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Ramp agents, also known as baggage handlers or fleet service agents, handle cargo and baggage in airports. They also service and marshal aircraft, set up and operate cargo handling equipment, and observe relevant occupational safety regulations. Ramp agents are hired by companies that provide airport terminal services, as well as airlines and airport authorities.
Using the Skills
Physical stamina and basic mechanical skills are assets to ramp agents. They are able to endure energy-draining tasks such as lifting heavy loads, and effectively operate baggage lifters and other cargo-handling equipment. Ramp agents typically work in teams, so they need strong teamwork and communication skills to collaborate productively with other team members. In addition, because these agents often work on planes that may be under tight flight schedules, they need time management skills to complete tasks within designated timelines.
Working under the direction of ramp supervisors, ramp agents load and unload freight and baggage from aircraft. When a passenger plane lands, they tow it the parking space, unload baggage and transfer it to the baggage claim area of the airport. If the plane is scheduled for another flight, it is the agents’ duty to transfer cargo from the cargo hub to the aircraft parking bay, and then load it into the aircraft. After loading the cargo, ramp agents may use hand signals to instruct the pilots as they taxi out of the parking bay.
Servicing Aircraft and Other Duties
Ramp agents also perform minor aircraft servicing, such as repairing flush handles in aircraft lavatories, cleaning cockpit windows and operating de-icer units to de-ice the aircraft before takeoff. The job may also involve cleaning the interior of the plane.
Other duties include monitoring the performance of cargo-handling equipment and reporting breakdowns to the supervisor. They must also adhere to health and safety procedures. For example, when marshaling a plane, ramp agents should wear a helmet, earmuffs and a reflecting safety vest.
Post-secondary training is not a mandatory requirement for ramp agents. Beginning agents, who must be high school graduates with a clean criminal background, are typically trained on-the-job by ramp supervisors. However, the International Air Transport Association offers a short e-learning course in airport ramp services that you can complete in order to stand out form the crowd.
With several years of experience as a ramp agent and additional qualifications in air cargo supervision, you can be hired as a ramp supervisor.
According to the job site Indeed, ramp agents earned an average annual salary of $24,000 as of March 2015.
Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.