When did you join IAG Cargo and in what role?
I joined in February 2016 as a cargo agent, and I was part of a team of six that was responsible for building and breaking the cargo units. The cages that contain the cargo will ‘present’ automatically and the agent is responsibility for building the cages with IATA guidelines in mind so that it’s safe to travel. It’s quite an active role – there are three work stations running at all times, and I always say it’s like spinning plates so that we can get it all out at once.
Can you walk me through your day-to-day routine?
First thing, I’m allocated a crew – which is made up of six cargo agents – by the operation manager, and my job is to oversee the job allocation. We’ve built 40 jobs so far in this shift, which can contain pallets with anywhere between 10 and 500 cargo containers of varying sizes. In a day, we might handle up to 100 air way bills. It’s the cargo agent’s responsibility to make sure the air way bill goes on the flight it’s booked on and that it isn’t offloaded at the aircraft side. It’s an important role because, if they don’t do it right, especially if it’s dangerous goods that are being handled, it might have to be rebooked.
What sort of training do you have?
New cargo agents get a total of five weeks training which encompasses information like, which aircraft takes which type of unit, the configurations they accept, the direction of travel and weight and restraining restrictions. For dangerous goods, they spend a week learning about the technicalities, and a week practising with the freight. The point is to build a cargo unit that fills the void, and we’ll use the cargo units to balance the aircraft. If you’ve ever been on an aircraft and you’re told you can’t change seats, the reason is the heavy units in the hold balance the aircraft, so if any of the cargo was to move, it would imbalance the aircraft. You’ve got to understand the knock-on effects when you’re putting cargo units together and restraining and think, would I be happy to travel on that flight, with that in the hold, in that position?
Are there any important standards that you have to keep in mind?
It’s important that you have good knowledge of the flight network. On top of the IATA regulations, there are imposed guidelines from several countries that we need to consider. You need to always be aware of the ‘table of compatibilities’ so you know what items are safe to travel with others and this is something all of our team have a very good knowledge of.