I lost a bag on a flight from BKK -> ARN -> CPH two weeks ago. I immediately filed a report at CPH when the bag hadn't arrived after more than an hour of waiting. Since then there has been no updates of the bags whereabouts on the tracing website.

Theft is one possibility, but there seem to be many cases where luggage is lost "forever" and then end up at an auction.

As a layman, the only reasonable explanation (besides theft) for the bag being missing for more than a few days seems to be that the luggage tag has somehow fallen off the bag. If the luggage still has a tag and is sitting somewhere in an airport - be it at BKK, ARN or CPH - surely someone would have noticed it by now and scanned the tag?

However, when reading about why luggage gets lost, and especially seeing photos of lost luggage at auctions, it seems that it's entirely possible for a bag to still have its tag with barcodes intact and yet be "missing".

How can this be? Surely the system must be built in such a way that a luggage handler can scan the bag tag at any time and either find the missing luggage report or the contact details of the passenger? Or is the luggage handling identification system a lot dumber than I imagine? I read somewhere that "after 3 days the barcode is reused for other passengers luggage", which sounds too stupid to be true.

It would be interesting to know how it works from someone who has insight into how the system works in real life.

  • @HankyPanky It's not the topic of the question, but sure, in my case it's possible but unlikely. I was among the first at the belt, and I always place myself so I can see the bags when they pop up on the belt. The bag was also quite large and heavy, not the kind of bag you just quickly grab and walk off with without a trolley (it didn't have wheels).
    – Magnus
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 7:48
  • My guess: People may think the baggage is lost, and they didn't fill the lost baggage form. Airlines cannot track all people who didn't show up, or with wrong address/phone number [being in a foreign country, and maybe giving only hotel reference...]. I suspect that some of these people took the wrong baggage, and they do not want to let other know about their errors. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 10:16
  • Is it surprising so many people only want carry-on?
    – puppetsock
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


How can luggage get lost and never recovered ?

It's not a perfect system. Lots of things can go wrong:

  1. Data entry error during bag reception.
  2. Transfer error of the data record while it travels through all the different airport and airline systems (and probably being transcoded multiple times)
  3. Tag smugded or crumpled to the point that it's unreadable
  4. Tag partially or completely ripped off.
  5. Tag mis-read anywhere during the journey
  6. Manual handling or data entry error during the trip
  7. Someone else grabbed the bag off the belt intentionally
  8. Someone else grabbed the bag by accident and is too stupid/lazy to return it. Or they disposed of the tag before they noticed their mistake

Funny story: when I got my bag back I noticed that the handle was badly damaged and complained to the airline (LH in FRA, I think). The agent showed me to a side room that was FULL of lost or abandoned suitcases. They offered me to just grab "whichever one you like" instead of filing a length claim from and that's what I did!

  • Heh. Your anecdote at the end makes me want to hope my bag is slightly damaged and I get the chance to choose a much better bag.
    – puppetsock
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 19:53

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