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Aircraft baggage handler and airline ground crew

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Summary of occupation

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.

ANZSCO description: Loads and unloads baggage, directs planes, positions staircases, fills aircraft fuel tanks and performs other aircraft ground services to ensure aircraft operations run efficiently (registration or licensing is required).
Alternative names: Aircraft Loader, Airline Service Operator, Baggage Handler
Specialisations: Ramp Agent
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A baggage handler needs:

  • to be physically fit
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • to be responsible and trustworthy
  • to work quickly and accurately.
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Working conditions

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.

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Salary details

On average, aircraft baggage handlers and airline ground crew, classified under mobile plant operators, can expect to earn between $1 000 and $1 249 per week ($52 000 and $64 999 per year) depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As an aircraft baggage handler develops their skills, their earning potential may increase.

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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.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

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 become an aircraft baggage handler and airline ground grew member by completing a traineeship in aviation (ground operations and service). This course takes between 18 and 24 months to complete. ​

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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