Early morning—between 4 to 7 a.m.—is go time for baggage operators at Pittsburgh International Airport.
“The morning is our busiest time; that’s when most of our traffic happens, like any airport around the country,” said Kevin Kosmal, Airline Services Maintenance Supervisor.
And with so many people coming and going, how does the airport keep track of all that luggage after it leaves the ticketing counter or the plane’s cargo hold?
Blue Sky News takes you behind the scenes.
“Whenever you check in your bags, it’s not a magic curtain it goes through and magically pops out the other side,” said Kosmal.
Ticket counter agents start putting bags on the belts as early as 3 a.m. Just like passengers, luggage must go through security.
“When your bags come down to our system, we have things called ATRs—automated tag readers—and that’s what sorts your bags down on the unit,” said Kosmal.
It’s the start of a journey that can last more than seven miles through belts and tunnels. And someone is always watching.
“Our baggage operators, they are the ones that clear jams; they’re looking at the screens, whatever system is running,” Kosmal said. “As long as the system is running, we have a baggage operator here to look at the screens and call out jams.”
As more people return to travel, anywhere from 4,600 to 9,000 bags can go through the system daily, depending on the time of year. During the holiday season, PIT handles up to 10,000 bags every day.
“There’s all types of rollers the conveyer system runs on, so you name it, we pretty much fix it,” said Brad Hartill, Maintenance Foreman.
You won’t see the people in the Airline Services department very often. But they are a critical part of the travel experience.
“We are the invisible warriors,” Kosmal said. “If nobody knows we exist, it means we are doing our job right. It means the system is running smoothly and everybody is getting their bags.”
The team takes pride in that, Hartill said.
“I love this job,” he said. “It’s something new every day; no day is alike and the people we work with are great.”