What do they do with recovered luggage from a plane crash?

I was wondering. Planes crashes all the time, and sometimes they don’t explode on a million flaming pieces. Sometimes the luggage can probably be actually saved. What do they do with recovered luggage that may have survived the crash? Do they give it back to the passenger (or family, if the passenger died?) I know that if you are on a plane crash you will probably be more worried about not dying, but… after that you might really really want that box of chocolates you brought, or maybe (and more likely) that bottle of whisky…

In at least two cases I know of, it was returned to the families. Pieces that could not be identified to a particular owner were said to be destroyed rather than handled through the usual lost baggage auctions.

Sometimes luggage/valuables wind up getting stolen from crash scenes, or from elsewhere in the airport.

Well first of all planes don’t crash all the time. Crashes are rare enough and can happen in such a wide range of locations with different laws and rights on wreckage the airlines haven’t standardized the procedure and simply follow the reasonable goal of trying g to get identifiable items back to their owners or loved ones. Like everything bureaucracy, laziness and greed can get in the way of the goal.

The airline or its insurer is likely to contract with Douglass Airline Funeral Coordinators, which handles personal effects as well as remains. They salvaged and returned the luggage from USAir 1549, for instance.


It’s a rarity.