I lost a bag whilst going through security on a recent flight through Heathrow Airport in London, UK.

Since getting home I've been online to try and track the item and have discovered that their process, according to their website, is:

  1. Register for the online service,
  2. Find your item in their database,
  3. Submit a claim,
  4. Pay a fee to reclaim an item,
  5. Pay postage to have it sent to you.

I fully accept the paying for the postage to have it sent to me, and to a lesser extent I accept paying a fee for the storage and processing of my item, which takes extra resources (and hence extra costs) on their part.

But my query is about the way they have implemented this service charge which I am presuming I have to pay even if I turn up to collect my item in person and don't use their website (I doubt they would accept this). My question also hangs on the assumption that if I do not pay the fee requested to reclaim the item then they will refuse to return the item.

My question is, what prevents this policy, of keeping the item until I pay a fee, from conflicting with the UK laws such as Theft By Finding, Criminal Conversion or perhaps (tenuously I feel) Blackmail?

It feels to me like this should be breaking a law, perhaps one of the above or perhaps another, as (if my presumptions are correct) they are effectively showing the intention to deprive me permanently of my property. Why isn't this the case?

2 Answers 2


A charge of Theft by Finding is unlikely to succeed, as by posting details of found property on the website Heathrow Airport have made a good faith attempt to find the owner.

There might be some comedy value in suggesting Blackmail, but not much more than that. (You knew that one was tenuous.)

There appear to be some grounds for arguing the "control" aspect of Criminal Conversion, and if you were to do that they may release your lost baggage to you in person or to your appointed agent.

The problem is what would happen next. Heathrow Airport would have grounds for arguing that they had made a good faith attempt to return your baggage, that you had used their system to determine they had your baggage, but that you had chosen to avoid a nominal charge (less than £20, according to the website) to use that system. This would give them grounds to seek to recover the actual cost of storing, locating the owner, and handing the baggage over to them (likely to be more than £20), plus legal fees for recovery of cost (likely to be a lot more than £20). Their argument would be that they had incurred costs in attempting to return your baggage to you, and that it was your responsibility that you had refused an amount that is likely to be considered a reasonable fee for this activity.

Short answer : It looks like there's nothing preventing you from pointing out a potential conflict, and it's a nice question for academic debate. But I wouldn't do it.

Edit : If you've used the link to missingx.com from the heathrow.com website, you could also have been deemed to have accepted the charge ("if you want to reclaim your item") at point 4.

  • 1
    Indeed, for a maximum of £20 I'm v.likely going to just pay the fee (hence I mentioned this wasn't for legal advice, I'm already fairly certain on the way forward) but I was interested, pretty much as you pointed out, academically. Side note - I'd counter argue that the system they have in place creates an environment that is manufactured to result in such lost items. Might not work, and would cost more than £20 to find out hence I won't be! (Edit note - I haven't signed up and agreed to the service, I figured that might be the case in T&Cs, searching for a free option first) Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 11:31
  • @RyanfaeScotland - If you had a specific example of bad practice a different (not counter) suit might get you the £20 + shipping, but it would have been your choice to pursue a different approach, so not their responsibility. (And, on the edit, signing up to missingx.com might not be required if Heathrow can show that you found it on their website, where the fee is prominently displayed. Though I'm not sure how they'd do that.) Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 11:59
  • Have we got our wires crossed a little here? The 'bad practice' I am referring to is the way security is set up that makes it fairly likely for items to go missing, not the service they offer afterwards, hence I had NO choice to pursue a different approach (I think we'd all avoid airport security if there was another choice!). Unrelated - There is a temptation to turn up to collect the item, ask to see it to verify it is indeed mine, and then just walk away with it. Ill-advised I imagine, and would cost me more to get there to do so than to have it paid and posted. Still, one can dream... Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 12:21
  • 1
    @RyanfaeScotland - Slightly crossed, maybe. The choice of approach was about arguing Criminal Conversion (or making off with the bag) rather than coughing up the £20. For bad practice, you'd want to show security was likely to lose items [possible], but also that there was no system to reunite them with their owners [there is]. I'm talking myself out of being able to get the £20 + shipping (as you say, cheaper than going in person - inspired guess that you're not in SE England). Heathrow would argue " it happens", and that this is why they have a system. Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 13:01

In most countries, one possible and completely legal action when you find what you think is lost property, is to completely ignore it. From that point of view, they don't have to do anything.

And if lost property blocks passengers, and is a possible security risk, they would be allowed to move it where it's not in the way and where it is no danger.

They are not taking your luggage, you are leaving it. It would be very hard to come up with an argument that they should do work for you for free.

  • To move lost property out of the way is one thing, to place it where the owner cannot reclaim it without dealing with a particular organization, and paying them a fee, seems to require specific authorization. Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 1:37
  • @DavidSiegel - Would that still apply if the organisation was the owner of the land on which the property was lost? In which case might the person who lost the baggage be considered responsible for placing it in their control? Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 10:18

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