What Airlines Do With Lost Luggage

Ever lost your luggage?
 Whether your suitcase failed to make its way to the carousel, or you left your sunglasses in the seat pocket, before you write them off as lost, there's one last place to check. You might be surprised to learn there is a place where all airlines in the United States send lost and unclaimed baggage and items left on planes.

Find out what happens to all lost luggage that goes unclaimed:

How it Works...
Laws require that airlines spend 90 days trying to reunite lost and unclaimed baggage with their owner. This does not apply to carry on bags and items left on board, as airlines are not responsible for unchecked items. You will be relieved to learn that 99.5% of lost bags are successfully reunited with their owner. In fact, 90% of them are returned within 48 hours, meaning the more time goes by, the less likely you are to get your luggage back.

Once 90 days pass, airlines generally come to a financial settlement with the customer. Once a settlement has been reached, bags found after that technically belong to the airline, but they often still try to return them. In these cases, owners sometimes deny owning them either because they have illegal (and incriminating) goods packed, or they sometimes overstate the value of their luggage during their settlement.

So Where Does Lost Airline Luggage Go?
Airlines are not in the business of managing lost luggage, which is where the Unclaimed Baggage Center saw an amazing opportunity. They signed exclusive contracts with all major U.S. airlines to purchase all their unclaimed luggage and abandoned carry on items.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is a super sized 40,000 sqft warehouse located in Scottsboro, Alabama, located 45 minutes east of the charming town of Huntsville (aka the Rocket City). It is one of Alabama's top tourist attractions, drawing over 1 million visitors annually.

What Do They Do With All This Lost Luggage?
Every day at 2:30pm, the Unclaimed Baggage Center puts on a demonstration where they open suitcases and show how they sort all items into one of three piles:

  • Garbage
  • Donate
  • To be cleaned

The best items make their way into the cleaning pile, which are put up for sale once cleaned. Electronics are also erased per privacy protection regulations, so don't worry about someone walking out with your long lost iPhone with access to your social media and bank accounts. 

What Can I Expect to Find?

Don't confuse the Unclaimed Baggage Center with a second hand store. Unlike thrift stores that sell worn looking clothing and dated items that people voluntarily parted with, the merchandise in the Unclaimed Baggage Center were people's best clothes for their vacation or business trip and involuntarily parted from them. You'll find designer clothes, luxury footwear, cameras, iPods, books (including bibles - possibly taken from hotels?), toys, musical instruments and of course, suitcases.

Most Plentiful Items: Electronic accessories (namely chargers).

Fastest Selling Items: Smartphones and tablets.

Hidden Jems: If you watched the video, Kayla from the Unclaimed Baggage Center spoke about treasures stocked at their store. These include lost art, jewelry (including wedding bands) and wedding dresses.

A Few Things to Know
Prices range between 20-80% below retail, averaging 40% off MSRP. The store does not sell merchandise online, so you have to visit the store in person to buy things. It is located at 509 West Willow Street in Scottsboro, AL., and their website is unclaimedbaggage.com

     *PS: Share this with anyone you know who's lost their luggage while flying.

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If you've ever lost your luggage, share your story below.

Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He's been on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. Russell has appeared at the New York Times Travel Show, the Travel & Adventure Show, and is the author of 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at


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