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I’m an airport baggage handler. We’re not sitting around when your bags are late — we’re hustling as hard as we can behind the scenes.

Rachel Bacha.

Courtesy of Rachel Bacha

  • Rachel Bacha is a 23-year-old airport baggage handler in Boise, Idaho.
  • Bacha gets to see the “behind the scenes” of how airports function and finds it really interesting. 
  • “If I could tell the public anything, it’s that we work hard to make sure your bags are on time,” she says.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Rachel Bacha, a 23-year-old baggage handler in Boise, Idaho. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When people ask what I do for work, I usually just say I work in aviation. If they ask more questions, I’ll tell them that I’m actually a baggage handler. I’ve been one for four years. 

People are usually really surprised because they don’t think of a young woman when they think of a baggage handler, but I really love my job.

My favorite part of being a baggage handler is working with airplanes

I get to see the “behind the scenes” of how airports function, and it’s really interesting. It also gives me some useful insight for when I’m traveling.

For example, if my flight is delayed, I’ll look down at the ramp to see what’s going on and estimate how long the delay will actually be. I also get standby flight benefits, which I recently used to fly to and from Paris.

When I’m working, sometimes I’ll look up at the plane and be astonished. It’s wild to see a massive aircraft and realize my job is part of the ecosystem that keeps it running. When I have to get up before dawn for a shift, it can be really cold, but then I watch the sun rise over the airplanes and it’s all worth it.

I work two different kinds of shifts as a baggage handler

One is a “mid” shift, which is usually from about 2 in the afternoon to 8 in the evening. I also work morning shifts which are from 4 in the morning to 11 in the morning.

On one shift, I check the flight map for the day and see what planes are coming in and when. I do this so I know where I need to be to unload the bags, and either scan them onto the next leg of their journey or take them to baggage claim. 

On Fridays and Saturdays, I work in the ‘bag room’

I have to wake up at 2:45 a.m. to clock in for my shift at 3:50 a.m., and in the bag room, there can be hundreds of bags dropping from the plane at the same time. Sometimes I walk 17,000 steps on the days that I work.

Rachel Bacha at work.

Courtesy of Rachel Bacha

Once the bags drop, I sort them according to their next location. It can get chaotic, because sometimes people check multiple bags.

People can check their bags up to four hours before their flight, which means I have to sort bags for all the flights that are leaving within four hours. I read the tags and make sure each bag gets on the right cart to go to the next correct destination. It’s my fault if it goes on the wrong cart and is sent to the wrong city.

The job can be pretty physically demanding

I’m active outside of work, so I don’t usually get too sore from baggage handling. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were suddenly no flights and no bags because people weren’t really traveling.

When people started traveling again, more flights were added to the schedule, and it got so busy again. There were so many bags! 

I’ve started sharing my experiences of being a baggage handler on TikTok

Rachel Bacha next to an airplane.

Courtesy of Rachel Bacha

I started making the videos because my family wanted to see what I was doing at work, and then the videos took off, and now I have almost 45,000 followers.

People really like baggage handler content, and I do fun videos like rating people’s suitcases. I also show people what I wear and what I do during a shift.

I never thought anyone would be interested in what I do as a baggage handler, but that’s what makes TikTok so cool. It’s full of these niche worlds that you can look inside, even if they may seem strange to you.

I’ve loved being able to share my work online

The first TikTok I ever shared that blew up was me rating people’s bags. People ask me for more bag rating videos all the time, and it’s so fun.

It’s interesting because I often get people in my comments asking how they can apply or what they can do to get a job like mine. I never thought people would be this interested!

We work as hard as we can behind the scenes to make sure your bags are on time and everything is running smoothly

If I could tell the general public anything, it’s that. If you have to wait a long time at baggage claim, just know that behind the scenes, everyone is hustling and working really hard to find a solution as quickly as possible.

I feel like people think we’re just sitting around in the back when their bags are late, but we’re not. We’re doing everything we can, but not everything is in our control.

I don’t know how long I’ll continue to be a baggage handler

I know it can be tough on my body, but I love it. I think my work as a baggage handler has changed my future path. Now I think I want to stay in aviation.

Read the original article on Business Insider