9 items that top the lost prop­erty list

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM - MELINDA BROWN­ING


BEST FRIENDS Re­unit­ing spe­cial toys with dis­traught chil­dren is one of the best parts of the job for those who look af­ter air­port lost prop­erty. ou’ve been through cus­toms, got your du­tyfree, grabbed your bags – but some­thing is miss­ing, and you’ll be kick­ing your­self. Un­less of course, the thing you left be­hind is your leg.

Each year, an alarm­ing amount of lost prop­erty gets handed in at air­ports around Aus­tralia, with a pros­thetic limb among the dis­cov­er­ies at Bris­bane Air­port.

Up to 1000 items a month get handed in, but only about one in three ac­tu­ally gets re­united with own­ers, ac­cord­ing to Jenni Greaves, who leads the team of volunteers that looks af­ter lost prop­erty at the Bris­bane Air­port.

Jenni’s top tip for trav­ellers is to use lug­gage la­bels.

“So many peo­ple don’t have iden­ti­fi­ca­tion on any­thing, even their suit­cases,” she says.

She also rec­om­mends al­low­ing ex­tra time to travel.

“Come an hour ear­lier to the air­port so you’re not so stressed go­ing through screen­ing – that’s when you leave things in the tray, when you’re run­ning late for your flight,” she says.

And if you find you are miss­ing some­thing af­ter a trip, it’s worth try­ing to track it down. Fill in an on­line form (de­scrip­tion and likely date and time it was lost) to check if the air­port has lo­cated your items.

Here are nine es­sen­tial things to check be­fore leav­ing the air­port.

Pre­scrip­tion spec­ta­cles and sun­nies are among the most com­mon items handed in – of­ten left at the se­cu­rity screen­ing area.

“Pre­scrip­tion glasses are a re­ally sad one, and a hard one for us to re­unite un­less they have a dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture,” Jenni says.

But if you have left your specs be­hind and don’t man­age to col­lect them, rest as­sured your mis­for­tune is another per­son’s good luck.

Jenni says any glasses that aren’t claimed are re­cy­cled as part of a part­ner­ship with Thai Airways to as­sist those in need overseas.


“(Peo­ple’s) pants must fall off when they get to the other side (of se­cu­rity screen­ing), be­cause we’ve got all their belts,” Jenni says.


Phones are the next big­gest item that gets handed in, af­ter belts and glasses.

“If you haven’t backed up – and a lot of peo­ple haven’t – it’s all your pho­tos, and that’s heart­break­ing,” Jenni says.

Lap­tops and tablets also fre­quently turn up in lost prop­erty – yet Jenni is con­stantly sur­prised how few own­ers fol­low up on their miss­ing items.

“We had two brand new iPad Airs, still in boxes with the wrap­ping on (that went un­claimed),” she says.


Last-minute gifts are of­ten the first thing to get for­got­ten. Ev­ery few months, dozens of un­claimed bot­tles of al­co­hol wind up get­ting auc­tioned off to sup­port char­ity.

Jenni says duty-free bags are fre­quently left in the top rack of lug­gage trol­leys at the taxi rank.

“They’re get­ting all their bags into the taxi, and they’re flus­tered and they jump in ... The bags are red – how can you miss that? But they do.

“And we’re talking about high­end stuff here – we’re talking Moet and the al­co­hol in the nice boxes, not cheap wines.”


“We get about 60 pass­ports a month that we don’t re­unite,” Jenni says.

Part of the prob­lem, she says, is that once peo­ple have re­turned from their trip, they won’t ac­tu­ally no­tice their pass­port is miss­ing un­til the next time they go to book an overseas hol­i­day, by which time it’s long since been can­celled af­ter be­ing re­turned to the rel­e­vant con­sulate.

“We’ve had ticket wal­lets with six pass­ports – Mum, Dad and the kids – all in it,” she says.

To re­duce the risk of get­ting sep­a­rated from your pass­port, Jenni ad­vises at­tach­ing a sticky note with your phone num­ber on it, and al­ways tuck­ing it away safely as soon as you pass through pass­port con­trol.


It never ceases to sur­prise Jenni how many items of jew­ellery ar­rive at lost prop­erty, with many pre­cious pieces among them.

Un­claimed valu­ables are auc­tioned off in bulk, with the pro­ceeds (more than $21,000 at Bris­bane Air­port last year alone) go­ing to char­ity.

The moral of the story?

Scale back on the bling when trav­el­ling – and, if you’re jet-lagged, don’t take your rings off when you wash your hands at the air­port.


One of the most re­ward­ing parts of the job is when volunteers get to re­unite a spe­cial toy with a dis­traught child.

“There was this thread­bare teddy bear, its stuff­ing hang­ing out, with stitch­ing hold­ing it to­gether – you could see it was much loved,” Jenni re­calls. “It be­longed to a nine-yearold girl who’d left it be­hind on an overseas trip.

“When her fa­ther came to pick up the bear, he said she was so up­set she hadn’t been sleep­ing, so he was send­ing it to her overseas by courier.”


Hot tip: if you can’t work out why you’re feel­ing a lit­tle lop­sided or hav­ing trou­ble chew­ing your air­line food, it’s prob­a­bly time to check in with lost prop­erty.

A pros­thetic leg, crutches, hear­ing aids and den­tures ... they’ve all been known to turn up in air­port lost prop­erty.


One of the most mem­o­rable lost prop­erty items Jenni has come across is an urn con­tain­ing ashes. Thank­fully, re­unit­ing the re­mains with loved ones wasn’t dif­fi­cult; a fu­neral home named on the urn was able to con­tact the fam­ily.

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