It seems some travellers leave much more than their cares behind when they set off on holiday.
False teeth, a used lawnmower, mobility scooters, microwave ovens and a vacuum cleaner are just some of the more bizarre items that have, at some stage, wound up in the lost property room at Auckland International Airport.
The airport handles on average around 1250 lost property items a month, with more in the summer peak months.
The airport is handling around 19 million passengers a year – up 26 per cent in the last three years – and last year, 15,000 lost property items were logged.
Communications manager Gez Johns says that the lost property facility started out as a single shelf.
“Today, it’s a large room with floor-to-ceiling custom designed sliding shelves and safes for valuables,” he says.
“Every time an item is identified as having been left unattended at the airport, it sets in motion a whole sequence of events.
“First comes the PA announcement, seeking out the owner. If that fails, then the detector dog is called in. Only then, when it has been confirmed that the item does not pose a risk, does it go from an unattended item to lost property.”
Gez says that if the item is a bag or similar, it is opened to identify contents and hopefully clues to locate the owner. All items within the bag are logged in the airport’s system and put back in the bag in storage.
Lost property is kept for three months, regardless of what it is or its condition, unless it’s perishable. After three months one of two things will happen – valuable items, such as jewellery and electronics are auctioned at a third party auction, with the money raised going to charity; while useful items such as clothing, bags, blankets, cushions, pillows and umbrellas are donated to charity.
“The airport selects a new charity to support through this every couple of years – currently we’re supporting ME Family Services.”
The most common items to be left behind are the standard electronics, jewellery, travel cushions, clothes and hand luggage.
“One item that narrowly avoided making the register was a wedding cake that had been left at the check-in counter en route to a wedding in Tonga. Fortunately, our team managed to contact the family and another family member, travelling to the same wedding, then collected the cake!
“Our advice for passengers is pretty much stock standard – label your bag, secure your pockets and try not to forget anything!
“One thing that we hope may help international travellers keep their wits and bits about them before they fly out is the new recompose lobby, which we’ll be opening later this year as part of the extensive upgrade of the international departure terminal. This will be an area straight after security screening for passengers to relax and regroup, before making their way through to duty free and the main lounge.”