Not just pocket change: Travelers left more than $926,000 in cash and coins behind at airport security last year

©Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Double-check your pockets the next time you pass through airport security: Travelers left $35,398.93 in unclaimed cash at checkpoints in O’Hare International Airport last year, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

That doesn’t even include foreign currency. In total, passengers left $926,030.44 at airports across the country during the year that ended Sept. 30, 2019, the agency said in a news release Friday.

Travelers at six other airports were more forgetful than those at O’Hare when it came to leaving loose change at the airport security checkpoint. John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York, collected the most, with $98,110, followed by San Francisco International Airport, Miami International Airport and Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.

So where does all that cash go? Of the $3.6 million in unclaimed money the TSA collected over the years, $2.1 million has been earmarked for training and development programs and $32,150 was spent to print and distribute bookmarks promoting the TSA PreCheck program, the agency said.

Much of the money is loose change travelers remove from their pockets during screening, according to the agency, which recommends travelers place those items in their carry-on bags to reduce the risk of leaving them behind.

While the agency tries to reunite passengers with any lost items, there’s not much it can do with a fistful of coins or wad of cash unless someone spots the money before the traveler leaves the checkpoint, said spokesman Mark Howell. If there’s a wallet with identification, the TSA can make an announcement over the airport public address system to call the person back to the checkpoint.

Unclaimed items go to lost-and-found offices, and phone numbers for offices at each airport are on the TSA’s website. The agency, which estimates people leave 90,000 to 100,000 items at checkpoints every month, says it holds on to a lost item for at least 30 days. An unclaimed item may be destroyed, sold or turned over to a state agency that may sell, destroy or donate it.

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©2020 Chicago Tribune