Lost luggage

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Sculpture Lost Luggage Depot (2001) by the Canadian artist Jeff Wall, Wilhelminakade, Rotterdam Rotterdam kunstwerk lost luggage depot.jpg
Sculpture Lost Luggage Depot (2001) by the Canadian artist Jeff Wall, Wilhelminakade, Rotterdam

Lost luggage is luggage conveyed by a public carrier such as an airline, seafaring cruise ship, shipping company, or railway which fails to arrive at the correct destination with the passenger. In the United States, an average of 1 in 150 people have their checked baggage misdirected or left behind each year.



Airport baggage vehicle returns to its lost luggage at the edge of the marked "road" on the tarmac Airport baggage vehicle returns to its lost luggage.jpg
Airport baggage vehicle returns to its lost luggage at the edge of the marked "road" on the tarmac

Luggage is more likely to be lost or misdirected if the journey has several legs, as each transfer between different vehicles increases the chance that bags will be mishandled. There are many causes of lost luggage. If a passenger arrives late for a flight, there may not be time for their luggage to be loaded onto the plane. If tags are accidentally torn off, the airport may not know where to send the luggage. Human error is also common: tags may be misread or luggage may be sent to the wrong place. Occasionally, a plane may lack sufficient space or have reached its maximum takeoff weight. Security delays can also cause bags to arrive on a later flight than their owner. Luggage is taken through customs after its owner claims it.

Most lost luggage is quickly sent by the airline to the correct destination. Airlines will often reimburse passengers for toiletries, clothing, and other essentials if the arrival airport is away from the passenger's home area. In most cases, when delayed luggage arrives, a courier service will deliver it to the passenger's home or hotel. The airline usually pays for this.

In case of lost luggage, travelers are advised to carry all essentials in a carry-on bag, including a change of clothes and anything they would be greatly troubled to lose because of its monetary or emotional value (this excludes security restricted items, that can not be carried inside the passenger cabin). Occasionally luggage is completely lost and cannot be recovered. The airline will then normally compensate the owner. The passenger must then list the contents of their baggage and file a claim.

Bags can also be damaged during travel, but most damage (such as broken wheels and handles) is not covered under the airlines' contract of carriage. Some airlines, however, will still repair such damage as a good faith gesture, or offer a discount voucher for a future flight. In general airlines regard the purpose of luggage to be the protection of its contents during transit. If the luggage is damaged, even severely, but the contents are unharmed, then airlines regard the luggage as having fulfilled its purpose and will not compensate owners.


Compensation for lost luggage is governed by the Montreal Convention and its predecessor the Warsaw Convention. Per the Montreal Convention, the maximum liability of an airline per lost checked item is 1131 special drawing rights (SDR), while under the Warsaw Convention the maximum liability is 17 SDR per kilogram.

Unclaimed baggage center

Most airlines maintain stores where they sell the contents of lost or abandoned luggage. If a baggage is never recovered, it is usually because it has been mistaken by another passenger as his or her own baggage. Alternatively it could have been stolen either by another passenger or an airport employee (perhaps with an accomplice).

In 2004, a baggage handler at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was arrested for the theft of mail sent by airplane, including credit cards. [1]

The majority of unclaimed baggage in the United States, whether by being lost or misdirected, or simply forgotten by travelers, is handled by the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, which has contracts with most major airlines. Eventually, the luggage sent to UBC is resold for a profit. [2]


The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains air travel consumer reports, which include statistics on mishandled baggage. For the first quarter of 2017, Virgin America was ranked first for reports of lost luggage with 1.45 reports per 1,000 passengers. [3]


Baggage Reports



Reports per

1,000 passengers


Baggage Reports



Reports per

1,000 passengers [4]


Rates for lost luggage decreases year after year, due to the constant efforts made by the airlines. The handling market is $2.74 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow by 2.1% until 2023. After a significant decrease in the first decade of 2000, number of lost luggage cannot drop much more again, or at the margin only. There is now under 3‰ luggage lost per 1,000 passengers carried on US domestic flights.

Graph representing the decrease of lost luggage reports in relation to the emplaned passenger growth. Lost-luggage-over-ten-years.png
Graph representing the decrease of lost luggage reports in relation to the emplaned passenger growth.

Related Research Articles

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Checked baggage

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The Montreal Convention is a multilateral treaty adopted by a diplomatic meeting of ICAO member states in 1999. It amended important provisions of the Warsaw Convention's regime concerning compensation for the victims of air disasters. The Convention attempts to re-establish uniformity and predictability of rules relating to the international carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo. Whilst maintaining the core provisions which have served the international air transport community for several decades, the new treaty achieves modernization in a number of key areas. It protects passengers by introducing a two-tier liability system that eliminates the previous requirement of proving willful neglect by the air carrier to obtain more than US$75,000 in damages, which should eliminate or reduce protracted litigation.

Baggage reclaim

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Baggage or luggage consists of bags, cases, and containers which hold a traveller's personal articles while the traveler is in transit. A modern traveller can be expected to have packages containing clothing, toiletries, small possessions, trip necessities. On the return trip, travelers may have souvenirs and gifts. For some people, luggage and the style thereof is representative of the owner's wealth and status. Luggage is constructed to protect the items during travel, either with a hard shell or a durable soft material. Luggage often has internal subdivisions or sections to aid in securing items. Handles are typically provided to facilitate carrying, and some luggage may have wheels and/or telescoping handles or leashes to make moving them easier.

Baggage handler

In the airline industry, a baggage handler is a person who loads and unloads baggage, and other cargo for transport via aircraft. With most airlines, the formal job title is "fleet service agent/clerk", though the position is commonly known amongst airline employees as a "ramp agent", due to the job's location on the airport ramp (tarmac).

Hand luggage

The term hand luggage or cabin baggage refers to the type of luggage that passengers are allowed to carry along in the passenger compartment of a vehicle instead of moving to the cargo compartment. Passengers are allowed to carry a limited number of smaller bags with them in the vehicle and contain valuables and items needed during the journey. There is normally storage space provided for hand luggage, either under seating, or in overhead lockers. Trains usually have luggage racks above the seats and may also have luggage space between the backs of seats facing opposite directions, or in extra luggage racks, for example, at the ends of the carriage near the doors.

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Bag tag Ticket attached to luggage for identification

Bag tags, also known as baggage tags, baggage checks or luggage tickets, have traditionally been used by bus, train, and airline carriers to route checked luggage to its final destination. The passenger stub is typically handed to the passenger or attached to the ticket envelope:

Baggage carousel

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Baggage allowance

On the commercial transportation, mostly with airlines, the baggage allowance is the amount of checked baggage or hand/carry-on luggage the company will allow per passenger. There may be limits on the amount that is allowed free of charge, and hard limits on the amount that is allowed.

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Luggage Free is a shipping company specializing in worldwide baggage shipping.

Gate check bags are travel bags specially designed for the transportation and storage of car seats and strollers or pushchairs. Generally used for airline travel, they also provide protection from dust when in storage for the occasional user. When used for airline travel the strollers and car seats are placed in gate check bags at the departure gate before boarding. The bags protect strollers and car seats from dirt whilst in the loading or cargo bay as well as from elements such as rain or snow if left on the tarmac.


  1. BWI baggage handler arrested for mail theft
  2. Unclaimed Baggage Center
  3. Air travel consumer reports
  4. Air Travel Consumer Report by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Issued June 2017. http://www.qrlug.com