I think everyone feels a little relief when they spy their bag making its way up to the baggage carousel. It doesn’t happen often, but when a bag is lost, it can be a big inconvenience.
Many are surprised to learn that of the billion or so passenger bags checked every year, only roughly 1 percent fail to meet up with their owners at the claim carousel. Within 24 hours, 80 to 90 percent of those “lost” bags are found, and within five days 95 to 98 percent of that 1 percent make their way home. Over the course of the next 90-plus days, through a comprehensive baggage tracing process conducted by the airlines, more than half of the remaining bags are reunited with their owners.
We can all be grateful for the astonishingly small fraction of bags that go unclaimed. And while airlines have policies in place to compensate travelers for their mishandling of luggage, something still has to be done with the luggage that was unidentifiable and for whatever reason was unable to be returned to its owner.
Those bags make their way to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Ala. Items are unpacked and sorted into three major categories: things that can be sold at the Unclaimed Baggage Center’s 40,000 square foot store; items that are too damaged and need to be thrown away and items that will be donated to a good cause. Through this process, lost items find a new home. Unclaimed items are reclaimed for good.
We have heard the stories of the people these donations have helped. Children getting to see for the first time or using a wheel chair for the first time they would have not otherwise been able to afford.
Through relationships with dozens of charity organizations locally, nationally and around the globe, the Unclaimed Baggage Center (UBC) is able to find uses for more than half of the merchandise not designated for the retail floor. Through these partnerships, UBC provides eyeglasses donated to The Lions Club Sight First program, broken wheelchairs rebuilt for handicapped children and adults worldwide, millions of dollars worth of medical supplies donated to developing countries; and clothing for the underprivileged.
We have heard the stories of the people these donations have helped. Children getting to see for the first time or using a wheel chair for the first time they would have not otherwise been able to afford. One elderly man told us about seeing the shapes of leaves on trees for the first time he could ever remember. There was another story of a child being able to see the toys beyond his feet with a pair of eyeglasses donated to the Lions Club Sight First Program.
There are also some incredible stories from people who have found treasures at the Unclaimed Baggage Center to which they may not have otherwise had access. There was a man who found his first suit at the Unclaimed Baggage Center that he wanted to wear to pastor at his church. We have many young men and women who find engagement and wedding rings for their special occasions. Once a bride and her flower girl found dresses at the store that did not even need to be tailored.
Yes, there is a misfortune that happens when a bag is lost, but that misfortune could have an upside: the gratitude of someone you have never met.