What they do
Baggage handlers load and unload luggage, airmail and other air freight on and off aircraft. They are responsible for sorting luggage and freight, ensuring that it is loaded on the correct aircraft to reach its destination or placed on the right baggage carousel at the terminal. When loading baggage they must ensure it is stowed securely and the weight is distributed evenly around the aircraft's cargo hold. Baggage handlers may also be responsible for loading food, beverages, cutlery and other equipment for in-flight refreshments. They may also operate mobile stairs to allow passengers to board and leave an aircraft.
Most baggage handlers in Western Australia work at the Perth Airport (domestic and international terminals), though there are also opportunities at regional airports throughout the State. Employment as a baggage handler is usually secured through an airline, rather than an airport. The work requires frequent heavy lifting, though equipment, such as baggage carts and conveyors, are used to assist with lifting and carrying. Baggage handlers must work quickly to avoid causing flight delays, but must also take care to ensure that safety is not compromised and that baggage is correctly sorted to reach its correct destination. Busy airports are potentially hazardous work environments and baggage handlers must remain alert to minimise the risk of injury caused by moving vehicles or machinery. Shift work is usually required, particularly at major airports such as Perth Airport, and baggage handlers may be required to work nights and on weekends.
Tools and technologies
Baggage handlers use vehicles, such as trucks, baggage carts and forklifts, to transport baggage and freight around the airport and so must hold a valid driver’s licence. They also use scissor-lifts and conveyors for loading and unloading. Baggage handlers are required to wear protective clothing, such as ear muffs and high-visibility clothing. Uniforms are usually required.
How do I become one?
Education and training
It is possible to work as an aircraft baggage handler and airline ground crew member without any formal qualifications and get training on the job.
You can also undertake a traineeship in aviation (ground operations and service) (level 2 or level 3). The traineeships usually take between 18 and 24 months to complete.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.
You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.
If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.
Required registration and licensing
To work as an aircraft baggage handler and airline ground crew you may need to obtain an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC). A list of organisations approved to issue ASICs is available from the Department of Home Affairs.