While cleaning up my photos library, I came across a video of people throwing luggage bags to add them to the conveyer belts. From the file’s name, I could see that this video reached me from social media when WhatsApp saved it to my device on 20th April 2015.
In this video of 1 minute and 44 seconds, two men from an airlines continue to throw luggage as if their performance review demands a certain minimum threshold of luggage destruction.
I recently bought a luggage bag. Luggage bags have a very non-frequent relationship with their users. We rarely see them, because they are stowed away (sometimes along with stuff that we rarely need inside them). But when we inevitably see them once again, we like them
- Strong enough to take us to our destination
- Clean and colourful to represent our personality (if you are travelling with some friends or another family, or going to be a guest at someone’s place, or in case you meet someone important on the way!)
- Versatile enough with all pockets working to stay organised (especially when you’re going to live out of your bags, like short stays in hotels)
- Have all the zips working (so you’re not locked out of your important visa documents, like I was)
Rough handling can affect all these factors. I wouldn’t like to have a large scratch on my bag for the rest of my life, that wasn’t my fault — a reminder to never take a flight with that airline company. The scratch would quickly start feeling like a mental scar.
My latest bag is very strong; the salesman stood on it, despite my insistance against the demonstration, just to reassure me that the bag is too strong to ignore. I bought it, left wondering if its structural integrity was now less strong than before, even by an iota, because of the unsolicited demo, and that I could’ve gotten a stronger bag, had he kept spare ones, instead of just the one, of its kind. And the only reason buying a stand-on-able-when-it’s-empty bag made sense, instead of a fancy fashionable one with beautiful design and creative materials, was the consensus in the industry as well as the customer base that the bags are handled like garbage by the airline professionals. If you ever date one and they treat you like garbage, know that it was not their fault, it’s just their instinct from work has changed how they treat humans. Now I wonder how different jobs affect your personality in personal life, if they do at all. Maybe I’ll explore that in another post. But for now, we sure are humans, as are the decision makers in airline companies. And we should be treated like humans, with respect, by the leaders of these conglomerates. And throwing our luggage when we choose them to travel with, is not respectful at all.
Perhaps the solution could be transparency into the journey of our luggage. The same cameras used to surveil the work hours efficiency of these employees and ensuring security of our luggage, can also be used to
display advertise safety of our luggage. Maybe they can email us a video of our bags being handled across the supply chain, from the time we check-in the bags, across connecting flights, and across the various conveyer belts, before we finally see them coming back into our hands in the collection area.
I watched some videos showing the conveyer belts, and some of them will also need to be redesigned, so that the bags don’t tumble too hard. The solution will be more complicated than installing some more cameras, and asking employees to be gentle. Personally, I did not like these long conveyer systems in some large airports, where bags travel up and down with slopes that could damage the wheels, since they tend to stick out. Also the mechanised system in the interest of efficiency, seemed like it lacked the human touch that should be augured by the reputation of these supposed brands in the industry, if not by the promotional content in their advertisements or the premium fare of the tickets and the cost associated with flights in general.
There is another advantage to this push for transparency: theft prevention from luggage. If someone from the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) or equivalent security checking organisation of the respective country abuses their power and steals something from your bag, they could be caught. And further thefts would be prevented.
Also, once we achieve a system of relatively safer transportation of our luggage, I think there will be less of the hard type of plastic in the manufacturing, and more cloth based or other relatively delicate bio-degradable materials for making of the bags’ components. Perhaps one day, the transportation would feel safe enough to bring along a carbon neutral luggage bag.
Other types of mishandlings, like lost luggage can also be ameliorated, as they can use the recordings to find where the bag went missing.
I made the common mistake of thinking of the companies as an entity. To us passengers, it’s what we see, the logos, the branding in the magazines, the promotional bytes of their campaigns. But the link between us and these bosses is the people who are given impossible targets within instantaneous deadlines and with shameful breaks. And on top of that, paid in peanuts so as to exploit the maximum revenue as their salary. This issue of influx of luggage volume mismatching with processing speed of the labourers can be easily solved by employing more people there. They have no more than two hands. If airlines need more set of hands, they must afford it and get it. In this specific video, why are there only two people standing? Doubling the workforce could give each of them double the time to put each bag gently. I also learned about the ‘Fragile, Handle with care’ stickers that some people paste on their bags, and these workers in the video didn’t seem to have the time to check for the same before deciding to throw the suitcases. I also noticed that there was a screen they would keep looking up to, looked like a TV screen with some statistics, perhaps their targets.
Eventually they are going to have to treat them like humans, rather than economic units. Will flying get better soon? Don’t know. But more expensive? Certainly.Aviation analyst Andrew Charlton, The Guardian — Travellers turn to Bluetooth bag trackers after ‘summer of lost luggage’