How to Navigate TSA Lost and Found

By Leah Rendon

Left behind: Claiming items from TSA lost and found

How to Navigate TSA Lost and Found

If you race to make a flight and rush through check-in and security screening, you may board your plane realizing that you left personal belongings behind at the Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoint. Don't beat yourself up. It can happen to anyone – from rookie flyers to seasoned travelers. Thankfully, it’s not only possible to retrieve your belongings from TSA, but there may be a way to keep better track of items in the first place. ­

Articles left behind

TSA guidelines require the X-ray scanning of all carry-on items. You must remove the contents of your pockets, such as keys, wallets and IDs – as well as belts and light jackets from your person – for scanning. As a result, it’s common for some of these articles to get left behind, in addition to carry-on bags, briefcases, laptops, tablets, cameras, cellphones and jewelry.

Fate of items left at TSA checkpoints

When you accidentally leave an item at the security checkpoint, it will be sent to TSA's lost and found department in the airport. If your name and number are showing on the item, an agent will attempt to contact you. Otherwise, it’s up to you to track down your belongings. Articles will be held at lost and found for up to 30 days. After that, unclaimed items are typically auctioned off to the public.

Claim items at TSA lost and found

In order to reclaim your item, you’ll need to locate the phone number for the airport’s TSA lost and found department, which you’ll find listed on the TSA website. Once on the phone with an agent, be prepared to provide a detailed description of your missing item, plus the date you flew, your departure terminal and your contact information. If they find the item, it will be returned to you, but you must pick it up in person or pay for its delivery.

Avoid leaving items behind at TSA checkpoints

Protect valuable belongings, such as your cellphone or laptop, by taping your name and phone number to them. Once you arrive at the security checkpoint, keep your pockets empty and place small items, such as jewelry or keys, in your carry-on bag where they can remain during X-ray screening, lessening the odds of forgetting or misplacing them. Also, after showing your boarding pass and ID to a TSA agent, return them to your carry-on bag. You aren’t required to carry the bag through the metal detector, and your loose pass and ID might easily be left on the conveyor belt.

Items left in other parts of the airport

Items left in areas of the airport not controlled by TSA, such as airport shops, restaurants and departure gates, must be claimed at the airport’s lost and found department. You’ll find the phone number on the airport’s website.

Keep in mind that, while all U.S.-based airports must abide by TSA regulations, some airports use private security firms to conduct their screening process. If you left an item at a checkpoint run by a private company, you must contact that company to claim your belongings.

About the Author

A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.