From cellphones to prosthetic limbs, passengers have a habit of leaving everything imaginable behind on airplanes and at airports, forcing some airports and airlines to put systems in place to try to reunite lost items with their owners.
Earlier this year the situation became so unmanageable for Southwest Airlines that the airline launched its own sophisticated computer software to match travelers with their wayward belongings.
“It really is mind-boggling the amount of things that are coming through," said Robert Lehr, manager of central baggage services for Southwest. “The volumes are just staggering. Basically, if you can carry it on a plane, it’s been left on a plane."
And during the holidays — the busiest travel time of the year, when airports and airplanes are packed with stressed people — it stands to reason that even more stuff shows up on the lost-and-found pile.
But it’s not just air travel. People tend to lose more items in December than at any other time of the year, according to survey numbers released this month by electronic data backup firm Mozy.
“The times when people are busy and moving around a lot cause peaks in loss, so it may come as no surprise that 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in December are relatively disastrous when it comes to hanging on to your things," Mozy said in a statement announcing the survey results.
Anecdotal evidence would seem to back that up. On Dec. 14, Southwest had 28 Apple iPads turned in to lost and found across its flight system, Lehr said. It flies about 3,800 flights a day in the U.S.
The survey showed the average person in the U.S. misplaced nearly $250 worth of possessions in the past 12 months. That adds up to more than $30 billion of lost property in the U.S. this year.