THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND
9 items that top the lost property list
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.
YOUR DUTY-FREE BOOZE
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.
YOUR WEDDING RING
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.
YOUR FAVOURITE TOY
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.