$760,000 in Pocket Change Left Behind by Travelers at U.S. Airports in One Year

Sunday, May 15, 2016
TSA officer checks items placed in bin by passenger at TSA checkpoint (photo: Tim Boyle, Getty Images)










By Christopher Mele, New York Times


WASHINGTON — Embracing the concept of “keep the change,” the Transportation Security Administration said it collected more than $760,000 in unclaimed cash — mostly loose coins — from travelers who had forgotten the money after passing through airport security in the 2015 fiscal year.


The agency said it “makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint,” but at times property or loose change go unclaimed. The coins, for instance, were left behind when passengers emptied their pockets before going through metal detectors.


Money from other countries collected over the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, made up more than $9,200, which was converted to U.S. currency, according to a TSA report in March.


What will the agency do with the money? In 2005, Congress gave the TSA the authority to use unclaimed money on security operations.


The money came from 114 so-called hub airports, central airports where flights are routed through. Money collected at smaller airports, which are connected to hubs via routes known as spokes, turn over the money they collect to their respective hub.


In the New York metropolitan area, Kennedy International Airport reported the highest total of unclaimed funds: $43,716. La Guardia Airport reported $23,414, and Newark Liberty International Airport raked in $12,847.


The lowest amount collected at a hub airport was $1.99, at the Pago Pago International Airport in American Samoa, according to the TSA figures.


USA Today, which reported on the unclaimed money, noted that some airports had installed kiosks for passengers to deposit spare change for charitable causes. Denver International Airport collects money for a program to help homeless people, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport accepts donations to support a United Service Organizations’ program for members of the military and their families.


John Dedell, a video conferencing designer from Safety Harbor, Florida, said he flies about once a month for business and keeps his loose change in a backpack for safekeeping.


“It really does not surprise me that people leave loose change behind,” he said in an email. “People seem to leave all kinds of things, and I don’t think there has ever been a trip that I didn’t hear ‘Will the person who left ... come back to TSA to retrieve it.’ ”


A combination of fewer TSA screeners, tighter budgets, new checkpoint procedures and more passengers has already created long lines at airports around the country. Money left unclaimed has nearly doubled, to $765,759 in the 2015 fiscal year from $383,414 in the 2008 fiscal year, the TSA report showed. The sum has increased every year except for one since 2008.


Look for more loose change to be left behind this summer as air travel reaches its peak. Officials warn of extraordinarily long waits to get through security, which might mean more anxious passengers dashing for their gates and forgetting to pick up their money.


To Learn More:

What to do with the Half-Million Dollars Travelers Leave at TSA Checkpoints Every Year? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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