In most cases, left luggage is luggage that passengers have deliberately left in designated luggage storage facilities. Airports, train stations, and hotels throughout Europe have offices where travelers can store bags, usually for a fee. The same offices exist in the United States and Canada, but are usually referred to as baggage check facilities.
Some of the most familiar left luggage offices are in hotels. Guests who arrive at a hotel before their room is ready may have the option of storing luggage with the hotel’s luggage service. The same services are usually available to guests who must check out of their rooms before their scheduled departure time. Hotel luggage storage service is usually free of charge, though patrons are often encouraged to tip baggage attendants.
Left luggage offices in more public settings are sometimes also monitored luggage storage rooms. Most left luggage rooms charge a per-piece fee, assessed on either an hourly or daily basis. More often than not, however, these facilities take the form of locker banks. Lockers provide the same basic benefit — namely, to afford travelers a way to store their bags in order to sightsee or travel about unencumbered — but usually at a much lower cost.
Baggage lockers are mainstays of most of Europe’s airports and train stations. The lockers are usually large enough to accommodate many sizes and types of luggage. Storing left luggage in these systems once required patrons to supply or rent their own locks, though most use a digital combination system today.
They are coin or credit card operated, based either on the hour or the day. When time expires, the lockers usually automatically open. This discourages long-term storage and prevents locker space from being monopolized by abandoned property.
In some circumstances, left luggage can refer not to luggage meant to be stored but rather to luggage that has been lost or unclaimed during travel. Bags that are unclaimed at a luggage carousel, for instance, are sometimes referred to as left luggage in that they were left or forgotten by their owners. Left luggage in this sense is lost, not intentionally checked or temporarily stored.
Most airlines and train carriers maintain lost luggage offices where passengers can make inquiries and file claims for bags that have been left or have not arrived when promised. Lost luggage officials find lost bags either through computer database searches based on claim number or by identifying bags that have been unclaimed at the destination where they erroneously wound up. Airlines usually store lost luggage for a certain amount of time in hopes of reconnecting it with its owner.