How much do you love the Transportation Security Administration?
Enough to leave a tip every time you go through security at the airport?
I didn’t think so.
But in their rush to get through airport checkpoints, passengers leave a hefty amount of ‘tips’ for the TSA every year.
For its fiscal year 2016, the Transportation Security Administration reports that passengers left behind more than $867, 812.39 in coins and currency in the plastic bowls and bins at airport checkpoints.
That’s about $102,000 more than was left behind in 2015 and more than $484,000 than was left behind in 2008.
Over the years, the amount of change left behind by travelers at airports has been climbing, jumping from about $489,000 in 2011 to almost $675,000 in 2014 and to almost $766,000 in 2015.
Last year, passengers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport were the most forgetful (or generous…) travelers, leaving behind $70,615 in unintentional ‘tips’ for TSA.
Also on the top ten list for fiscal year 2016: Los Angeles International Airport, where travelers left behind almost $45,000, and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where more than $42,000 in cash and currency was left in checkpoint bins.
What happens to all that money?
Back in 2005, Congress passed a law saying TSA gets to keep that unclaimed cash and spend it on any sort of civil aviation security efforts it deems fit.
In at least two previous years’ reports, TSA stated that the unclaimed money collected from airports would be used to support the expansion of the TSA Precheck program, which gives travelers expedited screening privileges, allowing them to keep shoes and lights jacks on and their laptops and quart-sized bag of liquids and gels inside their carry-ons.
When it filed its report on the almost $868,000 in unclaimed money collected from airports in fiscal year 2016, however, TSA said it had not yet determined how it would spend those funds.
Don’t want to leave a tip?
At some airport checkpoints, passengers can also empty loose change from their pockets directly into donation bins for local charities before moving through the line.
During 2016, travelers passing through Denver International Airport donated $87,106.91 to Denver’s Road Home, a non-profit that works with service providers for the region’s homeless community. And last year passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International contributed more than $11,000 to help support the USO operations at the airport.
You’d think air travelers would have gotten the message by now. But evidently not.
The TSA has done its 2016 tally and found that another record has been broken for the number of firearms found in carry-on bags and on passengers at airport checkpoints.
According to TSA’s Year in Review report 3,391 firearms were found during 2016.
That’s 28 percent more than the 2,653 firearms found in 2015.
According to TSA’s report, of the 3,391 firearms found during 2016, 83 percent were loaded and the most firearms – 198 – were found at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Top 10 airports for firearms discoveries:
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL):198
Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW): 192
George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston (IAH):128
Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX):101
Denver International (DEN): 98
Orlando International Airport (MCO):86
Nashville International (BNA):80
Tampa International (TPA):79
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS):78
Salt Lake City International (SLC):75
Beyond firearms, TSA finds lots of other odd things in travelers’ bags.
The TSA has issued its Top 10 list of the most unusual items found at airport checkpoints in 2016.
All are somewhat alarming, although not all were prohibited from being carried onto a plane.
For starters, there were five dead endangered seahorses inside an oversized bottle of brandy, a replica suicide vest spotted and a trailer hitch cover shaped like a hand grenade.
Then there was the five-bladed flogger someone tried to take onto a plane at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
The list also includes a Hello Kitty-themed firearm found at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut and a movie prop corpse that was spotted at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport checkpoint that evidently had a ticket and was permitted to board, along with its very much alive travel companion.
All ten items are featured in the quirky video in which TSA social media specialist Bob Burns offers a charmingly corny countdown of the list.
Most items in the video will be familiar to those who follow the TSA blog or its popular Instagram account, where the agency shares a weekly report on the number of firearms (loaded and unloaded) and posts photos of notable “finds.”
Travelers who would like to make sure the contents of their carry-on luggage aren’t included in TSA’s 2017 Top Ten List can check to see if an item is permitted on the TSA’s “Can I bring my… through the security checkpoint” tool or on the “Ask TSA” Facebook Messenger site.
What happened to the blue gloves worn by Transportation Security Administration officers at airport checkpoints?
They still have them. But at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport and many other airports around the country TSOs are wearing pink gloves during October to show their support during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.