Leave it at the airport, find it on eBay
By Melissa Montoya
Possessions whose loss you lamented when airport security inspectors pulled them out of your carry-on might be doing someone, somewhere else some good.
Each year, thousands of pounds of personal items left at security checks travel across state lines to be sold to nonprofits, on eBay and through silent auctions.
The bargain goods originate at airports where harried travelers abandon them because they're prohibited from carrying them into a plane's cabin.
Since September 2011, more than 6,000 pounds of prohibited items have been abandoned at Miami International Airport, according to Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Sari Koshetz.
"Our mission is to intercept dangerous items and to keep them off of airplanes," she said.
The confiscated possessions, which the agency refers to as voluntarily abandoned property, can include sporting goods like bats or items with blades.
Over the years, the list of prohibited items has evolved. Screwdrivers weren't allowed on the plane, but now those shorter than 7 inches can travel in carry-on luggage, Ms. Koshetz said.
"The most common item that our officers intercept is pocketknives," she said. "We advise people to go through suitcases, because the last time someone may have used that suitcase may have been for a road trip, so there are different situations that arise."
In August, harried travelers left behind more than 600 pounds of pocketknives, corkscrews, bats and other objects at Miami International Airport.
Where do these goods go?
The Transportation Security Agency contracts with state surplus agencies to have them picked up from a warehouse where they're stored, Ms. Koshetz said. Those at Miami International Airport travel to Kentucky and Alabama.
Kentucky's Surplus Property Program has been picking up items from Florida airports since 2005. Most common, according to Kentucky state government's Pamela Trautner, are corkscrews, knives, power tools and even kitchen utensils.
Every two to three months, trucks from Kentucky roll through Florida, stopping at warehouses to load their blacklisted booty.
During the last Florida tour, they collected about 1,100 pounds, said Ms. Trautner, spokeswoman for Kentucky's Finance and Administration Cabinet, which oversees the program. The goods are then sold to nonprofits for pennies on the dollar, she said.
Even though abandoned possessions might be doing some good elsewhere, Ms. Koshetz noted that when security spots prohibited items, travelers have the choice to go back to the ticket counter and have them checked. Some airports also have a mail-back program, she said.
For Alabama's Surplus Property Division Chief Shane Bailey, the contract with Transportation Security Administration helps bring supplies to organizations that might need them.
The Alabama program expects to pick up 2,000 to 3,000 pounds on each of its Florida trips, he said. On those pickup runs, Miami International Airport is second only to Orlando International in the number of items it collects.
"We get lots of stuff from Disney," Mr. Bailey said. "People seem to think whatever you get at Disney can go on a plane."
Mr. Bailey, who has been working with the program 14 years, said the sheer number of items collected on each pickup trip still surprises him. The program nets Alabama about $10,000 to $12,000 a year, he said.
"We thought since TSA started doing this after 9/11 that [the amount] would go down," he said. "It's just as much now as it ever has been."
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