SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) – Between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30, more than 12,000 flights in the US were canceled. That’s according to flight tracking website Flight Aware.
In addition to 12,825 canceled flights and more than 34,000 delays, there were also reports of baggage chaos.
Airlines are working to reunite lost luggage with their owners in a timely manner.
However, according to Unclaimed Baggage, 0.03% of the time airlines are unable to reunite items with owners.
That’s where Scottsboro’s only Unclaimed Luggage store comes in.
“We sell unwanted luggage,” said Jennifer Kritner, Vice President of Retail and Company Culture for the store. “We have contracts with all the major airlines, so we see them invisible.”
Kritner explained that there is a 90-day period between when a piece of luggage is lost and when it can be bought and then sold by Unclaimed Luggage.
“Southwest and other airlines will go to work and for 90 days they will try to return the bags to their original owners and if that is not successful, then they will go to unclaimed baggage,” said Critner.
“You never know what you’re going to find, every bag has a story,” she said when the store picks up the luggage. “Was it a man’s bag, a woman’s bag, where were they going or coming from, was it a vacation or a business trip?”
When bags are picked up, they are sorted and clothes are washed. The items are then separated from each other and placed on the sales floor.
The store sells everything from clothes, shoes, jewelry, books and electronics. Kritner said sometimes they even end up with high-end merchandise.
“Just a few weeks ago, we got a Birkin bag, which is one of the most elite bags in the world,” she said.
Items that end up in unclaimed baggage are often the product of a very sad end to a person’s trip. Kritner said that even though they don’t receive bags until at least 90 days after they’ve been lost, the store gets its fair share of calls from hopeful travelers.
“We get those calls and our hearts break for those people because they are so desperate to find their item,” she said.
She said the likelihood of a person finding their lost items in Unclaimed Baggage is not zero, but, “often, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”
Her best advice for travelers is to take pictures of the items in your suitcase as well as your suitcase itself. She recommends “stuffing business cards” or contact information in different pockets and between different items so your bag doesn’t end up in Scottsboro.
However, one person’s loss is another person’s gain.
The store attracts more than a million visitors each year and has become somewhat of a tourist destination for the small town in Jackson County.
On Monday morning, Brieanna Jackson drove about three hours from Atlanta just to shop at Unclaimed Baggage.
Jackson told News 19 her message to the original owners of her items: “Sorry if I have good stuff, but it’s going to a good home, I promise!”
Unclaimed baggage also does some good for the community. Kritner said only about a third of the items he receives end up in the store. She said they work to recycle some items and also donate a lot of things through the Reclaimed For Good foundation.
If you’re hoping to combat holiday traveler woe, set a calendar reminder for April 1st. Of those, items lost forever during the Christmas holiday may be on the shelves of stores in Scottsboro.
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