Karen O’Meara is Auckland Airports access systems administrator, who helps process lost property.
Just how do you lose your false teeth?
What about your mobility scooter, microwave or vacuum cleaner? They’re just some of the unusual items left behind at Auckland Airport.
The more travellers cross our borders, the bigger the airport’s lost property office becomes. It started off as one shelf – now it’s a large room with floor-to-ceiling custom-designed sliding shelves to optimise space.
It also has a safe for found money, licences and passports and lockable storage cupboards for electronics and jewellery in another room.
Skygate security manager Fia Tauvela says the false teeth are the most unusual thing he has seen come through the office.
“And we have had preserved snakes in a container left behind in check-in.There are some strange things that come through.”
The most common items are electronics, jewellery, neck cushions, keys, wallets, passports and hand luggage. They are found in the check-in areas, the arrivals hall, cafes, toilets, terminals, in trolleys or in the carparks.
The office must hold on to each item for three months regardless of what it is. The only exceptions are perishables which are disposed of.
“Even one shoe we have to keep because it may mean a lot to somebody,” Tauvela says.
“We had a case of an old teddy bear, which people would normally throw away but turned out the little girl that it belonged to couldn’t sleep because she had had it since she was a baby.
“The parents couldn’t believe that we had it stored away.”
But in reality there is a very low percentage of reconciliation with the owners, Tauvela says.
“I suppose when you have 16 million people passing through the airport every year, the potential to find owners is a lot harder.”
Once the three months are up, all valuable items are sent to the police and customs auctions and the money raised goes to charity.
“All the bags, clothes, walking sticks and umbrellas are giving to charity and are picked up every Friday.”
The airport selects a charity and keeps it for several years before changing. Currently it is Crosspower Ministries Trust in Otara.
Go to http://www.airportlostandfound.com/report-lost-property if you have lost any items at the airport.
FROM FOUND TO LOGGED
Airport staff have a strict process to follow after finding an item.
“Everything that is left unattended, even a sleeping bag or anything like that, we don’t just say it’s a sleeping bag and pick it up,” Tauvela says.
It starts as an “unattended item” and staff call for the owner over the intercom. If the owner doesn’t respond, a detector dog is called in.
“We have to treat it as suspicious, it’s just the way the airport environment is. We have to call for an explosive detector dog to come and check it, to make sure it’s safe. Once cleared it becomes found property and then comes to us and is logged in system.”