At an unclaimed baggage auction, airports auction off to the highest bidder baggage that has remained unclaimed for a period of time. Often, travelers will inadvertently leave carry-on baggage on the plane or forget to pick up a checked bag. If airport personnel is unable to find the owner, the baggage is likely to be put up for auction.
When unclaimed baggage has been at an airport for 60 days or more, instead of storing it the airline may choose to host an auction. Miami International Airport, for example, hosts baggage auctions two times a year. Interested parties are charged a nominal fee to attend.
Prior to the auction itself, prospective bidders have the opportunity to inspect the baggage that is going up on the auction block. It is against the rules for any baggage to be opened at that time. However, participants are allowed to pick up the bags and inspect them. This may give the bidder an idea of whether or not it would be worthwhile to put a bid in on that particular item. Some techniques used include the bag's weight, condition and whether or not it is a designer bag. Once a person has bid successfully and won a piece of baggage, he or she is allowed to open it after payment has been received.