Aircraft cargo handlers are part of support services crews at airports and are responsible for loading and removing freight; they are employed primarily by dedicated shipping services companies. They typically do not handle passengers' luggage and personal effects, as this responsibility falls on baggage handlers and claims agents.
Cargo handlers are primarily concerned with ensuring the safe loading of commercial freight in the most efficient and expedient ways possible.
In commercial shipping operations, time is often a critical factor at all levels of cargo handling, and this is also true of aircraft cargo handlers, who have additional safety indications to be observed. Some freight, for instance, is not allowed on certain craft do to pressurization or temperature factors. These cargo handlers are typically the last safety nets to ensure that freight is not loaded onto a craft which isn't rated to carry it. They also work with international shipments and may need to ensure that all cargo shipped in or out of the airport has properly cleared any required inspections.
Cargo handlers are expected to work efficiently. Typically, freight is packed into the cargo hold of an aircraft based on numerous factors, but one of the keys in most dedicated shipping operations is urgency. Handlers at destination airports must rapidly remove and process urgent overnight or same-day freight and get these items moving through the delivery pipeline as quickly as possible. This requires cargo handlers to load freight quickly, but also be mindful of urgency and delivery tags on the boxes or freight itself.
A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required for this position, and further education is not usually required. Some employers may prefer applicants who have prior cargo handling experience including loading and unloading freight to trucks, though such experience is not always necessary. Most shippers require that they have a cargo crew ready at all hours of the day and night, so this job typically involves shift work with daytime, evening, or overnight hours. Cargo handlers must also be physically fit and able to comfortably lift and carry fifty pounds or more.