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It’s 106 degrees in the shade. The pounding, unbearable glare from that fi ery orb steams and cooks and bakes everything it encounters. The tarmac is so hot that the sun’s intense rays seem to bend on contact, causing a fi eld of mirages for mile after mile of sole-melting, tire-burning pavement. Factor in the hundreds of shimmering silver birds that don’t absorb but rather refl ect the light and heat, and then factor in the heat generated by hundreds of jet engines revving up at any given time, and the setting is enough to make even Dante Alighieri perspire. Add to that indignity that it’s only 10 a.m., and nothing short of a scorcher hangs in the balance.

It’s 106 degrees in the shade, and the men and women of Amer ican Airlines Fleet Services are moving about as if it were a temperate New England autumn day. Only it ’s not temperate. And this isn’t New England. This is summertime at DFW International Airport, a hustling, bustling labyrinth of underground rabbit holes and spr awl ing t e rmina l s spaced miles apart . There are 1,100 to 1,150 Fleet Services clerks working a normal shift at any one time (AA and AE combined) , and the summer traffic is heavy. Heavy traffic means lots of bags, and the men and women of Fleet Services are loading and unloading an average of 52,000 bags per day. Joe Brezinski and team did 280 bags on just one fl ight alone last week. I’m fit as a fiddle, and I struggle with two.

These are the unsung heroes of the aviation industry. Most often — and I’m guilty of this, too — you get to the airport, you check your bags, and you don’t think about them again until you’re at the baggageclaim area at your destination. But let’s forget about your bags for a moment and instead, do a little math:

The average layover at DFW Airport is a little longer than an hour . Yet there is nothing average about DFW Airport: There is nothing average about an airport with fi ve terminals spanning a 29.8-square-mile space. (For perspective, Manhattan is 22.7 square miles.) It ranks third in the world for departures per day (about 765 come from AA alone) and eighth in the world for number of passengers who pass through per day (approximately 154,000 ). So, when you have 52,000 bags divided by 2,250 employees (on average, two shifts combined) and you factor in the 765 departures AA fl ights make from DFW per day, then you add in the bags that come off the 765 arrivals (that’s 1,530 fl ights total) and you consider that the area in which the baggage handlers have to work is 29.8 square miles, how many bags and how many miles does each handler handle and travel in a given day? The answer …

Actually, let’s forget about math and get back to the bags.

The men and women of Fleet Services live and breathe bags. Between the NASA-like bag-tracking machines and the rovers who diligently circle the tarmac looking for any strays, your bags are in the best of hands. These folks take pride in their work — they’re tasked with performing a monster duty, and they operate with a surgeon’s precision.

It’s 106 degrees in the shade, but Brezinski is thinking about ice. He oversees AA’s de-icing program in the winter, and even though DFW is one of the most efficient airports in the world when it comes to de-icing planes and getting them in the air on time, a perfectionist like Brezinski knows there’s always room for improvement.

“We’re good,” he says. “We’re real good, but we can do better. We will do better. It’s just a matter of doing it and doing it and doing it.” It’s a tough job, but this crew’s got it in the bag.


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Adam Pitluk
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