Where Does Lost Airline Luggage Go?

We know that tons of people fly around the world every single day. Did you realize that 99.5 percent of all luggage ends up right where it is supposed to be—on the carousel at your intended airport?

But then there’s that other .5 percent. As writer Matt Meltzer put it in an article for Thrillist:

“Only one-half of 1% of checked bags fail to make it to the baggage claim, and of those roughly 80-90% are returned within 48 hours. Within a week, that number jumps to 98%. Then, for the next 90 days, the airlines go to painstaking lengths to match bags with owners. Math says you’re looking at only 1-in-10,000 odds of truly losing your bag on a US flight.”

If the airlines can’t match lost luggage with its original owner, it gets shipped off to the 40,000-square-foot Unclaimed Baggage Center, a store in Scottsboro, Alabama, 45 miles east of Hunstville.

This place has been around since 1970. Lost bags are purchased—sight unseen—via airlines, bus and train lines. Once it’s decided what is destined for re-sale, the cleansing process goes into effect. Electronics are wiped clean. Jewelry is cleaned and appraised. Clothing is dry-cleaned and laundered at an in-house facility, the largest in Alabama.


According to the Unclaimed Baggage Center’s website, only the best items are selected for resale. This place is, as you might imagine, a destination for those looking to score bargains.


Forty-thousand square feet of items found in unclaimed luggage means you’re likely to find quite the array of items—even ski gear. According to Bloomberg, the store stocks 7,000 new items every day.

Once the UBC decides what it wants—about a third of the take at any point—another third gets recycled, and the rest goes to the UBC’s charity, Reclaimed for Good. Everything that gets sold is 20-80 percent off retail. Remember, these are quality items—people wanted to take this stuff with them, not toss it out!

RELATED: This Helpful Visual Shows How Legroom On Most Major Airlines Stacks Up

Check out the video below to learn more. It really is a place to behold.

[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoKyp7_uqGs” /]

One Clever Way To Avoid Luggage Mix-Ups

Another common luggage-related headache: Identifying your bag in baggage claim. So many suitcases look the same (read: black, rectangular), grabbing the correct bag can feel like finding Waldo in a sea of red-and-white striped shirts.

Well, not anymore. This personalized luggage cover is a baggage claim game changer. Because what’s one way to never mix up your luggage with someone else’s again? Adorn your bag with a giant photo of your face—that’s how!

This luggage case—officially named “Head Case“—comes to you by way of online store Firebox.


When you send in a photo, they’ll print it onto a spandex fabric that will stretch across your suitcase. That way, you’ll know exactly which piece of luggage belongs to you (and so will everyone else!)—because it’ll have your face on it.

Pretty genius, huh?

This product will definitely have you wondering why you didn’t think of something like this before, especially since it also comes at a reasonable price point.


One cover will run you between $28-$42 depending on whether you’re trying to fit a small suitcase or a large one.

The image does have to be of a face (you can’t customize these with any old photo), and it does have to be high quality. The website recommends a photo taken with a digital camera or “a very fancy smart phone” so that the image won’t be ruined in the printing and stretching process. It does need to look like your face, after all!

If you’re interested in other personalized options (thanks to this face case for introducing us to that possibility), there are other ways you can ensure no one will mistake your suitcase for theirs, too.

You can get your actual suitcase printed with a photo of your choosing or get really creative with a luggage tag—you know, something a little more standout than the ribbon that’s tied on there now—with the help of websites such as Luggage Pros.

RELATED: Did you know there’s luggage that you can ride around the airport?