According to the Department of Transportation, only two percent of mishandled luggage is ever truly lost forever, with an overwhelming majority finding its way back to stressed-out owners within the first five days (phew). A lot can happen in five days though, so we caught up with industry insiders to find out exactly what happens to all those beleaguered bags in the meanwhile.
1. Unclaimed luggage can be auctioned off eventually.
While it's not the norm, this is definitely possible if you don't claim your bag for an extended period of time. There's even a place in Alabama that sells unclaimed luggage, and it's a total goldmine. Think — on a great day — diamonds, Rolexes, and Versace off the runway. So that's the cool and mysterious thing that happens to the two percent of lost luggage that never gets recovered by rightful owners.
2. Shady-looking bags are more likely to get lost.
"Just like passengers, bags have to undergo security screening, and sometimes extra screening is needed," explains Réal Hamilton-Romeo, senior PR manager at Norwegian Airlines. "In these instances, if there is a long security-screening cue, it’s possible that your flight will depart without your bag."
3. Most airlines hold onto your bags up to seven days.
"While the specifics of baggage handling varies from airline to airline, at Norwegian, if we are unable to reunite passengers with their luggage, we place the items in the baggage room at our U.S. airports. In the event that the passenger and his luggage have not been reunited within five to seven days, the items are sent to our central baggage department and they take over the location and reunification process." Sounds intense.
4. Your airline won't give you spare pajamas, but they'll give you some cash.
In the event you lose your luggage on the way home (or to vacation), it's not the end of the world so long as all your most irreplaceable items weren't inside. The airlines won't give you new outfits from a magical cabinet, but they'll give you enough cash to get some toothpaste and underpants to get you through the wait. "When a passenger’s luggage is lost, most airlines will authorize them to purchase essential items and any necessary clothing. Passengers should always keep those receipts, because once the luggage is found, most airlines will reimburse the passenger for those purchases."
5. No, they probably won't cover your Rolex.
"Claims can be up to $3,500 per passenger, but most airlines won’t cover jewelry. That being said, be careful what you pack," shares Brett Graff, a financial expert at The Home Economist.
6. If you own a home, you may be covered more thank you think.
Aside from homeownership being the American dream, it may offer you some surprise protection when it comes to your lost luggage, too. Graff says that some amount of your lost luggage may actually be covered under your homeowner's policy, but again — don't pack all your finest Givenchy and expect full reimbursements if the airline loses your luggage.
7. They'll deliver your lost bags to you, usually.
If your bags are lost, your immediate action should be reporting the loss before you even leave the airport. Keep calling every few hours to check for updates, because most bags are eventually recovered. There's a good chance you won't have to schlep back to the airport to retrieve your bags, either, because most airlines and airports actually have a built-in budget for baggage delivery within a certain mileage range. "They’ll usually deliver it to you. Make sure to find this out when they call to tell you they found your luggage." Graff's advice is to sit tight, relax, and wait for the bags to come to you after they're found. Sure beats carrying them yourself!
8. Sometimes your luggage is left with lost and found — not even with your airline.
If your bags aren't turning up after 24 hours, there's a good chance they fell out of your airline's hands altogether — and that's where the real baggage drama can start. Experts recommend calling your airport of origin's lost and found department to see if your bags turned up there.
9. It's actually a good idea to tie ribbons on your bags even if it looks goofy.
Experts also tend to agree that bags clearly marked or labeled with ribbons, strings, patterns, or other bold fashion choices are less likely to get stolen. So the plain black bag may look elegant and streamlined in the store, but your mom's festive holiday bows on her bright purple bag are basically an insurance policy against loss and theft. Think about that the next time you laugh at the way your mom travels.
10. Be prepared to shell out extra cash to recover your bags.
While most American airports have budgets in place for bag delivery, most airports outside the states do not, and if you lose your luggage abroad you can be out additional cash, too. Bag taxes exist in a variety of places, and can range from mere cents to hundreds of dollars. If you're traveling internationally it definitely pays to have the wildest printed suitcase on the plane and a clearly labeled tag with your name, number, email, and, home address.
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Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.