airport
- Ramp Agent
Video: - Andrew: Baggage Handler
Airport baggage handlers move all sorts of baggage, such as luggage and cargo, on and off planes. They drive vehicles that carry large amounts of baggage.
Baggage handlers check outgoing baggage against flight lists, transport it, and load it onto the aircraft using lifting equipment. Smaller items may be loaded by hand.
Incoming baggage is taken off the aircraft to the reclaim conveyor belts. It is sorted to ensure that each article is loaded onto the correct conveyor.
Baggage handlers need to work accurately while taking care not to cause damage. They also have to work quickly as turnaround times between flights can sometimes be very short.
Baggage handlers have responsibility for keeping an eye open for suspicious-looking cargo or baggage items. These items are reported to airport security or the police.
Much of the work is done outdoors in all types of weather. In smaller airports, baggage handlers may also clean both the interior and exterior of aircraft.
In winter, baggage handlers may assist with de-icing the aircraft. They may also help with portering, keeping the runways clear of birds, and helping people requiring assistance onto aircraft.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To do this job well, you'll need to be:
- A good teamworker.
- Able to work quickly.
- Physically fit and have the stamina for all the lifting, carrying and bending that the job involves.
- Able to use mechanical handling equipment.
- A careful worker as some of the items you'll be handling will be expensive and fragile.
- Able to cope with early and late shift work.
A driving licence is often required for people wishing to get into this job.
Some employers will expect you to live near the airport. This usually means being within one-hour's travel from the airport.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Airport baggage handlers earn in the range of £10,500 - £20,000.
Hourly rates range from the national minimum wage to £10 per hour.
Hours of work
Airport baggage handlers usually work a basic 40-hour week. Shift work and work at weekends and public holidays is normally required. Overtime is usually available in busy periods.
What's happening in this work area?
The passenger transport sector has held up reasonably well during the current recession, due to the strategies which have been employed by companies to help ease the effects of the recession.
The Department for Transport has forecasted continued growth in the aviation industry in the coming years.
The aviation industry throughout the UK is currently facing a major overhaul, with a range of new policies aimed at developing a more sustainable approach to air travel coming into effect. There is increasing pressure to reduce the CO2 emissions generated by transport and the industry will require suitably qualified and skilled professionals.
Future skills needsThe following skills shortages have been identified:
- customer service skills
- communication skills
- IT skills
- safety/accident management skills.
Where could I work?
Employers are ground services providers, handling agents, airlines or airport authorities.
Opportunities occur at airports throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Universal Jobmatch, and at Jobcentre Plus.
You might also find vacancies on the websites of:
- ground services providers
- handling agents
- airlines or airport authorities.
Entry Routes and Training
There are no set entry routes into this career. You should apply directly to companies for vacancies.
Maths and English skills will be useful and GCSE passes in those subjects may give you an advantage over other candidates.
Some people enter this career via an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship.
Training is usually on-the-job and covers the safe and efficient use of equipment and how to deal with lost, damaged and suspicious items.
City & Guilds runs level 2 Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in Aviation Environment. These courses contain baggage handling options.
Relevant aviation industry BTECs are also available at level 2.
Experienced baggage handlers can move into supervisory positions. Some handlers become trainers.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and Maths.
Age limits apply to this career. To become a baggage handler, you must be aged over 18, due to the shift work involved.
Previous practical experience, for example, in warehouses and stores, using your hands is helpful. A clean, current driving licence is needed.
Some people enter this career via an Aviation Operations on the Ground Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
Contact individual airports and handling agents.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
City & Guilds
Address: 1 Giltspur Street, London EC1A 9DD
Tel: 020 7294 2468
Address: Aer Lingus HR Department, Head Office Building, Dublin Airport
Careers in Aerospace
Address: 4 New Square, Bedfont Lakes, Feltham, Middlesex TW14 8HA
Tel: 020 8750 6000
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844