What You Should Know About Buying Unclaimed Baggage From Airlines

According to a Department of Transportation report, airlines only mishandle about 5 out of 1000 bags, and 97% of lost bags are typically reunited with their owners. But what about the other 3%? While this may seem like a small percentage, millions of bags flow through airports yearly, so 3% of millions of bags creates mountains of lost luggage. Instead of throwing everything in the dump, airlines actually sell or donate these bags, and yes, you can buy the lost treasures inside.

If you're a savvy bargain hunter, second-hand entrepreneur, or just appreciate a good deal, knowing how to buy unclaimed baggage from airlines can result in some exciting finds. Many bags probably contain dirty laundry, old sneakers, and maybe a hotel robe or two, but lost luggage items also include high-end jewelry, luxe-brand clothing, and excellent-condition electronics. While it's unfortunate these items were lost, there's enough stuff in the dump already. As they say, one airline's trash is another man's treasure.

Shop for lost baggage treasures

Located in Scottsboro, Alabama, Unclaimed Baggage has purchasing agreements with every domestic airline in the U.S., as well as other travel and transportation companies. For five decades, the company has been purchasing lost luggage from these airlines and reselling, donating, or recycling the items inside. According to The Travel, Unclaimed Baggage typically processes around 7,000 items daily to resell on its sales floor, which is a 50,000-square-foot warehouse in Northern Alabama. 3%, right?

Over the years, the store has unwittingly purchased an ancient Egyptian burial mask, a live rattlesnake, a full suit of armor, and other pretty bizarre items. But if you're looking for something more practical, Unclaimed Baggage also regularly resells books, clothing, electronics, home goods, luggage, and jewelry.

For those with more discerning taste, the company offers a whole section of luxe items that features clothing, accessories, and jewelry from a range of high-end designers, such as Chanel, Gucci, and Versace. Many of Unclaimed Baggage's items are also heavily discounted, making their luxury items particularly appealing. And if you can't make the trip to Scottsboro, the company sells thousands of items through its online store.

Auctions for lost items

Along with Unclaimed Baggage, many airports also hold regular in-person auctions to sell items, and for bulk items, you may consider an online auction such as GovDeals. These types of online auction houses typically sell items that were once used by a public school or governmental agency, as well as items found or confiscated by the TSA. However, while Unclaimed Baggage provides a quality assurance process, these online auctions can be a roll of the dice. You may be able to purchase 10 laptops in bulk at a deeply discounted price, only to find seven don't work.

Losing one's luggage is indeed unfortunate, but before you feel too guilty about profiting from another's misfortune, remember that travelers have 90 days to claim their luggage. Some may feel it's just not worth the hassle to track down their luggage. And while Unclaimed Baggage is a for-profit business, the company also partners with local, national, and international charity organizations, and according to its website, donates about 50% of its sellable items to charity. In essence, Unclaimed Baggage gives items another trip around the carousel.