Answer: Travelers left close to $1 million at TSA airport checkpoints last year
Phone, Wallet, Keys, and Watch. Four essential items that you need to remember when you leave the house and collect your belongings after passing through security at the airport. But what about the loose change you took out of your pocket and put into the plastic bin? Sometimes you just don’t have time to collect every nickel and dime as you’re rushing to put your shoes back on, pack your laptop, fasten your belt, and sprint to your gate to make sure you catch your flight. Even if you’re not in a rush, what’s the point in picking up that penny. Aren’t those things going out of circulation soon? Well, maybe not. And while you may think that one-cent coins aren’t worth anything anymore, you could be right if you’re talking about an individual penny, or lone-nickel, forgotten in the airport rush. Here’s the thing, a lot of people leave these pennies and nickles behind, and ultimately they add up into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
You see, in 2018, according to the Transportation Security Administration, “passengers left a record $960,105.49 in unclaimed money at these checkpoints, a more than 10% rise from the previous 12-month period.” CNBC noted that the “increase comes along with a rise in air travel in the United States. Domestic and international airlines serving the U.S. last calendar year carried a record 1 billion travelers.” Above we mentioned individual coins, but sometimes travelers are in such a rush they leave behind entire wallets full of cash, credit cards, and other items. Presumably, TSA guards these items rather than treating themselves to an airport shopping spree, but the point is that an increasing amount of valuables are being left behind at security.
Some airports faired better than others in collecting travelers’ treasures. The most money was forgotten at JFK ($72,392.74) and LAX ($71,748.83). Miami came in number three with over $50,000 left behind. FiveThirtyEight noted that historically “the TSA has used this money for checkpoint maintenance and the translation of signs into languages other than English,” according to an agency spokesperson. Apparently with last year’s trove the Transportation Security Administration is planning to use the recovered money for checkpoint training. Hey, if we’re going to be losing money for any reason, maybe it’s best we lose it for the sake of better airport security.