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Duties for Ground Handling

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Ground handlers, also known as ground handling staff, are employees of airline companies or airports who load and unload baggage and freight, as well as perform various odd jobs to prepare planes for flight. While duties vary between airports and airlines, there are a number of tasks common to most positions.

Load/Unload Baggage and Freight

The primary duty of ground handlers is to load and unload freight and baggage. Ground handlers usually work under some time pressure, but also must observe care in handling what is sometimes fragile cargo.

Use Material Handling Equipment

In the course of loading and unloading freight, ground handlers are required to use material handling equipment, such as forklifts, conveyor belts, and freight delivery vehicles. Most ground handlers are required to hold a valid driver's license

Monitor Customer Safety

When customers board the plane on a ramp or staircase, ground handlers must ensure that they do so safely, assisting them in a courteous manner.

Sort Baggage and Freight

Ground handlers must sort freight and baggage. This includes identifying the ultimate destination of baggage and correctly transferring it to the proper location. Handlers must also locate and observe the handling instructions associated with special cargo.

Fuel Planes

Ground handlers are usually responsible for fueling planes. This requires being able to drive and operate fueling vehicles.

Service Plane Interiors

In order to prepare a plane for takeoff, ground handlers must service the inside, including cleaning the interior, restoring the lavatories, and replacing commissary items.

Wash Exterior

Many ground handlers must also wash the exterior of the plane, clearing it of dirt and mud, de-icing it and washing the windows.

Fill Out Paperwork

Ground handlers must also fill out paperwork associated with their cargo, keeping and maintaining records of what has been loaded and unloaded, as well as other administrative duties.

Repair Electrical/Mechanical Faults

According to UK aerospace manufacturer Wynnwith, some ground handlers are required to make minor mechanical or electrical repairs to aircraft.

Observe Safety and Security Procedures

In the course of loading and unloading cargo, some of which can weigh in excess of a metric ton, ground handlers must observe all safety precautions. In addition, they must also follow security protocols established by the airline, airport or local government to prevent the loading of dangerous or illegal cargo or the admission of unauthorized persons to restricted areas.


Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.

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