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Your Lost Luggage Could Be in Alabama


If you’ve ever been separated from a piece of checked luggage and the airline was unable to return it, it’s quite possible your belongings wound up in Alabama.

A 40,000-square-foot store in Scottsboro, Ala., is ground zero for the estimated 0.5 percent of all checked luggage that goes unclaimed in commercial air travel.

Representatives for the Unclaimed Baggage Center won’t say exactly how many of those bags pass through their doors, but the contents are more than enough to fill four floors of goods sold at thrift store prices, divided by departments for women, men, electronics, jewelry and much more.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported 815.3 million scheduled passengers traveled on domestic airlines and foreign airlines serving the U.S. in 2012 alone. The DOT statistics for January 2012 estimated the rate of mishandled baggage at 3.3 per 1,000 passengers.

Regardless of the actual number of bags that end up at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, it’s more than enough to make the store one of the top tourist destinations in Alabama, with nearly 1 million visitors annually. Opened in 1970, Unclaimed Baggage Center has only grown, and today it even has its own café and a Starbucks.

Airlines are required by law to try to locate and contact the owner of lost luggage. If the owner cannot be located within 90 days, the Unclaimed Baggage Center purchases the unclaimed baggage by the pound from individual airlines and ships it off to Alabama.

Upon arrival at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, it’s all sorted through, appraised and categorized into goods that can be sold, donated or discarded. All clothing items are then dry-cleaned at one of the largest laundries in the state, which is conveniently located onsite. Electronic items are tested for functionality and wiped of personal data.

As part of its Reclaimed for Good initiative, the Unclaimed Baggage Center has donated hundreds of thousands of unclaimed pairs of eyeglasses to the Lions Club Sight First program, wheelchairs to handicapped individuals around the world, and millions of dollars in medical supplies and clothing worldwide.

Additional information on the Unclaimed Baggage Center can be found here.

[Photo: Unclaimed Baggage Center]

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