Southwest Airlines agent stays in shape guiding and unloading jetliners at BWI



Jim Utick

Ground operations/ramp agent

Southwest Airlines, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Age: 44

Years in the business: 19 - the last four with Southwest Airlines

Salary: $13.82 an hour

How he got started: Utick went to work for an airline in Monterey, Calif., after leaving a factory job. After completing his bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Oswego in 2001, Utick thought he would go into teaching. He instead began working for Southwest Airlines in Baltimore and decided to stay.

Shift work and overtime: Utick says he routinely works a double shift - a 16-hour day - five days a week with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. With overtime, agents can make $40,000 to $70,000 a year.

Typical day: Utick works the ground operations for Southwest Airlines, also known as a ramp agent. There are about 80 ramp agents working at one time, but they are broken into teams of about six people. His job is to marshal planes on the ramp, which includes directing, assisting and parking all arriving and departing planes. He also unloads and loads the luggage, mail and cargo. During the winter months his job also includes de-icing the planes. He usually works on about six to eight planes per eight-hour shift.

Hard work pays off: He plans to retire in about eight years.

The workout: The bags typically weigh 50 to 70 pounds and cargo can weigh as much as 100 pounds per item. "You are underneath the belly of the plane loading and unloading on your knees. It's a discipline. It keeps me in shape and I always tell everyone you don't need to join a health club."

Perks: He and family members fly free when space permits.

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