Suitcases, dogs, avocados and coffins: What’s really travelling in the cargo hold?

Most commercial airliners are designed to transport hundreds of passengers around the world in varying levels of comfort. If you’re fortunate enough to be sat up the front, you’ll have the luxury of a fully flat bed and delicious linen to sleep the flight away. Sat further back is a little less glamourous, having to make do with a scratchy blanket and your seat mate’s morning breath.

However, have you ever paused to think about what is situated underneath your feet as you have to stand up for the fifteenth time to allow the window seat passenger out to stretch their legs?

You may think it’s just your suitcase, haphazardly thrown onto a pile of other bags. The reality is quite different.

ULDs, containers and pallets

On smaller aircraft types, baggage is loaded by hand directly into the cargo holds. They are stacked up and secured by netting to stop them from moving around. However, on a larger aircraft such as the 787 Dreamliner, there could be hundreds of bags plus an enormous variety of freight.

To make the loading and unloading process quicker and easier, ground staff use unit load devices (ULDs) such as containers and pallets.

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