For terrorism concerns I think many airlines offload checked in baggage if a passenger somehow does not end up travelling on a flight.

How strictly are these rules followed? e.g. If a connecting passenger with a tight connection cannot make it to the gate in time will the airline actually send in a ramp guy into the baggage hold to remove specific pieces of baggage? How feasible is it to do thing when the bags are in pods or the Unit Load Devices? Do they have to remove the load device from the hold before they can extract a specific bag?

How does the gate delay of just waiting for the errant, late passenger compare to the time & effort needed to find & offload his bags?

PS. Since bags do get misrouted I'm sure at least some bags fly without a passenger owning them on board.

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    $\begingroup$ AFAIK the rules that prevent baggage to be loaded if the owner is not on the flight only apply to persons on a watch list. Their luggage is set aside until they board. That happened with some of the 9/11 hijackers and is probably why Mohammed Atta's bags were left behind. It would be way too difficult to do this with every passenger on every flight. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Nov 22, 2015 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ @TomMcW: You should say that it's for the US, EU uses other rules: " Hold baggage that becomes unaccompanied baggage due to factors other than those mentioned in point 5.3.2 shall be removed from the aircraft and rescreened before loading it again." $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Nov 22, 2015 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ @mins Don't you hate having to keep reminding us Americans that the rest of the world exists. :) $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Nov 22, 2015 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ @TomMcW I think the rules on that have changed in the U.S. since 9/11, too. As far as I know, it's still not completely guaranteed that your bags won't fly without you, but it's less likely now. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Nov 22, 2015 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because I feel it belongs to travel.SE $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


Normally, baggage takes much longer to switch flights than self-loading cargo, so your scenario is highly unlikely.

In the event of a passenger missing and his/her baggage already on board, all bags need to be unloaded until the orphaned bag is found. When ULDs are used, those must be unloaded first and are then unpacked, mostly on the apron next to the aircraft.

Waiting for the missing passenger is an open-ended game. At some point, you must decide on a course of action with a fixed exit so you can move on.

Normally, every airline is required to unload an orphaned bag. I am sure some are more strict about this than others.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Peter! I guess if they were very very strict we'd never have lost bags, eh? :) $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2015 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a faster method to identify and pull out an orphaned bag $\endgroup$
    – Firee
    Nov 27, 2015 at 8:41

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