What Happens to Lost Luggage?

December 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever wondered where lost luggage goes? Contrary to stories you may have heard, it doesn’t get landfilled, and the airline staff don’t divvy up their findings at the office holiday party.

They have all kinds of items recovered from lost luggage at the Unclaimed Baggage CenterWhile only 2% of all checked luggage is ever truly “lost,” that’s still quite a lot of stuff that never finds its original owner.

Instead, all the lost luggage in the United States is taken to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. There the bags are opened, and their contents are sorted, tagged and sold to interested consumers for anywhere from 50 – 80% off. The Center processes roughly 1 million items per year. Items like jewelry, electronics, and even wedding gowns are sold in the Center. The rest is either thrown away or donated to charities.

Unfortunately, the Unclaimed Baggage Center doesn’t have an online sales portal. To shop, you’ll have to make the trip to Scottsboro, in northeast Alabama. It’s about 2.5 hours northwest of Atlanta or 2.5 hours southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. Still, this may be a great way to take a little vacation and get some holiday shopping done at the same time.

If you truly lose your bag, you can receive as much as $3,300 in reimbursement, depending on your airline and their policy (which is typically strong and strict). If you’re carrying more expensive items, be sure to have the right kind of insurance in place. Your travel insurance should cover some items as well, such as the bag and personal effects, although that will take some time.

If you’re carrying very expensive art, jewelry, and other highly valuable items, those should be covered on your homeowner’s insurance policy (after you pay your deductible). Talk to your insurance provider before you travel, to see if you need to do anything special for your coverage.

Finally, keep in mind that your travel and homeowners insurance will likely cover “lost” luggage, including bags that are stolen from your hotel room, or are lost in transit. Ask your insurance agent — both home and travel agents — to be sure.

Have you ever shopped at the Unclaimed Baggage Center? Or lost your luggage? Share your experiences and ideas with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Dawn Pennington (Flickr, Creative Commons)


Erik Deckers is a travel writer, as well as a content marketer and book author. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and has been a newspaper humor columnist for over 20 years

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