firearms

Don’t leave your stuff at the TSA checkpoint

Resolved to fly more in 2020? How to keep your stuff.  

In 2019, airline passengers tried to take hundreds of thousands of prohibited and banned items through airport security checkpoints in the United States.

Transportation Security Administration officers found hatchets, inert grenades, fireworks, firearms (most of them loaded) and so many knives that the TSA doesn’t even keep a count.

Instead, the agency boxes them up, weighs them and hands pallets of knives and other “voluntarily abandoned” property over to state agencies to be sold as surplus property.

TSA officials say passengers who don’t want to leave a banned item behind at the checkpoint have a few options:

If the item is approved for checked baggage, a passenger can put the item in a carry-on bag and go check it in or ask the airline to retrieve an already checked back and put the item in there.

Another option: Airport Mailers and some other companies have kiosks set up near security checkpoints at many airports where travelers may package up items and pay to mail them home.

But it’s not just items on TSA’s “no fly’ list that get left behind at airports.

Each month, TSA also collects and catalogs 90,000 to 100,000 other items that are perfectly legal to travel with, but which are inadvertently left behind at airport checkpoints by harried and distracted travelers.

Those items range from scarves and sunglasses to laptops, smartphones and some odd “How did they forget THAT?” items such as bowling balls, violins, gold teeth and urns and boxes filled with human cremains.

On a post-holiday tour of TSA’s Lost & Found room at Reagan National Airport, we spotted plenty of those items, as well as multiple bags filled with left behind IDs.

We also saw shelves lined with ballcaps, CPAP breathing machines, winter coats, car key fobs that will cost $200 or more to replace, car seats, canes and fully packed carry-on bags.

It’s easy to see how hats and scarves get left behind in the bins, but what about laptops, entire carry-on bags and other essential items?

Besides the “people are in a rush,” factor, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein has some theories:

“When it comes to laptops, many brands are grey and the same color as the checkpoint bins, so it can be easy to overlook your laptop,” says Feinstein. “Also, if a bin has an advertisement in the bottom, travelers’ eyes may be drawn to the ad and cause them to miss the driver’s license and keys still in the bin.”

The number of bins people use may also contribute to the pile-up in the Lost & Found. If you’ve scattered your stuff across multiple bins (coats here, electronics there, a flat laptop and an ID in another bin), you may overlook items in the last bin as you rush to take your stuff out and stack up the used bins.

The pile of canes?

“It’s not that we have so many miraculous recoveries at TSA checkpoints,” says Farbstein, “I think attendants and family members helping wheelchair users who also have canes often forget to pick up the canes once they’re through the checkpoint.”

Keeping your stuff out of Lost & Found

TSA keeps items left behind at security checkpoints for a minimum of 30 days and posts phone numbers on its website where travelers can contact the Lost & Found department at each airport.

(Keep in mind that airports and airlines will have their own lost and found procedures for things left in the terminals and on airplanes.)

To improve your chances of getting your stuff back – or not losing it in the first place – Farbstein offers these tips:

  • Tape a business card or some other form of ID to your laptop or smartphone. “So many models are alike, so this can make all the difference in getting yours back,” said Farbstein.
  • Before you get to the checkpoint, or while you’re standing online, take time to consolidate all your miscellaneous items (i.e. scarves, hats, gloves) and take everything out of your pockets (keys, phones, wallets, etc.). Instead of putting small items in a bin, put them in your carry-on in an extra plastic bag you’ve packed just for that purpose. If you don’t put loose items in the bin to begin with, you eliminate the chance of leaving anything in the bin on the other side.
  • Pay attention to everything you put in the bins, including things that may have a high emotional value. “A laptop may cost thousands of dollars, but I can assure you that an old beat-up stuffed animal that a child has left behind is valuable to the parent who is now dealing with a crying child,” says Farbstein.

Help is on the way

Looking forward, as part of a $96.8 million contract awarded last year to Smiths Detection, in 2020 most large and major airports in the United States will be getting computed technology 3D X-ray scanners at the checkpoints. This new machinery will allow travelers to keep their electronics in their carry-on bags and reduce the chance of so many laptops and other gadgets getting left behind.

(My story: “How to avoid leaving stuff behind at the TSA checkpoint” first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different version)

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.

Saying farewell to TSA’s social media star, “Blogger Bob” Burns

 

 

Courtesy TSA

Readers of the StuckatTheAirport.com blog know that I often cite the TSA’s blog and Instagram accounts, which catalog the firearms and often  outrageous items that passengers try to take with them onto planes.

The creative and really funny TSA employee who has been responsible for these social media outlets died recently and I wrote a quick turn post for USA TODAY:

Curtis Robert Burns, the Transportation Security Administration’s surprise social media star, passed away on Friday, October 19 at the age of 48 after a sudden illness.

Known as “Blogger Bob” to followers of the TSA blog and to the more than 950,000 subscribers of TSA’s Instagram account, Burns used what he called his corny, “dad humor” to educate the public about the work of the TSA and the rules regarding what passengers may and may not take with them onto airplanes.

View this post on Instagram

These can fly! Well… they can fly on the plane as a carry-on item, but they can’t actually fly anymore. Those days have clearly passed for this swarm. They’ve been pinned down for quite a while on a project. I’m guessing your husband made you ask because he didn’t want to be a pest and bug us, right? … This is a screenshot of a tweet sent to the AskTSA account on Twitter. … Have you ever wondered whether or not you can pack a certain item? If you're a regular follower of this account, I'm sure you can think of many situations where it would have behooved somebody to send us a picture first. Well, fret no more! Now you can do just that… … Simply snap a picture and tweet it to AskTSA (twitter.com/asktsa), or send it via Facebook Messenger (facebook.com/asktsa) and our team will get back to you promptly with an answer. … And that's not all. Contact us about any TSA related issue or question you might have. We can even help you if you don’t see TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass. … We look forward to answering your questions, 9am-7pm daily. #AskTSA #TSATravelTips

A post shared by TSA (@tsa) on

On TSA’s blog, Burns shared a weekly count of the firearms TSA officers found at airport checkpoints and a summary of the knives and other often alarming prohibited items passengers packed in carry-on and checked bags and in their pockets, briefcases and purses.

He also filmed a humorous year-end video countdown of TSA’s Top Ten Most Unusual Finds where his dry wit was charmingly evident.

“His Top 10 items of ridiculous items found at the checkpoint reminded everyone that commonsense isn’t evenly distributed. And what screening officers did isn’t security theater. And if it were, the cast of characters were often those being screened and not doing the screening, as some suggest,” Michael Bilello, a TSA spokesperson noted in a statement announcing Burns’ death.

Thanks to Burns and his wry approach to sharing photos and comments about odd items discovered by TSA officers, TSA’s Instagram account won many honors, including three Webby Awards in 2018 and ranked fourth best by Rolling Stone in 2015.

Here’s Burns giving his Webby Award acceptance speech:

During a TSA Facebook live, “Ask Me Anything” episode earlier this year, Burns attributed the success of TSA’s Instagram account in part to the shock value.

“People don’t come to a government Instagram account and expert to see humor,” he said, “And they also don’t expect to see these crazy things that people are trying to bring on a plane.”

His favorite item? The sandwich slicer that someone tried to bring on board, “Just like the ones you see at the deli!”

According to an obituary in the Dayton Daily News, Burns was a chemical engineer for the U.S. army during Desert Storm, the father of two daughters and also lead singer and song writer for the “Big in Iowa” band.

101 firearms found last week at airport checkpoints

Each week the Trasnportation Security Administration reports on the number of firearms its officers find at airport checkpoints.

And each week I get alarmed.

This week is no different.

TSA reports that between May 14 and 20 a total of 101 firearms were found at airport security checkpoints.

Of those 101 firearms, 85 were loaded and 28 had a load chambered.

101 firearms is a lot. But it’s not a record for the TSA, although it is close.

Between February 5 and 11 of this year, TSA found a record 104 firearms at airport checkpoints.

Why do people bring firearms – and loaded firearms- with them to the airport?

TSA says most people caught with a firearm at an airport simply say they ‘forgot’ their firearm was in the bag they’d packed for their trip…

 

TSA found a record number of firearms at airport checkpoints in 2017

We knew it was coming, but now it is official:

According to the Transportation Security Administration, a record setting 3,957 firearms were found in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country during 2017.

That’s a 16.7 percent increase (556 more) over the 3,391 firearms found in 2016, an average of 76.1 firearms per week and an average of 10. 8 firearms each day.

Of the firearms found during 2017, 84 percent (3,324) were loaded and 34.8 percent (1,378) had a round chambered.

Firearms were found at 239 airports, with the most in any one month (31) discovered in August at Hartsfield-Jackson Altanta International Airport.

Top 10 Airports For Firearm Discoveries In 2017:

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 245 (222 Loaded)

Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW): 211 (165 Loaded)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston (IAH): 142 (124 Loaded)

Denver International (DEN): 118 (102 Loaded)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX): 115 (109 Loaded)

Tampa International (TPA): 97 (90 Loaded)

Orlando International Airport (MCO): 94 (82 Loaded)

Dallas Love Field (DAL): 93 (81 Loaded)

Nashville International (BNA): 89 (71 Loaded)

Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA): 75 (60 Loaded)