OAKLAND – Tom Petty and his precious guitar. A bride-to-be and her expensive engagement ring. A former 49er and his prized Super Bowl ring.
Suffice to say, while those three people may have never crossed paths, one thing they have in common is that all three lost their treasured belongings at Bay Area airports. They are among the many distracted travelers nationwide who meander through airports absent-mindedly leaving behind thousands of pieces of luggage, belts, and prescription pills and other items.
Fortunately for Petty, he was one of the lucky ones who was reunited with his guitar after he personally called looking for it.
Lost items are photographed in the Oakland Airport lost and found in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)Oakland Airport lost property
Lost items are photographed in the Oakland Airport’s lost and found in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) ( ANDA CHU )
An Alameda County sheriff’s deputy found the musician’s guitar in May, sitting on the curb outside the terminals at Oakland International Airport and took it to lost and found, said airport spokeswoman Keonnis Taylor.
“He was very excited,” Taylor said. “Someone from the band picked up the guitar.”
So, what happens if you’re not one of the lucky ones?
In the three major Bay Area airports in Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco, many of those belongings left behind by people rushing to catch a plane or a ride after arriving at their destination could end up in lost and found.
But each airport manages lost items differently.
Officials at the Oakland airport were the only ones who allowed this newspaper in to get a look at its lost and found department, which is managed by Landside Operations. The small room was filled with mostly stuffed suitcases and about two dozen pieces of clothing hanging on a coat rack. Metal shelves with organized blue bins were in a corner, holding scarves, sunglasses and keys.
Luggage stuffed with travelers’ clothing and personal belongings is the top item left behind at the East Bay airport, Taylor said.
About 35 percent of those forgotten belongings are returned to their owners within the airport’s 90-day holding period. After that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department takes over, said Sgt. Ray Kelly. If deputies can’t find the property owners, the lost belongings go to salvage. Anything that might have personal information, such as cellphones and computers, is destroyed.
Nearly 700 items are turned in at Mineta San Jose International Airport lost property monthly, with men’s belts being the No. 1 item left behind, said airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes. The airport’s Business Development Group, a customer service program, manages the lost and found department where about 23 percent of the lost things are returned to their owners within the airport’s 30-day holding period. The bulk of unclaimed items are recycled or donated to local charities, Barnes said. An e-waste program strips personal information from electronics before recycling them. Luggage and larger pieces of baggage are donated to the San Jose Police Department to help train drug and explosive-sniffing K-9s.
A sign points the way to the Oakland Airport’s lost and found in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
A sign points the way to the Oakland Airport’s lost and found in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) ( ANDA CHU )
San Francisco police also recover about 700 items a month at San Francisco Airport lost and found, said airport spokesman Doug Yakel. The Bay Area’s busiest airport has the highest return rate, with about 67 percent of lost belongings returned to their owners within the airport’s 90-day holding period.San Francisco Airport lost property
Yakel said the airport is able to return most items to travelers because the police are involved. “The process of reuniting lost items requires some investigative ability,” he said.
Such expensive items as electronics and jewelry are turned over to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department, which continues searching for the owners. Less expensive items are donated to local charities. San Jose airport’s Barnes said leisure travelers or fliers in large groups are more likely to lose their belongings at airports because they are often more distracted than business travelers.
“I think, generally speaking, we see a lot more items turned in every Monday morning or after a long holiday weekend,” Barnes said.
Three years ago, a gold and diamond-encrusted Super Bowl XIX ring was found in a restroom in Terminal B at the San Jose airport and returned to its owner. It belonged to former 49ers center John Macaulay, who played on the Super Bowl championship team in 1985.
No one can say how many lost items aren’t turned into airport authorities or returned to their owners.
“Any time anything is lost or found here at the airport, oftentimes it’s up to good Samaritans to turn it in,” Barnes said. “We can’t oversee what people do when people find items.”
Jason Ferguson, of Palo Alto, said his missing wallet was turned into Spirit Airlines within an hour after he reported it missing.
“I went back to Spirit Airlines lost and found, they were like ‘somebody just turned in a wallet,’” Ferguson said. “He called it in and asked for the name on the ID and, wow, my name never sounded so good.” read more Spirit Airlines lost property
Not everyone is as lucky as Macaulay or Ferguson.
A Southern California bride-to-be is still waiting for someone to call and say they found her $32,000 engagement ring. The Costa Mesa woman accidentally left the ring on a bathroom sink when she was washing her hands at the San Jose airport in June. She realized the ring was missing about 20 minutes later. She returned to the airport but couldn’t find the ring.
Travelers might have difficulty finding their belongings, especially if they can’t remember where they lost them. The lost and found departments of each airport only store items left on airport premises, not on any airplanes. Individual airlines are responsible for anything left behind on airplanes.
Morgen Bromell, of Oakland, is still hoping that luggage she lost in May while flying back from Paris will be returned. Bromell called the lost and found department “at least 35 times” to claim the bag, which was filled with important medications.
Barnes advises travelers to stay aware and keep track of their things while traveling. She said keeping an inventory of items at all times and putting a label with contact information on bags or password-protected electronics will help.
“The best defense is letting people know what they can do to minimize the possibility of losing an item while traveling,” Barnes said. “This airport is booming, so there are many more people coming here, and we want to minimize the lost items.”
Tips for Travelers
Always check to make sure you have your personal belongings on you.
Put a label with your phone number or email address on password-protected phones, laptops and other electronics.
Small items like jewelry, watches and belts — anything that might go into small bins at the security check — slip those things into a carry-on to save time and give you less to manage when you grab your items at the other end.
Source: Mineta San Jose Airport lost and found
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