Cellphones, laptops, neck pillows and books are among the most common forgotten items, but bowling balls, valuable jewelry and other treasures also end up in airport lost and found centers.
Last month, the pilot of a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight heading to Kuala Lumpur from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia requested permission to return to the gate after a mother realized she’d left her baby behind in the boarding gate area.
Last week authorities at Alaska’s Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) turned to social media seeking help in identifying the owner of a plastic bag containing human ashes that was left at a security checkpoint back in August.
About 1000 items a day end up in the 5,000-square-foot warehouse managed by the Lost & Found department at Los Angeles International Airport. Along with the electronics, jewelry and photo IDs, LAX police found a still unclaimed script for the yet-to-air season premiere of a popular TV show that ended the previous season with a cliffhanger. (And no, LAX officials won’t reveal the show, nor the plot.)
Most airports keep found inventory for 30, 60 or 90 days before discarding, donating or auctioning the items. But a few years back, airport police at LAX could not bring themselves to discard a wedding photo album found locked in a briefcase along with a mirror, a tablecloth and matching napkins.
A Facebook campaign eventually helped identify the couple, who hadn’t even realized the album was missing.
Questions about a quilt
Last May, a floral box with a handmade quilt inside and a card reading “Charlene and Lark” was found at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
It was obvious that a lot of time and effort went in to making the quilt. So the airport lost & found team held onto it longer than the 30 days they usually do.
Facebook led the team to the photographer for Charlene and Lark’s wedding, who shared a contact for Charlene. But because the quilt had been intended as a wedding gift Lark had left behind after attending the funeral of his aunt – the quilt maker – Charlene at first ignored emails and calls about a quilt she’d never heard of. But she eventually called back and claimed the quilt.
Serial numbers and skunks
Airport teams often use investigative skills and, sometimes, compassion, in finding a lost item its home.
Earlier this year the lost & found staff at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport was able to reunite a St. Louis passenger with a valuable and sentimental piece of jewelry after calling Cartier customer service with the serial number on a found bracelet.
And, after an airline refused to let a passenger at Nashville International Airport take his pet skunk onboard or check it as baggage, customer service supervisor Chris Patterson agreed to look after Pepe the skunk for a few days. “After a week I realized that Pepe’s owner would not be coming back for him, and I was fine with that decision,” said Patterson, who adopted Pepe and later found him a home in a zoo.
Keeping an eye on lost items
After a Central Oregon festival celebrating the August 2017 eclipse, the lost and found in Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) was overflowing with everything from camping gear and hula hoops to drugs and psychedelic paraphernalia. Water bottles, neck pillows and sunglasses are the usual fare, said RDM spokeswoman Erinn Shaw, “But we also once had a live chicken.”
Portland International Airport also reports a wide range of odd left behind item, including a 9-pound zucchini and a glass eye. “The zucchini is long gone,” said PDX spokeswoman Kama Simonds, “But the glass eye has been in the lost and found for a few years.”
The most common items left at airport security checkpoints around the country are belts, keys, glasses (sunglasses and prescription), photo IDs and laptops, says TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, but she snaps and posts on social media photos of some odd left-behind items. On the list: diamond watches and engagement rings, bowling balls, canes and walkers, a Santa statue, Halloween masks and thousands of dollars in cash.
“The most unusual item I think I have seen left at a checkpoint was a portable child’s potty at Dulles Airport,” said Farbstein. It was returned.”