Most travelers worry about airlines losing their bags, but that's nothing compared to these tragic tales. From a bag that wound up swamped by sewage to a suitcase set ablaze on the tarmac, here are the nine worst luggage incidents of all time.
40 suitcases swamped by raw sewage
One thing you never expect to hear is that your luggage is buried in excrement. True story: In November 2010, a waste pipe in London Heathrow's Terminal 1 burst, swamping about 240 suitcases with human waste. Said a source at the scene: "Gallons of raw sewage came spewing out. The stench was appalling."
United Airlines sets woman's luggage on fire
Burned luggage rivals sewage on the suitcase-disaster scale. In December 2008, a woman was called into the cockpit of a United plane, where a pilot pointed to a blaze on the tarmac. "See that?" he said. "That's your luggage." It caught fire after being placed too close to the engine
Suitcase soaked in jet fuel
What's more upsetting than deplaning and finding your luggage so infused with jet fuel that it's emitting fumes? Having the airline (Delta, in this case) tell you to try to clean it before it'll even consider reimbursing you for it. Good thing there were no fires associated with this incident.
Luggage falls overboard on cruise ship
You'd think that cruise-line crews would be pretty good at not dropping people's personal belongings overboard. As Royal Caribbean demonstrated in September 2009, that's not always the case. Not only did one passenger's bag end up in the ocean, so did all of her prescription medications. Bummer.
Airways loses $50,000 worth of luggage
It's unclear how often fashion heir Giorgio Gucci travels via commercial airline, but a recent US Airways mishap may have convinced him to stick with private jets. In September 2010, the airline lost $50,000 worth of items in vintage bags belonging to him on a flight from Madrid to Philadelphia
Suitcase valuables regularly stolen by airline employees
What if the same people who check your luggage were also helping themselves to its contents? In November 2010, detectives caught four American Airlines bag handlers taking jewelry, cameras, and other electronics from bags. The worst part? The thieves had worked for American for almost nine years.
Heathrow leaves luggage to rot outside
Heathrow Airport is located in London, a city known for rain. So why they once decided to place lost luggage outside while searching for its proper owner is anyone's guess. In July 2007, a British Airways passenger was shocked by how damp and smelly his luggage was (it had been lost for seven days).
Local man routinely steals suitcases off the conveyor belt
In August 2010, police discovered that a man was habitually stealing bags right off the conveyor belt at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The stolen goods amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Carry-ons never sounded better.
Checked luggage subjected to storm
Ever see the trolleys that transport luggage from the airport to the plane? They're not immune to weather conditions (something airline employees don't always consider). A passenger on a flight from Orlando to Chicago in February 2009 learned that the hard way when he received his bag, soaking wet, upon arrival