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Where Does Lost Luggage At MSP End Up?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- We are heading into the busiest travel week of the year. About 30,000 people pass through security at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport each day, more during the holidays.

Thousands of bags are being checked. The hope for many is that you and your bag will both arrive safely at the destination. If your luggage gets lost, it may find a new home.

Passengers pack things they want while traveling. Worried they'll get to their destination, but their bags won't. You might be surprised to learn less than 1 percent of checked bags get lost. Still, that adds up to thousands of lost pieces of luggage each year.

"When you think about how many people are traveling, it's going to happen. Something is going to get lost," passenger Sandy Haas said.

The luggage gets lost somewhere between the conveyor belt at the ticket counter and baggage claim. According to experts it most commonly happens because of late passenger check-in, equipment malfunction, and human error. Changing flights increases the chance of lost luggage.

"Immediately we try to match bags with owners," Eric Curry, VP of sales and customer service at Sun Country Airlines, said.

Sun Country Airlines, based in Minnesota, moves bags left to the Bag Services Office near baggage claim. If a match hasn't been made it five days, it goes to Central Baggage.

"They'll ultimately end up here, whether that bag was left in Cancun, Los Angeles, Palm Springs or Minneapolis. They all end up congregating here," Curry said.

A supervisor works solely on getting a bag back to its owner, taking an inventory of items and inputting the information into a baggage tracking system. Sun Country keeps bags for one year, and items left on a plane for 30 days. Then it's donated to Goodwill.

Items get lost or left in the airport and with TSA too.

"We get our share of stuff," Jonny Butler, with MSP Airport's lost and found, said.

People leave behind keys, coats, credit cards and tablets.

"This is our August, this is our September, this is our October," Butler said, pointing toward different piles.

MSP Airport tries to find who the items belong to for 90 days, then most of it is donated to the Salvation Army.  Bins of books, glasses and electronics pack the TSA lost and found.

If you leave an item at a TSA screening site, Lorie Dankers with TSA said after 30 days it gets "surplused."

But what may be most surprising to passengers is what many airlines, like Delta and American, do with lost luggage that can't be reunited with its owner. At some point after 90 days, airlines sell lost luggage to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. The Scottsboro, Alabama store spans a city block. About 7,000 new items are on display daily. It's the only place like it in the country where people can rediscover someone else's travel treasure.

Experts say the best way to make sure you and your luggage end up together if it gets lost is to put contact information inside your bag. It seems simple but many people don't do it.

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