TSA

Passengers left TSA a ‘tip’ of almost $1 million in 2018

In 2018, travelers left TSA almost $1 million in inadvertent “tips”

Passengers in a rush to get through the airport security checkpoint often leave behind belts, mobile phones, laptops and other valuable items.

They also leave lots of coin and cash.

According to a report due out today from the Transportation Security Administration, during FY 2018 travelers left for than $960,000 – ($960, 105.49 to be exact) – in the plastic bins at airport checkpoints around the country.

That’s $90,265.93 more than the $869,839.56 travelers left behind as inadvertent ‘tips’ for TSA in FY 2017.

It is $92, 293.10 more than the $867, 812.39 passengers forgot to pick up in FY 2016.

And it’s a whopping, $194,346.34 more than passengers left behind in FY 2015.

By law, TSA is allowed to use these funds for projects it considers important for civil aviation security.

In past years some of the left-behind funds have been used to promote and improve the TSA Pre-Check program, for checkpoint maintenance, and for translation of checkpoint signage into different foreign languages.

Much of unclaimed money from the past few years remains in TSA’s coffers. In fact, as of March 15, 2019, when TSA actually completed its report, NO funds from 2017 had been expended.

And that funds are now included in the list of funds the Department of Homeland Security has its eyes on to help fund border operations, NBC recently reported. (Although the law specificially says the funds are to be used for civil aviation protection.)

Who are the biggest tippers?

As you might suspect, some of the county’s largest airports collect the most unclaimed coins and cash at the security checkpoints. 

TSA’s Unclaimed Money at Airports report for FY 2018 shows that passengers at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) left behind the most money: $72, 392.74.

Next on the list: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where $71,748.83 was unclaimed in the bins.

Miami, Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty International are in the Top 5 of airports where passengers leave behind the most coins and cash.

Here’s the Top Ten list:

1.       JFK         72,392.74

2.       LAX        71,748.83

3.       MIA       50,504.49

4.       ORD       49,597.23

5.       EWR       41,026.07

6.       DFW      36,707.99

7.       SFO        33,264.80

8.       LAS         33,038.23

9.       MCO      32,687.10

10.     IAD         31,090.38

Why would travelers leave so much money behind at checkpoints? And why does the tally just keep going up? 

According to TSA spokesperson Jenny Burke, one reason may be that more people are traveling. Many airports are serving a record number of passengers and TSA is, therefore, screening a record number of passengers.

That makes the pool of possible inadvertent “tippers” much bigger.

Another reason: In this age of credit and debit card transactions, travelers find it more valuable to spend their time getting to their gate than stopping to scoop up a few pennies or dimes.

(A slightly different version of my story about TSA’s report on unclaimed money from FY 2018 first appeared on USA TODAY. )

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Tampa International welcomes visitors past security

This week Tampa International Airport (TPA) introduces a program that offers non-ticketed guests access to the shops, restaurants, artwork and gate areas beyond security.

TPA’s program is called All-Access and will issue passes to 100 people each Saturday, starting on May 4. Passes will be good all day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

TPA has four distinct Airsides (A, C, E and F) and each week the 100 passes will be divied up by 25 passes issued for each Airside. So, to figure out which Airside to request, visitors should check out TPA’s shopping and dining guide.

Tampa International Airport is the second airport in the nation to offer non-ticketed guests this perk. Pittsburgh International Airport’s MyPITPass started in 2017 and offer passes on weekdays.

Airport Restaurant Month

HMSHost has brought back Airport Restaurant Month to 60 of its dining venues in airports across the country.

Throughout May, diners can choose from a selection of three appetizers and four entrees at the participating restaurants.

The menus may vary a bit by restaurant, but most will offer their take on Seared Salmon, Flatbread Prima Vera, a Spicy Slaw Burger, a Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich and an AM Wrap.

The meals include a dark chocolate sea salt bar as well.

See the menus and find the full of list of restaurants participating in HMSHost’s Airport Restaurant Month here.

SFO moves pick-up spot for ride-hailing pick ups

Starting June 3, travelers getting picked up by ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft or Wingz at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will have to head to the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

International Terminal pickups will continue in the current location (at the center island of the Departure level roadway) and all ride-hailing drop-offs will continue to occur at designated upper-level departure curbside areas.

The change is designed to lighten traffic on the airport’s terminal roadway and comes after Uber X and Lyft began offering their customers a $3 discount if they chose to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage instead of at curbside.

That didn’t do much to reduce congestion, so in June SFO is going ahead and moving all domestic ride-hailing ride pickups to the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, McCarran’s Las Vegas International Airport and an increasing number of other airports direct ride-hailing customers to a central garage area for picks ups as well.

And this from the TSA Week in Review:

Between April 22 and 28, TSA security officers found 85 firearms in carry-on bags at airports. 75 of those firearms were loaded and 28 of those firearms had a round chambered.

Alarmed?

What’s the deal with REAL ID?

My story this week for USA TODAY tries to break down what you need to know about getting that REAL ID we’ve been hearing about.

The deadline is coming up on October 1, 2020, so now it is getting real.

Here’s the story:

Take a look at your driver’s license.

Go ahead, we’ll wait while you fish it out of your wallet.

If your driver’s license doesn’t have a star in the upper corner of the card and you foresee flying on a domestic commercial flight any time after Oct 1, 2020, then your license is not Real ID compliant.

You’ll need to take action, make some decisions, or wait for your state to get its act together.

What’s Real ID?

The Real ID Act is legislation passed in 2005 (in response to the 9/11 terrorists attacks) that set new and higher minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards that will be accepted at airports, other Federally regulated facilities and nuclear power plants.

Debates and pushback from some states over the impact of Real ID have created confusion and delayed the official rollout of the Act’s enforcement, but October 1, 2020 is now considered the firm date for enforcement at commercial airports.

“The main pushback on REAL ID is that it’s too big brother,” said Jeff Price, an aviation security expert with Leading Edge Strategies, “It’s a move to make everyone in the U.S. have identification, which tends to upset those who enjoy life off the grid or don’t like any more government intrusion into their lives more than what is necessary.”

But, Price notes, nearly every state has come into compliance, “And there hasn’t been the big brother/illegal shakedown issues that some people predicted,” he said.

How do you get a REAL ID compliant license and when can you get?

Here’s where things can get tricky.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been phasing in enforcement of the REAL ID Act in an effort to give states time to become compliant with the rules and to begin issuing enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards in time for the October 1, 2020 deadline.

Most states are currently in compliance (see this map) with the REAL ID Act and are able to issue upgraded licenses and IDs.

Seven states (Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maine), plus American Samoa, have been granted extensions with varying deadlines for meeting the rules. (Some have until August 1, 2019 while others have until October 1, 2019).

California’s status regarding REAL ID compliance is listed as “Under Review” with a much shorter deadline of May 24, 2019 for achieving compliance.

It is possible these extensions will be extended if the states show they’re making progress. But time is running short.

What this means:

If your current driver’s license or ID card is from a compliant state, TSA will accept it at airports until September 30, 2020. Starting October 1, 2020, though, licenses and IDs from these – and every state – will need to bear a star or special symbol that shows it has been upgraded to conform to the new minimum security standards.

If your current license is from one of the seven states that has been given an extension, or from California, then it is good until the date the extension expires. After that, if the state isn’t given another extension, is it possible TSA will require an additional or alternate form of ID (i.e. a passport) between the extension expiration date and September 30, 2020.

Come October 1, 2020, though, licenses from these extension states will also need to have the star or symbol that shows is has been upgraded to meet the new minimum security standards.

Getting ready for October 1, 2020

Signs about the REAL ID deadline are going up now in airports across the country.

October 1, 2020 seems far off, but it is ‘just’ a year a half away. And there’s sure to be continued confusion and delays in getting upgraded licenses and ID cards from state agencies.

For that reason, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, airports and travel agents are urging travelers to renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs early and to be sure to opt for the ‘enhanced’ or ‘compliant’ versions which, we should warn you, require additional paperwork and may cost more than the ‘for-driving-only’ or ‘unenhanced’ versions in some states.

Or, you can decide if you are comfortable flying domestically with your passport (if you have on; only about 40% of Americans do ) or with one of the other forms of approved identification on this list.

Got that?

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.”

TSA adds 9 airlines to PreCheck program

The Transportation Security Administration has added nine new domestic and international carriers to the pre-check expedited screening program.

New airlines joining the program are: Air India, Asiana Airlines, China Airlines, Eastern Airlines, Elite Airways, EVA Airways, Japan Airlines, TAP Air Portugal and Volaris.

This brings the total number of airlines participating in TSA Precheck program to 65 domestic and international carriers. (The full list of participating airlines is below.)

Whether you’re enrolled in TSA Precheck or not, it’s helpful to know how long you’ll be waiting in line.

That’s now easier at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), Newark Liberty International (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA), and New York Stewart International (SWF) airports, where the respective websites now show up-to-date TSA wait times, as well as taxi wait times. The wait times are also shown on monitors inside the terminals.

According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the real-time tracking information is part of the agency’s “aggressive efforts to deliver an enhanced customer experience” for passengers using its airports.

Here are all the airlines currently participating in TSA’s PreCheck program:

Aeromexico

Air Canada

Air France

Air India

Air Serbia

Alaska Airlines

All Nippon Airways

Allegiant Air

American Airlines

Aruba Airlines

Asiana Airlines

Avianca

Boutique Airlines

British Airways

Brussels Airlines

Cape Air

Cathay Pacific Airways

China Airlines

Condor Airlines

Contour Aviation

Copa Airlines

Delta Air Lines

Eastern Airlines

Elite Airways

Emirates

Etihad Airways

EVA Air

Finnair

Flycana

Frontier Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines

Icelandair

InterCaribbean Airways

Japan Airlines

JetBlue Airways

Key Lime Air

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Korean Air

Lufthansa

Miami Air International

Norwegian Air

Philippine Airlines

Porter Airlines

Scandinavian Airlines

Seaborne Airlines

Silver Airways

Singapore Airlines

Southern Airways Express

Southwest Airlines

Spirit Airlines

Sun Country Airlines

Sunwing Airlines

Swift Air

Swiss International Air Lines

TAP Air Portugal

Thomas Cook Airlines (Scan.)

Thomas Cook Airlines (UK)

Turkish Airlines

United Airlines

ViaAir

Virgin Atlantic

Volaris

WestJet

World Atlantic

Xtra Airways