On a recent international flight that landed in the late evening, the baggage took about 90 minutes to arrive at the claim and I was starting to worry I would miss the last train home.

What would have happened if I'd just left without collecting it and returned the next day for it? I can imagine this also happening by accident if I was being forgetful.

I can imagine the airline/airport wouldn't be very happy about it as it'd be a nightmare if lots of people did this, but what would the practical consequenecs be?

I've seen this answer which talks about there being an unclaimed bags area, but I'd like to know how collecting things from it works in practice.

  • 2
    Anecdotally, I've heard it's much easier if you fill out a lost luggage form before you leave, explaining that you have to run for the last train and it has been a very long time. That'll give them the permission to get the bags through customs on your behalf, which is often the biggest issue if you just leave
    – Gagravarr
    Jun 20, 2015 at 12:18
  • I'd be worried that your bag might be suspected as a bomb and blown up. Nov 12, 2019 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


The bag will remain on the claim belt until eventually an airport worker removes it and takes it to lost property. If the claim belt is used for many flights at a busy airport then of course that could be a long time (all day, perhaps). It is not unusual for international bags to go unclaimed for a long time (many hours perhaps) because of immigration delays.

In most places bag delivery is contracted out to the local airport or a local contractor, so the airline will not be concerned.

The bag tag barcode on the bag identifies the baggage in the global baggage computer system. Information there also includes your name and telephone number, which might be used to contact you. However in all probability no one will care that much. Some identification may be required to retrieve the bag later.

If there is a customs concern the airport may be unable to release the bag to you until that is settled.

When there was a problem at London Gatwick last year, British Airways told customers to go home instead of waiting all night; their bags were subsequently delivered to them by courier.

  • 1
    I've read at least one report on Flyertalk of someone having to be escorted "airside" to claim their luggage from airside lost property, so that they could then take it through customs, but that was on FT so it may need to be taken with a pinch of salt...
    – Gagravarr
    Jun 20, 2015 at 12:22
  • The one time I was in a similar situation (someone I was with grabbed the wrong bag off the carousel, realized it a while later), the airline took care of clearing the left-behind bag through US Customs and had it waiting in the lost luggage office. Such a situation could well cause extra scrutiny by Customs, but at least in this case, it was certainly possible for them to clear the bag without the passenger present. I've also had delayed luggage couriered to me in Europe where it would have cleared customs without my presence. Dec 13, 2016 at 3:18
  • @Gagravarr similar but first hand story: there was a bomb scare of sorts at the Budapest airport or something but for sure we were told to leave the baggage hall. Somehow only a few of us had bags left inside, we were escorted back later once we found someone after much confusion. So yes, it can happen.
    – user4188
    Dec 13, 2016 at 3:32

If your bag is handed over by the airport to the lost property office, you will probably be asked to pay an admin fee (£20 or more) to retrieve it - this is certainly the case at most if not all UK airports.

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