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.”

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you 

Multi-sensory room at Miami International Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and several others have them.

Now Miami International Airport has one too.

Miami International Airport now has a multi-sensory room just beyond the Concourse D TSA security checkpoint. The room provides a quiet area for young passengers with cognitive or developmental disabilities such as autism.

The dimly lit space includes sensory-soothing fixtures, including an aquatic bubble tub, wall puzzles, cushioned seats and a light projector. Hours: seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Party at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Amy’s Ice Cream is back at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and a good time to indulge is today during the kick-off party for the refreshed Asleep at the Wheel Stage in the center of the Barbara Jordan Terminal.

Located near Gate 19, there’s a 9-foot neon lighted guitar spinning above the area and seating for 190 patrons.

The party runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes a ribbon cutting ceremony and performances by Ray Benson, Heybale Band, and Love & Chaos.

NFL Hall of Famer Earl Campbell will be on hand to help celebrate the Heart of Austin area of the airport that includes the Saxon Pub Bar, Joe’s Coffee and Earl Campbell taco-themed food truck.

Fresh art at John Wayne Airport


A new photographic exhibit at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA by Jane Szabo’s is titled “Family Matters” and uses childhood posessions and simple objects to tell a complicated story of family dynamics.

After moving her 86-year-old father and 91-year-old mother into assisted living, Szabo began to organize the contents of their home of 36 years. “Family Matters” is a result of the final selection of treasures she kept before placing her parent’s home for sale.

Fiesta at San Antonio International Airport

San Antonio International Airport held its Second Annual Fiesta San Jacinto Day Parade recently, with mariachi music, parade floats, mascots and festive colors through both terminals of the airport.

Watch: Light & sound show at Jewel Changi Airport

Greetings from Singapore

Jewel, the new over-the-top attraction at Changi Airport, hasn’t officially opened to the public. But thanks to ticketed previews for local residents and, of course, all the media reports, word has been getting around.

The venue is part mall, with 280 swank and unusual shops and restaurants, and part forest theme-park, with the world’s largest indoor waterfall right in the center.

The flow of the waterfall and the size of the droplets can be controlled. And somewhow each evening the water becomes a screen upon which two different 360-degree light & sound shows are projected each evening.

Take a look.

This video is courtesy of Changi Airport. I took a video too during one of the preview nights, but there were so many thousands of people and cameras in front of me that my version features the back of someone’s bald head.

Southwest selling tickets to Hawaii. Flights start soon.

Want to go to Hawaii? One more airline is now flying there from the west coast.

Southwest Airlines announced it will start flying between Hawaii and the mainland on March 17, 2019, with an inaugural flight from Oakland International Airport (OAK) to Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL).

On April 7, Southwest will start service from Oakland International Airport to Kahului Airport (OGG).

In May, Southwest will start service from Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to Honolulu on May 5 and to Kahului on May 26.

Southwest is also adding interisland service and will fly roundtrip between Honolulu and Kahului four times daily beginning April 28 and four times daily between Honolulu and Ellison Onizuka International Airport at Keahole (KOA) on Hawaii Island.

Still to come: details about the schedule for Southwest’s flights from San Diego and Sacramento, and for flights that will serve Lihue, on Kauai.

Sale prices for the announced flights were offered – and sold out within minutes – on Monday, but poke around and you may still find some great deals on Southwest’s flights to Hawaii.

No doubt other carriers, such as Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska, United, American, and Delta, that fly to Hawaii from gateways across the U.S. may kick off sales and special promotions of their own in the coming days.

In fact, here’s a link to a flash fare sale Alaska Airlines rolled out today on flight to Hawaii…

TSA: 2018 was record-breaking year for guns found at airports

TSA’s Year in Review came out today with the (still somewhat unofficial) final stats on the number of guns TSA officers found in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints last year.

The total for 2018 is a record-setting 4,239 firearms found in carry-on bags at 249 of the more than 400 TSA-controlled airport checkpoints around the country.

That’s up more than 7 percent from the 3,957 firearms TSA officers found in carry-on bags in 2017.

And that averages out to 81.6 firearms a week and 11.6 firearms a day.

The break-down gets more alarming when we look at the stats on the number of guns found to be loaded.

Of the 4,239 firearms found last year, more than 86% (3,656) were loaded (another record) and almost 34% (1,432) of the firearms found had a round chambered.

Why do so many passengers show up at airports with guns?

“I think the biggest reason is that people go buy these things and then completely forget they have them, which is dangerous in its own right,” said aviation security expert Jeff Price, the owner of Leading Edge Strategies, “I imagine when they get the gun, at first they are always aware of it because they feel safer. Then, after a period of time, it works its way to the bottom of the bag and next thing that happens is its discovered at a screening checkpoint.”

Price also suspects that because more people are carrying guns these days and carry those guns in purses and laptops, they are aware they have the guns, “But in the hustle and confusion of preparing for a trip, they forget to take the gun out. “

TSA’s Year in Review also lists the top 10 airports for firearm discoveries in 2018.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) the Top 10 list with 298 firearms found. (253 loaded.) That’s an increase of 53 compared to 2017.

ATL also set the record for the airport with the most firearms discovered in one month: In August 2018, 32 firearms were found at ATL checkpoints.

Here’s the rest of TSA’s Top 10 list of airports for firearms discoveries in 2018:

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): 219 (193 loaded)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX): 129 (120 loaded)

Denver International Airport (DEN): 126 (95 loaded)

Orlando International Airport (MCO): 123 (112 loaded)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): 117 (115 loaded). Some good news here: this is a decrease of 25 compared to 2017.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL): 96 (80 loaded)

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS): 93 (76 loaded)

Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL): 89 (83 loaded)    

Nashville International Airport (BNA): 86 (80 loaded)

In a year when TSA also screened a record number of travelers (813.8 million; a 5.5 percent increase over 2017), the agency’s officers also found a wide variety of prohibited items and ‘artfully concealed’ objects other than firearms in carry-on bags, including inert grenades, a bottle of lighter fluid, fireworks and knife combs.

TSA’s week in review also notes the loss in 2018 of Curtis “Blogger Bob” Burns, the charmingly corny TSA employee who chronicled the agency’s odd finds on the TSA blog, on Twitter and on Instagram. Burns is featured in quirky videos highlighting TSA Top 10 Most Unusual Finds in 2016 and in 2017.

TSA’s Year in Review promises that a video highlighting 2018’s most unusual finds will be released soon.