Baggage handlers, check-in staff and cabin crew all have to lift and move baggage on a daily basis.
Flight scheduling means these workers are operating to tight deadlines, and the growing volume of baggage is causing more and more people to suffer musculoskeletal injuries. Baggage handlers are five times more likely to be injured than anyone else.
Why injuries happen
The pressure on airlines to offer ever-cheaper services has led to a decline in employment conditions, staff cuts and an increase in the intensity of work.
There is currently no universal standard in baggage weight. Heavy suitcases and quick turnarounds mean that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the shoulders, back and knees are commonplace.
Given that MSDs are often not formally recognised as industrial injuries, baggage handlers, check-in staff and cabin crew are losing out financially and facing long-term health issues.
To find out more about the cause of injuries, watch the Unite the Union video.
What the aviation unions want
We’re approaching governments, aviation companies (including airlines) and relevant international institutions with two main objectives:
- a universal, standard weight limit of 23kg on passenger baggage and individual parcels
- better working conditions for all staff handling baggage — front of house, security, cabin crew and baggage handlers
Unions in Europe have made the pack less campaign a priority. They’ve also been pressing hard for:
- a maximum weigh limits of 6 kilos per item for cabin baggage
- safe stowage procedures for overhead lockers in the cabin, with load bearing weight identified for each compartment
- risk assessments to include workers' representatives
- all manual handling operations to be assisted by technology
- colour-coded weight strips identifying weight bands, clear signage, and floor-level loading conveyors
What can you do to help baggage handlers, check-in staff and cabin crew?
- tell your union members about the potential health risks involved in handling heavy luggage
- offer workers information and training
- help raise public awareness of the pack less campaign
- lobby companies, industry bodies, governments and international institutions e.g. ICAO