APEX Insight: Even airline CEOs, aerospace manufacturers and aircraft interior designers have some unanswered questions when it comes to the passenger experience industry. In this installment of PaxEx FAQs, APEX Media explores lost luggage auctions.

Fancy bidding for some airport check-in desks, an L3 Pro Vision Body Scanner or – if you’ve got enough space in your backyard – a Vanderlande baggage carousel? These are just a few of the treasures AvGeeks might pick up at the auction of the contents of Heathrow’s Terminal 1, following its closure in 2015 to make way for expansion of the new T2 and construction of Heathrow’s third runway.

Interest in treasure hunting has grown exponentially thanks to reality television programs such as Storage Wars and Auction Hunters, where fast-talkin’ burly gentlemen wind their posses of wannabe fortune finders into a frenzy of bidding mayhem. But back to that carousel – perhaps its new owner would like some lost luggage to go with it. Within the vicinity of most major airline hubs there are auction houses where bidders go to pick up strangers’ abandoned cargo.

There isn’t a global procedure for dealing with lost or unclaimed luggage, but generally three months after the luggage is discovered at the airport, and after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted to identify the owner through examining the contents of the baggage, it is auctioned off. This usually takes place in auction houses near the airport – which is the case at Schiphol Airport, with luggage ending up at De Eland Auction House. Gatwick and Heathrow airports have theirs at Greasbys and Wellers auction houses, and Dallas Fort Worth’s is at René Bates. The best way to locate the nearest auction house is through the airport’s “Lost and Found” departments, many of which organize their own auctions, often through affiliate auction companies – that’s what happens at Frankfurt International Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Los Angeles.

Four and an half billion pieces of luggage will flow through the airports this year, according to SITA’s recently published 2017 Baggage Report, but airlines are losing a lot less baggage than they used to.  Over the past ten years there’s been a 67% reduction in mishandled bags, and in 2016 “the rate of mishandled bags per thousand passengers reached a record low of 5.73.”

From June 2018, lost baggage will become even scarcer as the International Air Transport Association’s Resolution 753 kicks in. This requires IATA’s members (which account for 83 per cent of total scheduled air traffic) to keep track of every item of luggage, from start to finish, using RFID technology. That’s good news for passengers seeking reunification with their luggage as they step off their flight, but perhaps not so good for devoted lost baggage bidders.

Do you have a PaxEx FAQ? Email us at editor@apex.aero.