Have you been forced to surrender your trusty pocketknife or nail file at a security checkpoint? The ever-growing list of prohibited carry-on items can be one of the biggest pet peeves of air travelers. So what happens to items that have been confiscated by the Transportation Security Administration? ConsumerSearch goes beyond the gate to discover where your prohibited goods go after you give them up.
Before you relinquish your possessions to the land of lost things, know the rules. Travelers have the option to transfer many prohibited items to their checked baggage. They can also be left with a friend or family member in the airport lobby, or returned to the car. Some airports are even equipped with a mail station where passengers can mail prohibited items back to themselves. However, these options are only possible if time permits. According to Shekia Gay, an Atlanta-based TSA security officer interviewed by CNN, "90 percent of passengers, who are in a rush to catch a flight or don't want the hassle of leaving the security line, just give the items up."
You can say goodbye to all confiscated liquids -- anything over 3 ounces, that is. Liquids and gels are thrown away immediately, typically through private waste companies to ensure proper disposal. Guns and firearms -- which are allowed in checked luggage with proper permits but banned from carry-on bags -- are handed over to local law enforcement.
But other contraband -- anything from cake knives to corkscrews -- take a more interesting journey. According to America Now, items worth less than $500 are usually put up for auction. Many states hold quarterly auctions that sell state surplus, as well as goods confiscated by the TSA and law enforcement, at a fraction of their original cost. Eyeflare.com provides a list of where to buy items confiscated by the TSA, broken down by state. More and more of these auctions are now being held online. Confiscated goods may also be sold in local government surplus stores.
Although travelers might be miffed by all of the common items that the TSA classifies as weapons, shoppers could be in luck. If you're hoping to score power tools, exercise weights, kitchen gadgets or golf clubs -- just to name a few -- hit up an auction and get them on the cheap.
The TSA has banned replica weapons since 2002. With its close proximity to Disney World, it's no surprise that TSA officials at Orlando International Airport in Florida frequently seize fake swords. Disappointed families who return home without souvenirs can find comfort in knowing that the swords go on to a good cause. Shane Bailey, director of the Surplus Property Division in Alabama, tells CNN, "the swords are donated to nonprofits working with underprivileged children." The TSA also seizes more than its fair share of snow globes, which are often resold at government surplus warehouses.
Once you surrender an item to airport security, it's gone for good. Yet nowadays, confiscated loot isn't the only thing that falls into the hands of TSA agents. Travelers often leave valuables behind, especially jewelry and electronics which tend to get lost in the shuffle after they're placed in bins. Is there any chance of recovering an item that was lost at a security checkpoint? Procedures vary by airport, but most airports have a lost and found department operated by the TSA.
Don't give up hope, even if your lost item seems doomed for auction. According to this Wall Street Journal article, "state surplus property managers say the best thing travelers can do is label their valuables with contact information." State surplus personnel do their best to return items to their rightful owners.
Tell us, what items have you lost to airport security?