What happens to lost luggage at the airport?

When traveling by air, passengers check in their luggage with the assurance that they will meet their luggage when they arrive at their destination. But for some passengers, this always ends in a lot of headaches where it takes days or even weeks to trace your luggage as pieces of luggage may end in a different destination entirely. In some cases, the luggage is lost for good, never to be seen again. This is especially so in airports where luggage theft is common or instances where the luggage does contain any form of identification. So what happens to this lost luggage?

Many airlines will try the utmost best to reunite the passengers with their luggage although this can be a very difficult task at  times. The first step that an airline will take to try and trace your luggage is look for any obvious contact details attached or inside the luggage. So the airline employees will open the luggage and check it through for any form of identification among your items. If no obvious contact details such as names, business cards, IDs, dairies are found in your luggage, most airlines will then turn to the World Tracer System to assist in the recovery of the bags. At this time, you have probably reached your destination and tired of making frantic calls to your airline for luggage inquiries. If you've flown with a reputable airline with a professional service, then there is no needs to worry at this time. Your luggage could still be traced, it could have flown to the wrong airport on the other side of the world. The World Tracer System integrates data from multiple airlines globally to try and match bags with their owners. From the moment you report that your luggage is missing, 100 days will be spent trying to trace your lost items. The system will look to match tag numbers with baggage type, colour and brand within the database, and when a match is made, the item will be forwarded on a "rush tag" to the nearest airport to you, and delivered directly to your contact address, be it your home or hotel. This is a happy ending to a terrible ordeal that happens in most cases but in some cases, the luggage just disappear into thin air and are not traceable even after three months of searching.

A small percentage of luggage is normally not reunited with their owners even after the 100 day period. These sadly are normally auctioned off by airlines in theory but in many cases, they end up with airline employees who divide the loot. So if you have ever wondered where you nice uncle working at the airport gets all these exotic presents, then now you know.

For professional airlines, lost luggage always end up in auction houses where the proceeds from the auctions are supposedly used to fund charitable causes but this is normally a small and secret part of airline operations and not many airlines will reveal the causes they fund with the proceeds from the lost luggage from some unlucky traveler.

Some airlines will remove high value items like laptops,  expensive suits and watches and sell them separately while the vast contents of the luggage are normally packed and sold as a package.In many cases, bidders have no idea what they are getting into when they place bids for bags but many will join the bid for the thrill of it. The practice is quite popular in some countries that bidders don't even care what they will lay their hands on in the auction. Many bidders resell the items on portals like eBay while some keep them as souvenir.

It's normally assumed that by the time your luggage enters an auction house, the airline has exhausted all options to retrace your luggage over the 100 day period but it has been revealed that many airlines do a very shoddy job in the process Some of the people who buy lost luggage at auction houses have been known to find contact details and other forms of identification in the luggage meaning some airlines are not very diligent in tracing the luggage owner. It also not known where the proceeds from luggage auctions go to, or what causes it funds. In some cases, airline workers have reported some unscrupulous airlines that rush luggage to auction houses before the 100 day period has even elapsed, meaning the search is aborted early and not given due consideration.

It is clear there's no guarantee that your luggage will arrive with you in your destination and tragically enough, there's no guarantee that it will be traced and brought back to you should it get lost during your flight. You can increase your chances of tracing your luggage by making sure your contact details are clearly visible both outside and inside the case. Failing that, you can take a chance by visiting auction houses where lost luggage, your invaluable possession,  is auctioned to strangers who will in turn sell it in bits and pieces to anonymous people on eBay! In many cases, airline employees will help themselves to your valuables.

You might not stop your luggage from getting lost but there are few precautions you can take to ensure you get a soft landing in case you lose your luggage during your travel:

  • Buy Travel Insurance: You can get better settlements from reputable travel insurers like TravelGuard .
  • Use Secure Identity tag on your bags: One of the main reasons you might lose your luggage is because the airline's  identity stickers fall off. Buy Quality Luggage Tags here or ease of identification.
  • Good Flight Sleep Article at Magellan's
  • Don't pack your bags too tightly: Bags stuffed full of clothing and other personal items are more likely to break and be damaged as they move through the airline's baggage handling system.

How does your favorite airline handle lost luggage? Ensure you make inquiries next time you travel!

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