Questions for a Skycap
Checking a bag at the curb isn’t what it used to be—for the passenger or the skycap.
Life at the airport curb is in flux. Most airlines now charge for skycap services, and many passengers use self-service kiosks to check bags. We talked with a Delta skycap (who requested not to be identified) at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) about the job and how it’s changing.
HAS THE $2 CHARGE FOR CURBSIDE BAG CHECK AFFECTED YOUR TIPS?
Tips are definitely less now that airlines are charging for checking in and for overweight bags and excess baggage. The average tip is $1 for two bags checked.
WHO ARE THE BEST TIPPERS?
They’re the regular travelers, not business travelers.
WHAT’S A BUSY DAY FOR YOU?
A busy day could be 1,500–2,000 customers. We usually know ahead of time how many people to expect.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF THE JOB?
The best and worst part of the job is the people interaction. The job is physical and psychological: You have to deal with all kinds of people.
WHAT’S THE CRAZIEST ITEM YOU’VE CHECKED?
Someone came and wanted to check a car engine as baggage. It ended up having to go as cargo.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS LATE FOR A FLIGHT AND WANTS TO USE A SKYCAP?
If you are in a rush and there is a line, have tip money ready. Go to the front of the line and ask politely for help. The skycap will go out of his way to get you on your way.
Fun Facts About Skycaps
SKYCAPS BEHAVING BADLY
When a passenger in Miami refused to tip more than $1 above the $2 charge for checking a bag, a skycap protested. But the passenger refused to up the tip. When he opened his bag in Chicago, it was filled with garbage. American Airlines reportedly offered the customer an apology and frequent flier miles.
Skycaps at Boston’s Logan International Airport filed a class action suit against American Airlines and G2 Secure Staff in December 2006 (still pending). The skycaps claim the airlines’ imposition of a $2 per bag fee for skycap services deprived them of tips.
DO THE HUSTLE
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average skycap earns $21,580 a year, though it was widely reported that prior to the introduction of the bag fee, a skycap at a major airport could earn as much as $75,000. Most airlines do not allow skycaps to openly ask for tips.