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I am a baggage handler at the airport. Here’s what it looks like.

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

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

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

People are usually very surprised because they don’t think of a young woman when they think of a porter, but I really like my job.

My favorite thing about being a baggage handler is working with planes

I get to see “behind the scenes” of how airports work, and it’s really interesting. It also gives me useful information when I travel.

For example, if my flight is delayed, I watch the ramp to see what is happening and estimate the actual length of the delay. I also have relief flight benefits, which I recently used to travel to and from Paris.

When I work, sometimes I look up at the plane and am amazed. It’s crazy to see a massive plane and realize that my work is part of the ecosystem that makes it work. When I have to get up before dawn for a shift, it can get really cold, but then I watch the sun come up over the planes and it’s worth it.

I work two different types of shifts as a porter

One is a “middle” shift, which generally runs from about 2 p.m. in the afternoon to 8 p.m. in the evening. I also do morning shifts that run from 4am to 11am.

On a shift, I check the day’s flight map and see which planes are arriving and when. I do this to know where I need to be to unload luggage and either scan them for 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 3:50 a.m. shift, and in the baggage hall there can be hundreds of bags falling off the plane at once. Sometimes I walk 17,000 steps on the days I work.

Rachel Bacha at work.

Courtesy of Rachel Bacha



Once the bags are dropped off, I sort them according to their next location. It can get chaotic as sometimes people are checking multiple bags.

People can check in their bags up to four hours before their flight, which means I have to sort bags for all flights departing within four hours. I read the labels and make sure each bag arrives on the right trolley to go to the next correct destination. It’s my fault he goes on the wrong cart and gets sent to the wrong town.

The work can be quite physically demanding

I’m active outside of work, so I don’t usually have too much pain from baggage handling. At the start of the pandemic, there were suddenly no more flights and no more luggage because people weren’t really traveling.

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

I started sharing my experiences as a porter 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, then the videos took off, and now I have almost 45,000 subscribers.

People really like baggage handler content, and I make funny 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 porter, but that’s what makes TikTok so cool. It’s full of these niche worlds that you can look into, even if they might seem strange to you.

I loved being able to share my work online

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

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

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

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

I don’t know how long I will continue to be a porter

I know it can be hard on my body, but I love it. I think my job as a porter changed my future. Now I think I want to stay in aviation.

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