“If I ever lose my mind, I hope some honest person will find it and take it to the lost and found,” – George Carlin.
This amusing quote by the late comedian George Carlin can be rephrased by air travelers to read “If I ever lose my (bag, phone, wallet, piece of clothing, etc.) at the airport I hope some honest person will find it and take it to the lost and found.”
While passenger traffic at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is down about 63 percent from pre-pandemic levels, people are still traveling and misplacing things on their trips through PHL. The hustle and bustle of air travel -- especially for folks who aren’t accustomed to it -- can create an environment where it’s easy to get harried and distracted. And leave personal items behind in the process.
According to Anisa Fofana of the PHL Lost and Found team, on average, about 15-20 items are turned in per week. There is usually a spike during the holidays because the travel volume is typically higher. Guests are also more prone to leaving belongings behind during flight delays when their dwell times in the airport are extended.
Not surprisingly, the most common items that shows up at the Lost and Found are bags and mobile phones. C-Pap machines as well. Coats, hats, scarves, and gloves get turned in most frequently during the winter months.
The majority of the items are brought in by the Airport Police once they have been inspected. Small items like phones, wallets and IDs are usually dropped off by guests and employees particularly custodial, Information Counter and airline employees.
Once an item is brought in, it is catalogued. In the case of bags brought in by the Airport Police, it is inspected for any identifying information and perishables. Inventory is taken of all items inside. Once that is completed, it is logged in the Lost and Found system and is given a “Found ID” number.
If there is any identifying information such as a name, address, telephone number, email address, business cards, etc., the staff attempts to contact the guest. If there is a physical address, a notification letter is sent to the person.
Items are kept in the Lost and Found inventory room for 30 days. Items that are not claimed after 30 days are transferred to PHL Central Supply and Services.
“If after the transfer someone contacts us about an item that we believe has been transferred, Central Supply and Services is sent a written request that the item be returned to the Communication Center,” where the PHL Lost and Found is located, explained Karole Glover of the Lost and Found team. “Once we have the item, we contact the potential owner to determine if that is in fact their item. If it is, preparations are made for a pick-up or shipping to the owner.”
Central Supply and Services holds Lost and Found items for one year. After a year, items are donated or auctioned. Items that aren’t disposed through these means are discarded.
Glover, who has worked in the Communication Center where the Lost and Found is based for 23 years, has seen just about anything imaginable come through there. In addition to the aforementioned common items, Glover has seen everything from mobility aids and prosthetic limbs to dentures, cremains, and a case of frozen fish. The latter, which was reportedly left at an airline ticket counter by a passenger, was disposed as a perishable.
Where the items may have been left determines where guests should look to see if they were turned in.
If something was left at the security checkpoint, the TSA takes it to its Lost and Found at PHL. Guests can check there by emailing PHLlostandfound@tsa.dhs.gov.
If something was left on board an aircraft or in a boarding gate area, the airline takes it typically to its local baggage office. Guests can contact the airline directly to claim their belongings.
For items left in taxis, buses, vans, rental cars, and other public vehicles, guests should check with the transportation company.
For personal items left anywhere else in the airport, those are taken to the PHL Lost and Found, which is located in the Communication Center on the Departures Road between Terminals C and D. The number there is 215-937-6888 and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fofana reports that that Lost and Found team gets “tons of emails and cards” from grateful guests who have been reunited with their personal items. One particular traveler’s story stands out.
“There was a passenger who lost two separate phones. I was able to find an email address that was attached to one of the phones,” Fofana recalled. “I sent an email to the passenger and she replied the same day. She explained to me that she did not have insurance on the phones and was about to pay for replacements when she received the email. Well, she said I saved her a lot of money that day and she actually cried on the phone. She thanked me and called me ‘an angel’ and had both phones shipped that day.”