Have you ever lost one of your bags while traveling by air? Arriving to a new airport (or finally back home) and just standing there next to the carousel and waiting for your favorite bag, or the one that had THOSE things which you definiately never wanted to lose?? And as minutes go by, the known faces from the plane slowly disappear (with their bags of course), but you just keep staring and staring at the carousel but yours isn’t there… And the worst moment is probably when they just stop it, and the screen is refreshed showing a new flight number arriving from another airport… And then new passengers start to gather around the plastic snake…
Usually you have to go through some paper-work, claiming that you indeed didn’t get it, and explaining how it looked like, what was inside, etc. And of course you have to claim that you indeed had your name and address on it. In most of the cases, the luggage then will be found based upon your explanation, and delivered to you the next day or a few days later. It happened to a friend of mine, that she was to change planes in Santiago de Chile, but due to bad weather her plane was diverted to her final destination directly. Agustina was very happy that she didn’t have to wait for her connection and take another flight, but then she had to go through the above described situation. The problem in this case was that the bag actually continued its originally planned trip to Santiago but as nobody claimed it there, it never made it to the connecting flight to Cordoba, Argentina as she was already home by then! She had to wait almost a week to finally get it. But some people are not so lucky. They start the bag-hunt, but their bags are never found… So where do they go? Do they end up anywhere? Is there a chance to get back the most important items?
As I have learned from a BBC news article, they actually do go somewhere, they end up in a STORE! I know it sounds funny at first, and it did sound funny to me as well, but it actually makes sense (and a good business). The “Unclaimed Baggage Center” in Scattsboro, Alabama, USA buys those bags, resulting the vast majority of items in the store from unclaimed baggage which, after at least 90 days of intensive tracking by the airlines, are declared unclaimed. However, lost and unclaimed cargo is also now available in special areas of the store. They buy those bags, without knowing what’s inside, for a standard fee (maybe it’s depending on the size). (I was wondering whether if the bags are flown into Scattsboro and if they are, then what happens to them if they get lost on that trip – but then I realized, it doesn’t really make a difference, they would only end up here 3 months later…) Then they unpack them, and after sorting put out all the stuff from the bags in their store, which is basically a low-fare, low-cost department store! Yes, they hang the clothes, they lock up the watches, jewellery and cameras in small cabinets and then open the store, so anybody can go in and shop if they find anything that interests them. The goods are used and not handed over by the original owners for sale directy, but their faith is rather determined by luggage sorting/forwarding systems and the employees of the airlines and airports.
The discounted prices attract a large number of visitors every year, who are looking at this event as some sort of a Treasure Hunt, as they never know what they would find! One of them had bought a bag for peanuts, only to find at home that there was money hidden in the lining. The Store actually has a small museum with the most interesting finding they had ever come across, such as a 19th Century full suit of armour, and underwater camera from NASA, Egyptian artefacts and props from movies as well as an ancient map of Afghanistan.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center started when the founders began the business by buying lost luggage from the Greyhound Bus Company in 1970 – as a part-time business. In those days things were literally thrown onto a table and people sorted through, in search of a bargain, but 37 years later the centre is one of Alabama’s top tourist destinations. Over one million items pass through the store annually. About 60% of the merchandise is clothing with the balance of the store dedicated to cameras, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry, designer optical, books and of course, luggage. But don’t forget, they had earlier found a full parachute, an F-16 guidance system and even a 40.95 natural emerald just to name a few of their most interesting findings, so you never know what you may be able to buy over there for a discounted price!
I wonder if anyone had ever visited the store looking for their own belongings which were lost – and had actually found them!? I think if I would lose something really-really important on a flight departing or arriving in the US, and my bag would be classified as unclaimed, I may drop in to the Unclaimed Baggage Center for a “quick” view to look for it! But first of all, I will always make sure that the most important, unreplacable goods are in my hand-luggage, above my seat in the cabin, or underneath the seat in front of me - and this is my heartly advice to you as well!
Here are some of tips by the Unclaimed Baggage Center about how to make your bags recognizable.