LAX Airport lost and found
LAX airport Lost and Found facility, and his missing keys

Travelers leave all sorts of items behind at Los Angeles International Airport that end up in Lost and Found. While we can say with certainty that 100 percent of the items there were found, many are lost in only a loose sense of the word.

“We get a lot of phone cords, baseball caps, airline pillows, stuff you know no one will ever want,” said Rob Pedregon, spokesman for LAX Airport Police.

And many items are abandoned on purpose because the travelers’ luggage is over the weight limit and they’d rather discard unnecessary items than pay a hefty fee per-pound to transport it. LAX Airport lost and found

Perhaps the most unusual item the staff remembers was a 9-foot teddy bear, the transportation of which would have required buying an extra plane ticket. Teddy was kicked to the proverbial curb.

Some items, though, have value. My keys, for example. Los Angeles Airport lost and found

Coming back from vacation in Germany a few weeks ago, I boarded the LAX FlyAway Shuttle only to discover to my horror that my keys were no longer in my carry-on. My airline said the plane had been swept and no keys were found.

My landlady let me into my place and I copied her key for about $2.50. And I ordered a new electronic key for my car at a cost of (choke!) $250.

At a friend’s urging, though, I went online to LAX Lost and Found and filed a claim form, describing my basic key ring and keys. And by golly if the next day I didn’t get a reply that they might have a match.

I spoke by phone with Officer Janette Utsey, describing my keys in more detail and emailing a photo of the replacement set. She said the match was perfect.

The process of reclaiming them would involve sending a FedEx form for shipment, or picking them up on a weekday. Under the theory that Rahm Emanuel’s famous dictum “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” might apply, I decided to go in person, get a tour and write about it. LAX Airport lost property Los Angeles Airport lost property

After all, others lose items at LAX too. There might be a story there, or at least a cautionary tale. Also, I could run my errand on work time. Everyone’s a winner!

And so on Wednesday I made my way to LAX, all by public transit: Metrolink, then the Purple, Blue and Green line trains. Pedregon gave me a lift the final few blocks to 5600 W. Century Blvd., Lost and Found’s nondescript office and warehouse.

Customs has its own Lost and Found. So does the Transportation Security Administration. Airlines have their own. But anything found in the general terminals or outside goes to the LAX facility.

“Right now we probably have 20,000 items in our inventory,” Capt. Michael Scolaro told me.

The warehouse was not the endless Indiana Jones Hangar 51 I had hoped for, or Charles Foster Kane’s vast storehouse of packing crates, personal effects and antiquities.

But there was secure shelving, which Utsey opened by spinning open a wheel like a vault. She pulled out items to show me: wallets, electronics, cameras, glasses, a walking cane, a garment bag, a backpack, a guitar.

“Whatever you can think of, people leave it,” Utsey said.

“They’re as simple as a used lottery ticket, no good any more, but turned in, and as expensive as a Rolex, valued at over $150,000,” she continued. “The owner sent his secretary to pick it up from Texas. We weren’t going to ship that.”

At a minimum they keep items 90 days, but a few straggling items dated to May.

After that, items are assessed and sorted. Decent clothing is donated to a homeless assistance agency. Caps, underwear and other personal items are tossed. Items with some value are sent to auction by a third party. Proceeds go to the city of Los Angeles, not the airport.

The auction area had laptops, tablets, Beats headsets, a pet transport (empty), a car seat (also empty), Coleman cots, a souvenir sombrero in a bag, boxed toys, two bicycles, a skateboard, even a surfboard.

I’m picturing a stoned-looking traveler, boogie shorts, no shirt, looking around the terminal. Dude, where’s my surfboard?

The return rate is 39 to 45 percent, which Utsey said was pretty good considering how many items aren’t worth the trouble of reclaiming. She said about 10 percent of the owners who are found say they don’t want whatever was lost.

The surfboard, the bikes and many of the other items fall into that category. “That’s an example of people deciding they can replace it for less than it would cost to ship it,” Utsey said.

One of the more unusual items they’ve encountered was a TV script.

“We had a whole script for the second or third season of ‘The Walking Dead,’” Pedregon said. ‘Nobody ever claimed it. It hadn’t aired yet. We think nobody wanted to admit they lost it.”

Anything sentimental or expensive, they take extra care with. That was the case with a wedding album found in the international terminal in 2014. A Facebook campaign led to its return to a couple in Modesto.

What surprised me was the number of suitcases, six or eight of them. Officers went through them and found no clues. “With some, all you have is clothing and lotion. It won’t give us any information,” Utsey said.

“People don’t think, ‘I should put a tag on my carry-on,’” Pedregon said.

He and Utsey advised placing a business card or note with your name and number inside each bag. Utsey further suggested luggage transponders, which will notify the owner of a bag’s location, and TSA-approved locks on suitcases.

And now for my keys. Officer Van Clease photocopied my driver license and Utsey had me sign a form. Then my keys were back in my hands.

They were turned in at the international terminal Aug. 21, a full week after my landing.

“Some good citizen said, ‘Oh, here’s somebody’s keys.’ They brought it to the information booth,” Utsey said.

My keys therefore made it off the plane and through customs. They might have made it out to the shuttle waiting area and been jostled out of my bag on the sidewalk or curb, which could account for the week’s delay in finding them.

Inches from my goal of getting home, but so far.

At any rate, it’s good to have a second set of keys. As I left Lost and Found, I was careful not to leave anything behind — but knew that if I did, it would be in safe hands.

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