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What happens to unclaimed items found at DFW Dallas Airport lost and found?

Dallas airport lost and found
Dallas airport lost and found

With millions of travelers passing through DFW International Airport lost and found and Dallas Love Field each year, it’s no wonder that thousands of items end up at the airports’ lost-and-found areas.

That’s why a reader asked Curious Texas: “What happens to lost and found items that go unclaimed at DFW or Love Field Airports?”

The answer depends on where items are left. Things left on a plane or at the gate are in the custody of the airline, and items left at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints or elsewhere in a terminal are handled by the airport. Each entity has its own policy for what happens to unclaimed items.

Disclaimer: Items that are confiscated by TSA go through an entirely different process.

If you lose something at the airport or at TSA

DFW International Airport’s lost and found office — near baggage claim E4 — holds items found in terminals, at TSA, in the Skylink and elsewhere for 30 days. During that period, the customer experience team tries to find owners through any contact details available and passengers are encouraged to file a report. Travelers can pick up items at the office, or the airport will ship it to them.

Anything that isn’t able to be reunited with their owner within 30 days is sent to the DFW Airport salvage yard and disposed of or auctioned.

Love Field has a similar policy: Items that are found within the airport are taken to the lost and found office — located on the second level near the Garage A/B skybridge — and held for 30 days.

Unclaimed clothing items at Love are donated to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, while electronics such as tablets, laptops and phones are sent to the City of Dallas City Store. Any money that is found inside items like wallets is used to fund the airport’s volunteer program.

“We have a Love Helper Volunteer program where retirees will help out customers and they get free parking in exchange,” said Chris Perry, Love Field communications manager with the City of Dallas. “And then a couple of times a year we’ll do some volunteer appreciation events for them with the money that’s leftover.”

Love Field has several booths for dropping off items found around the airport, but most items tend to separate with their owners at TSA.

If you lose something on a plane or at a gate

Anything found in an American Airlines plane or at one of the airline’s gates or clubs is placed in the possession of the airline, and passengers are asked to file a report online for lost items.

At large airports, like Dallas Airport lost and found, items are held onsite for 30 days. Items found at smaller airports are held locally for two days and then shipped to a warehouse in Fort Worth, where the search continues until the 30-day holding period is up.

Abandoned items are taken to a warehouse in Alabama called Unclaimed Baggage after 30 days. American Airlines sells the items to the warehouse, but a spokesperson said the airline does not make a profit from such sales, given the cost of storing items and tracking down owners.

Southwest Airlines takes found items from its planes and gates to a baggage service office for roughly 24 hours, said Bob Lehr, the company’s senior manager of ground operations and business services. Like American, Southwest asks customers to file a report online for misplaced items.

After about a day, the items are taken to a warehouse and stored for 30 to 60 days. Anything of possible high value or importance is given priority, so Lehr said team members will try to reunite those owners first.

A team works to place the items in inventory at the warehouse, and the items remain there until they are matched up through the airline’s online reporting system. Those who file a report can receive status updates on the search for their lost items, and the airline will contact owners if items have been found.

When the 60-day period is up, items still not yet reunited with their owners are sold to another unnamed vendor. Proceeds go to various charities.

“Southwest does not benefit from the misfortune of our customers,” Lehr said. “We’re truly doing this as a service to try and get items back to us. And we really feel like we are trying to go above and beyond for them.”

The airline typically carries about 15 million passengers a month, Lehr said. In 2019, more than 182,000 items were found on Southwest Airlines planes and at the airline’s gates. The company reported a 60% success rate in reuniting items with owners that year.

Strange items left behind

Lehr, who has worked for Southwest Airlines for 22 years, said he’s seen his fair share of tablets, neck pillows and jackets that have been forgotten, but he’s also seen some quirky items in the lost and found warehouse.

“The most memorable was the prosthetic leg that was left behind,” he said. “It was just such a strange item to receive in the warehouse. And eventually, we did reunite it with its owner.”

At Love Field Airport, there was once an urn with ashes left behind at a security checkpoint, which Perry said was quickly reunited with its owner. But not all items return in the same way.

In 2017, Luke Swofford of Rockwall and his teddy bear were separated at Dallas Love Field as he returned from a trip to Colorado. The pair spent five days apart and were reunited after the bear received a special tour around the airport grounds.

Tips for making the lost and found process easier

Write down the serial numbers for any electronics. Most airlines use serial numbers to log lost items. “It makes the matching process so much easier and increases the likelihood of getting it back to customers,” Lehr said.
Label all items — not just the bags you’re checking in. Use a luggage tag for carry-on items just in case they get left on a plane, and be sure to include a phone number.
Use your business cards. If you fly a lot, this will help, Lehr said. Place the cards inside books, small bags and jacket pockets for easy finding.

Lost something at Airport or in a flight? Click here to report online

Dedicated investigation manager for every successful lost report. We work with more than 15000+ Airports & Airlines lost and found offices worldwide. Increase chance of locating your lost property TODAY.

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