What To Do When You Leave Something At The TSA Security Checkpoint

Making your way around an airport is a process that inevitably comes with a lot of moving parts involved. Losing something isn't entirely unexpected within some of that anticipated chaos. It's especially easy to leave items behind in the hustle and bustle of trying to maneuver your way through airport security.

As you're busy removing your shoes, loading your backpack onto the conveyor belt, and making sure there's nothing left in your pockets, it's feasible that you might forget to pick something up on the other side of the airport security screening area. When this happens, you're not entirely out of luck and you're also not alone. The TSA reports that about 90,000 to 100,000 items are left at security checkpoints on a monthly basis. Many travelers don't realize they've left something behind until they've already departed the airport. When you realize you've left something important at the TSA security checkpoint, the first step to take is to check in with the TSA lost and found.

File a claim as quickly as possible

Unless the item you left behind at the TSA security checkpoint is strictly prohibited like a hazardous material or a dangerous weapon, it will be held for at least 30 days after being found. This gives you a significant window of time to locate the item and repossess it. To do so, you'll need to start by filing an official claim as soon as possible.

Claims for items left behind at security checkpoints can be fairly quickly and easily filed online. You'll be asked to identify the airport where you left the item and include all relevant contact information for yourself as well. The claim will also ask you to provide a detailed description of the item you left behind.

Those filing a claim will also be asked to include information regarding the date and approximate time they left the item behind. Having information like your flight number handy as well as any other identifying item features will help move the claim along more smoothly. Once all of the information is entered, you can submit your claim digitally and wait for updates to come through.

What to do next

After you submit your claim, your description will be carefully matched against similar items the TSA has collected. Do keep in mind that claims are only processed on weekdays and are not reviewed over federal holidays. Once the TSA identifies an item match, you'll be notified.

Next, you'll have options on how you would like to retrieve your item. You can always opt to pick up the item in person at the airport if that's available. Oftentimes, having the item shipped to you by UPS or FedEx is the most convenient way to receive your item. While you will have to pay for the base shipping fee, the good news is you won't be responsible for claim fees or additional processing fees.

"TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left behind at the airport checkpoint," explains the TSA. "Lost and found items retained by TSA for a minimum of thirty (30) days, and if not claimed, are either destroyed, turned over to a state agency for surplus property, or sold by TSA as excess property." 

If you're looking to avoid the possibility of leaving an item behind at the TSA security checkpoint the next time you fly, investing in TSA PreCheck could be a good option. This allows you to keep hold of more items through the security process. For example, TSA PreCheck passengers don't have to remove belts, light jackets, shoes, 3-1-1 liquids, or laptops.