Airports

Odd things left at airports

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.

Picture perfect

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.”

TSA’s favorites

Courtesy TSA

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.”

What’s up at Kentucky’s Louisville Int’l Airport?


To celebrate Minth Julep Month – and the Kentucky Derby, where the Mint Julep is the official cocktail – the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport has created a living wall with more than 700 fresh mint plants.

Here’s a video of the installation.

This week the airport also hosted a party, with this great cake. The occation: a celebration of the inaugural American Airlines flight from SDF to Los Angeles International Airport.

Here’s are some of the other reasons we’re celebrating SDF airport this week:

They have a mascot named Skye. They just opened a new room for nursing mothers. And the post-security Distillery District Marketplace enables travelers to buy Kentucky-distilled spirits to take home.

World’s Best Airports for 2019. And the World’s Cleanest Airport.

There are dozens of “Best Airports” lists that come out each year. Skytrax is one of the more notable lists that airports and, increasingly, passengers, pay attention to. That’s because the survey is based on extensive customer surveys and evaluates everything from check-in, arrivals and shopping to security and the experience at the gates.

Here are the Top 10 Airports for 2019.

  1. Singapore Changi Airport – winner for the 7th year in a row.
  2. Tokyo Haneda International Airport
  3. Incheon International Airport
  4. Hamad International Airport (Qatar)
  5. Hong Kong International Airport
  6. Chubu Centrair International Airport – (Nagoya, Japan; which recently opened a Seattle-themed 787 Dreamliner attraction)
  7. Munich Airport
  8. London Heathrow Airport
  9. Narita International Airport
  10. Zurich Airport

No U.S. airports made that top ten list, but on this list of the “bests” in other categories, Houston’s Bush International Airport won the inaugural award for World’s Best Website and Digital Services.

World’s Best Airport Dining : Hong Kong International Airport
World’s Best Airport Hotel : Crowne Plaza Changi Airport
World’s Best Airport Immigration Service : Hong Kong International Airport
World’s Best Airport Leisure Amenities : Changi Airport Singapore
World’s Best Airport Security Processing : Zurich Airport
World’s Best Airport Shopping : London Heathrow Airport
World’s Best Airport Staff : Narita International Airport
World’s Best Airport Terminal : T5, London Heathrow Airport
World’s Best Website & Digital Services : Houston Airports System
World’s Cleanest Airport : Tokyo Haneda Airport

Haneda Airport new International Terminal

A few other “Bests” of note:

Denver International Airport got the nod for Best Regional Airport in North America, while Vancouver International Airport took home the award for Best Airport in North America. And Seattle-Tacoma International Airport received the award for having the Best Airport Staff in North America.

See the full list of Skytrax 2019 awards here.

Travel Tidbits from PIT Airport

From art to bees, therapy dogs and the “refreshing” of some statues, Pittsburgh International Airport is keeping busy.

First up: a charming video to announce that the PIT Paws therapy dog team has joined others across the country hand out trading cards to fans.

PIT Airport also shared a video about the more than 700,000 bees that reside on property:

PIT airport said goodbye – temporarily – to the statues of George Washington and former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris.

And the airport made room for a new – and somewhat large – piece of art.

Shutdown over (for now); support for airport workers continues

Funding for all parts of the US government has been reinstated – for three weeks – and TSA, FAA, CBP and other federal employees who have been required to work – without pay – are now expecting paychecks and back pay.

But life for many of these people has been disrupted. And paychecks may not arrive until February 1, or later. That means many airports will continue collecting and distributing community donations of foods and gift cards to these workers.

Seattle-Tacoma Internatoinal Airport will continue collecting donations through Friday, February 1. Here’s the list of what has been donated over the past two weeks:

7,000 diapers

650 donuts

10 crates of fresh fruit

Thousands of dollars-worth of gift cards

Three weeks-worth of hot meals

At Los Angles International Airport, workers will continue to receive free rides on the FlyAway bus and waived or deferred parking fees until paychecks start flowing.

Last Thursday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he directed the L.A. Department of Water and Power as well as the city’s Bureau of Sanitation to offer assistance and payment plans for water, power, sewer and trash services. That includes plans that spread payments out over an additional three to four months.

Other airports will continue their support efforts as well.

And on Friday, United Airlines announced a donation of $1 million to Feeding America’s Shutdown Response Fund to support the food banks providing food for families of federal workers who need assistance following their loss of income.

“Even with [Friday’s] announcement, there is continued need among federal employees, in addition to the important programs that Feeding America administers,” said United CEO Oscar Munoz, “We continue to urge our leaders to work in a bipartisan way over the coming weeks to ensure long-term certainty on which our industry and the overall economy depends.”