‘Give yourself time’ | Inside TSA Lost & Found and why it’s important to arrive to the airport early this holiday season

As Houston Airports prepares to welcome millions in December, TSA explains that even laptops and prosthetics can get left behind when passengers rush through security. 

November 29, 2023

Houston Airports is preparing to celebrate a banner year with an estimated 60 million people traveling through George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport in 2023. During a 13-day Thanksgiving travel period alone, Houston Airports prepared to welcome 2.4 million travelers. This winter, Houston Airports is ready to welcome nearly 4 million people for a 21-day holiday travel period that begins mid-December. 

Recommendations are simple if you are traveling: reserve parking online before arriving at the airport and arrive at the airport early. "We want your travel experience to be as stress-free as possible so getting that reservation out of the way is a good thing, to take that weight off your shoulders," said Jim Szczesniak, Chief Operating Officer for Houston Airports. "Our airports are going to have the full complement of staff available to deal with anticipated demand.”

In a rare opportunity to access TSA Lost and Found at Hobby Airport, passengers are shown why it’s important to arrive with enough time to park, check luggage, clear security and get to the gate during the holiday travel rush. 

"Just give yourself time,” said Doug Lovins, a TSA Supervisor at Hobby Airport. “Time is your friend.” While digging through bins of electronics like laptops and iPads, Lovins explained that passengers often leave small, but valuable items behind at the security checkpoint as they rush to catch a flight. “We probably have 20 laptops sitting in here right now,” said Lovins during the walk-through of Lost and Found in November. 

TSA regulations require passengers to remove their shoes, belts and jackets and empty their pockets in order to clear security scanning machines. Laptops and approved liquids should be removed from bags. Those with TSA Precheck do not have to remove their shoes or laptops but must still clear a security screening. 

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Some travelers have left behind car seats or strollers at the TSA checkpoint in their hurry to make their flight. "I'm glad they took the kid. They remembered the child," said Jason Smith, Assistant Security Director at Hobby Airport. "I figure the husband got a good, firm, stern talking to, maybe? I don't know."

From clothing and canes to cellphones and smart watches, when someone leaves an item at a TSA checkpoint it gets entered into a database by date and a tracking number.

"Somebody left their prosthetic finger behind. I've also had people leave one shoe! They'll run down the concourse wearing one shoe,” said Lovins. TSA holds items at an airport for 30 days.

"It doesn't matter whether it's one cent or a hundred dollars, it doesn't matter whether it's a peso from Mexico when you're coming back from your Cancun trip,” said Smith. “All of it's collected. That is counted and double counted.”

Smith said the TSA does not keep any lost items or money. Low-value items are collected by a waste management company, while high-value items are sent to the TSA main headquarters in D.C. after 30 days at the airport, and then to the General Services Administration. The administration then sells those items to go toward a general government fund.

For items lost at other parts of the airport terminals, Houston Airports manages airport lost and found offices. Depending on where you lost your item, there are different contact details. Please follow the links below to determine the correct party to contact about locating your lost item:

MORE | Bush Airport Lost and Found

MORE | Hobby Airport Lost and Found