KELOWNA - Wallets, passports and designer bags—among hundreds of other lost items—are collected, meticulously logged and stored by the Kelowna International Airport each month.
Only some find their way back home. Reuniting items with their owners is always the goal, says airport spokesperson Jenelle Hynes, it’s just not always the reality.
Some items are given up voluntarily at airport security, and those automatically go one of two places: charity or the garbage. Commonly seized items such as liquids and gels over 100 millilitres, snow globes (because of the liquid they contain), pocket knives, math compasses, wrenches and sealed non-alcoholic beverages are donated to local charities. Wine and other alcohols brought home as souvenirs from the Okanagan are—tragically—dumped out.
Items left aboard planes are collected by the airline and stored for varying lengths of time—WestJet only gives a week—before being donated or destroyed. Belongings recovered within the airport itself are kept for three months before they’re donated to charity or destroyed. In addition to the found folder (which sees on average 200 items a month), the department also has a lost section where people can report missing items.
“We get a lot of strange requests,” Hynes says. “Some are for a wheel off their luggage, we’ve had quite a few of those.”
There’s been a wide range of unusual items found at the airport, including a surf board, sets of golf clubs, designer bags, and purses containing hundreds of dollars. But the most common items include phones, chargers, laptops, reading glasses, passports, drivers licenses, car keys and clothing, says airport commissionaire supervisor Mark Moger. More than once the airport has even found individual shoes.
“How do you walk out of the airport with one shoe?” Moger says.
The one thing you’d think goes missing all the time doesn’t. Us adults might be leaving our cell phones left right and centre, but children’s toys are rarely picked up.
“Children seem to hang on to their toys quite well,” Moger says.
The ‘find my iPhone’ App has come in handy numerous times, but airport staff are often left looking up phone numbers in online directories when it comes to other items. It can be hard work tracking down the owners—especially when they don’t even realize their stuff is missing. Items containing a person's personal identification—like passports and wallets—are typically handled by the RCMP. Unclaimed items that contain a passenger’s personal information, such as a cell phone, are securely disposed of.
But the hope is always to reunite passengers with their belongings, something that happens between 25-40 per cent of the time, Moger says. Many people don’t bother to reclaim their items—especially if it’s just a mitten or a shoe. Coming in to the winter, Moger says the number of items can skyrocket to 300-400 articles a month. Part of their journey home starts with fellow passengers.
“We‘ve had purses with a couple hundred dollars turned in to us. It’s quite nice that there are a lot of honest people who travel through this airport. It makes our job easier,” Moger says.
To claim lost items, email firstname.lastname@example.org and be prepared to describe the belonging in detail.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.