On the case: from airfield to aircraft, Sarah makes sure your luggage is delivered safely. Photo: Stuart Bailey

BA PEOPLE • May 2018

The Guru

Sarah Zouaoui
Sarah Zouaoui

Ground Operations Agent

Your bag’s journey is as important as your own. That's why The Club checked in with Sarah Zouaoui, Ground Operations Agent with the Baggage Logistics team at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, to find out what happens to your belongings behind the scenes

What is the best part of the job?

I love being out on the airfield. My main job is driving the all-electric tug that pulls the baggage crates. I move them between the aircraft and the terminal and, depending on whether it’s an arrival or a departure, I then move the bags in and out of the crate. But the tug isn’t the fastest vehicle on the road: it has a top speed of 15mph. It pulls some heavy weight so it takes time to get up to speed. 

What’s the biggest challenge?

It can be very busy and we have to be punctual, especially at Heathrow. The planes have to leave on time or it can be a problem for the whole schedule. Depending on the flight, we have to finish loading between ten and 15 minutes before the departure time. This gives everyone time to move away from the plane and for final checks to be made before the aircraft pushes back from the terminal.

If your bag is the first to be checked in, will it be the last one off the plane?

Not at all. All bags are packed into the containers at the same time and grouped by those going onto connecting flights and ones that are making a single trip. It’s best to check in your bag in good time.

Is there a lot of lifting?

Yes indeed. I move around 200 bags every day. Each one weighs roughly 23kg, which means I’m lifting more than four tonnes every day. You build up muscle quickly – it’s a perk of the job.


Is there any technology to help you?

The airline is currently trialling a vacuum lifter that can suck up a bag. I haven’t been trained on it yet, but it looks useful.

What if something is too heavy?

Teamwork. We’ve all been there, so we’re always on hand to help out our colleagues. The most important thing is to lift correctly and take care of your back. There’s no point trying to move something that you can’t without help.

How do you communicate with the team – it seems very noisy out there?

We wear ear defenders, so hand signals are important. Most are simple and just tell the team where bags are supposed to go. For example, pointing upwards at an angle means the container is going onto a connecting flight; pointing straight down means it’s staying in London, and making a cross with your arms means the container is empty.

As told to Graeme Park

This article has been tagged BA, Technology