How Airlines Treat Your Checked Baggage When You Aren’t Looking

The tag line for Kevin Smith’s Clerks was, “just because they serve you doesn’t mean they like you.” Just imagine what they do behind your back! When you aren’t looking, baggage handlers have been known to ignore bags, throw bags for fun, toss them in the trash and steal from them. When a baggage handler has plenty of baggage themselves, bad things happen.

Baggage handlers working for Swissport in Melbourne, Australia were filmed slamming and throwing bags, and tossing them into the air.

According to Qantas, “The behaviour in this video is clearly not acceptable, and our contracted ground handler is conducting an urgent investigation.”

And a spokesperson for the contractor offers,

Swissport trains and manages all staff to handle customer possessions with care and diligence. The actions of staff in the video appear to have contravened those service level standards. As a result, the staff in question have been stood down pending an urgent investigation.

(HT: Ryan C. and Paul H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why would you ever assume anything else? I always assume bags are kicked around and thrown. If you don’t then you are living in a fantasy world.

  2. Gary , AC, etc al.

    Baggage handlers, are a mixed bag, no pun intended. You can always find one or more, rotten apples in the bunch.

    Having said that, to assume, they do this behind our backs, or don’t like us, is ridiculous. They have, zero contact with us, and once our bags are checked at the counter, we as passengers, NEVER SEE OUR BAGS, OR THEM. To ASSUME, they do this behind our backs, or they don’t like us, is petty.

    Agreed, some baggage handlers, abuse luggage. Those that do, should be fired. The problem is, the airlines don’t prioritize, and/or monitor this. And, after hearing the thousands of complaints from travelers, year in and year out, it’s obvious, they aren’t going to make it a priority, if they haven’t it’s not that the handlers aren’t taught properly. Some people, never follow instructions. The blame, falls on the airlines.

  3. Robert – Actually the real blame falls on the baggage handlers – they do the damage. The airlines are at fault by not monitoring and disciplining/ firing these cretins.

  4. Maybe airlines should look at wages, working conditions, and the pressures to get the job done as factors. It’s no excuse, but how many of us could move heavy luggage around all day in bad weather without starting to cut corners? Better pay, perhaps more help, and improved monitoring standards, along with warmer or cooler building conditions all could help. Incidentally, the worst story I heard about luggage was from San Andreas, a small Colombian-owned island in the Caribbean. A traveler told me about how the standard procedure there is to shrink wrap all bags before check in, otherwise they get torn apart (presumably at the destination airports) by agents looking for drugs.

  5. It’s utterly ridiculous to think that baggage handlers pick up your bag and gently set it on the belt. People who live in a fantasy world probably do … the same people that pack valuable jewelry, classified documents, bottles of expensive port, or (my favorite) large bottles of perfume. I assume that there aren’t that many job candidates with a PhD; they get bored and need to amuse themselves. I find this Qantas video to depict reality; anyone who thinks otherwise is naive. Just another reason to take personal responsibility; pack your bags to be tossed around.

  6. Yeah, well if they want to do that to bags, guess what? They’re going to be watched via security camera. And if they’re not willing to do their job respectfully, they can take a hike.

    I don’t care if the job sucks. If it sucks, get a new one and don’t blame your predicament on anyone but yourself.

    Zero personal responsibility in 2022. And yes it IS on the airlines and the airport. I paid them money, I will have my stuff respected. I didn’t hire the Neanderthals that are throwing peoples’ stuff around.

    Give me a break.

  7. This is one of the many reasons I will only fly HLO. Did three international trips this year and refined my packing into two 7kg carry on bags. Not easy, but it can be done successfully.

  8. Glenn.

    Typically, I do the same. In late August, I took Qatar from Yerevan, Armenia to DOHA, with 4 hour layover, then Qatar to Miami.

    The ticket counter in Yerevan, urged me to check my carryon, against my wishes, which I finally agreed. Huge mistake.

    Upon arrival in MIA, I was told my checked bag, was in DOHA.

    I put in a lost luggage claim. My checked bag, with my clothes, arrived 2 weeks later. I requested compensation, 3 times from Qatar. Fell on blind eyes. Never heard from them again. And they will never hear from me again.

    They didn’t earn #1 with me.

    Very overrated.

  9. @Robert~
    If your proposed hand luggage meets the relevant airlines requirements re weight and dimentions, I would insist, nicely, that you need to take it onboard.
    I would say though that I never fly Economy, and have not had any problem at check-in with 2 bags. (I was asked recently to weigh my regulation cabin 4 wheeler, but I knew it was 7kg so no sweat, and she was happy).
    In the ‘old’ days when I did check a bag with a connection I always asked to see the baggage tag before it was attached to make sure it was through-checked to my destination. Sometimes they slapped an additional Short Connection label on it to ensure it made the 2nd flight.
    Did you notice if your bag had been shortchecked to DOH rather than to your MIA destination?
    A 4hr connection is no Short Connection!

  10. Easy solution – change the laws so the liability limits for baggage claims are $25k. Suddenly, airlines will monitor the behavior of baggage handlers.

  11. Glenn T

    I have traveled with carry-ons for over 7 years. I have had my luggage lost several times, and swore it would never happen again. And the one time, they asked me to check it, I got screwed. Just my luck. There was, of course, no extra charge for my checked luggage.

    On this flight, it was checked to MIA from Yerevan. Weight, was not a factor.

    You are correct, a 4 hour layover, should not have been a problem.

    When I arrived in MIA, Qatar had two staff members, helping fill out the paperwork. It was apparent, there was quite a large number of passengers, who were affected. When I saw a crowd, next to the carousel, as I was walking up to them, the young guy, looked at me, and said, “your luggage is still in DOHA”, without me saying a word.

    Note: DOHA to MIA, 15.5 hours nonstop.


  12. Having worked for TWA as a baggage handler over 20 years ago I can tell you that what you see is typical of how bags are tossed. The airlines don’t really care to monitor it because…well that would cost money, and they would need you to pay more. Oh, you already pay for baggage? Guess what, the baggage handlers don’t see that, and again, it would be an added expense to monitor them.

    I don’t check bags. Or I rarely do, and then only on non-stop flights and the bag has zero valuables in it. Clothes and toiletries. And I’m thrilled if the bag arrives at my destination with me. Why? Well, I can’t tell you how many times I was just resting in the cargo hold waiting for more bags…others use that time to pilfer. Oh, you have one of those silly little padlocks on the bag or a built in lock to prevent that? LOL!! Do you know how many people carelessly leave the keys attached to the bags after they bought the bag? Do you know how many people in the baggage room collect those keys, and how universal those keys are? Guys would see the bag tag and bag and know if there was something worth pilfering or not. They had a collection of those little keys and would unlock, pilfer, find, repack, and relock those bags in no time. So again, don’t pack valuables in your bag, and don’t trust that a lock will keep it from being pilfered.

    Bags making connections, well, they don’t many times, so if you are on a connecting flight at a hub…I hope your bag made the connection with you. How heavy is your bag? Just under the limit? Over the limit. I don’t care, its heavy and I ticks me off, and I don’t get paid the excess baggage fee, and my company doesn’t care to pay me any more to handle it, so guess what….

    And damage to bags? Sorry but I don’t care if you bought the cheap bag, or the expensive designer bag, its a bag that is supposed to protect your clothes. I can’t tell you how easy it is to damage a bag. From yanking on the handle and breaking the handle to the bag getting caught in machinery. I even ran over a bag once (not on purpose). I didn’t care because I wasn’t paid to care. Oh, and how many bags split open too! Many bags just flew wide open because the passenger was too cheap to replace a worn out or broken bag. We would stuff the clothes back inside and tape it shut. I saw Dan say if they can’t handle bags respectfully, they can take a hike…well Dan, you are the problem, not the solution. Your attitude is that you are the boss, so you are the guy that packs your bag right up to 50 lbs without going over and expect it to make it to your destination with no problem. If you want to travel like that, fly privately.

    For anyone, I would say this, get a good backpack that fits in the overhead. If it doesn’t fit in that backpack, it doesn’t go. Pack light. There is a laundry where you are going.

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