Passengers are almost always reunited with their lost luggage in the end

One of the most disappointing experiences as a traveller is standing at the airport baggage carousel to wait for your luggage, only to realise it’s never going to arrive. 

Lost luggage can be extremely inconvenient, leaving you with just the clothes on your back as you arrive at your holiday destination. 

But whether it takes hours, days or weeks, passengers are almost always reunited with their bags in the end. 

All major airlines use the World Tracer System, which logs lost bags for 100 days. 

The system uses your information to track your luggage down.

Research from SITA, which developed the World Tracer System, reported a total of 21.6 million mishandled (lost or temporary mislaid) bags in 2016, down from 23 million the year before.

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How does luggage get lost? 

According to SITA, there are several common reasons why luggage goes missing. 

Most prevalent, accounting for nearly half of cases, is when bags are lost during a missed connection.

Ticketing errors, bag switches and security issues are to blame for one in five lost bags. 

Airport, customs, weather and space or weight restrictions can all cause luggage to be delayed. 

Failure to load the bag or mishandling at the arrival station accounts for four percent of incidents. 

Tagging errors can also cause problems with the transport of your luggage.

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How can you reclaim your lost luggage?

Lost bags are the responsibly of the individual airline, so that is your first point of call. 

Affected passengers will be compensated depending on the bag’s contents, the length of time it has been lost and the specific policy of the carrier. 

A Stansted Airport spokesperson said: “Hold baggage is the responsibility of the airline so whether it’s a departing or arriving passenger, if a bag doesn’t arrive at its destination for whatever reason, the airline would make the necessary arrangements to reunite the bag with the passenger.”

A Gatwick spokesperson said: “If a passenger has arrived into Gatwick and found their baggage is missing, we would advise them to contact the handling agent of their airline, who will help to locate the bags and return them to the passenger as soon as possible. 

“Each individual handling agent has their own procedures for missing baggage.”

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What happens to luggage that is never claimed? 

While most passengers are desperate to reclaim their lost luggage, there are some instances when bags remain unclaimed. 

After a period of 90 days, unclaimed luggage is at the disposal of the airport’s lost property. 

Items are often auctioned off with proceeds donated to charity. 

Heathrow has an online system for passengers to search lost property. 

A spokesperson for the airport said: “Airlines are responsible for getting passenger baggage from points A to B.

“Anything that is left behind at Heathrow is handed into our lost property department and put on our searchable database for passengers to reclaim.”

A Gatwick Airport spokesperson said: “Lost property items are securely stored at the airport for a total of 90 days. 

“Following this period, and only if attempts to reunite the owner with their lost property have been unsuccessful, the items are disposed of.”

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