T.S.A. Collected Over $760,000 in Unclaimed Cash at Airports


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Passengers wait to be screened by security officials at John F. Kennedy Airport in March.

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Embracing the concept of “keep the change,” the Transportation Security Administration said it collected more than $760,000 in unclaimed cash — mostly loose coins — from travelers who had forgotten the money after passing through airport security in the 2015 fiscal year.

The agency said it “makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint,” but at times, property or loose change go unclaimed. The coins, for instance, were left behind when passengers emptied their pockets before going through metal detectors.

Money from other countries collected over the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, made up more than $9,200, which was converted to American currency, according to a T.S.A. report in March.

What will the agency do with the money? In 2005, Congress gave the T.S.A. the authority to use unclaimed money on security operations.

The money came from 114 so-called hub airports, central airports through which flights are routed. Money collected at smaller airports, which are connected to hubs via routes known as spokes, turn over the money they collect to their respective hub.

In the New York metropolitan area, Kennedy International Airport reported the highest total of unclaimed funds: $43,715.81. La Guardia Airport reported $23,413.61, and Newark Liberty International Airport raked in $12,846.78.

The lowest amount collected at a hub airport was $1.99, at Pago Pago International Airport in American Samoa, according to the T.S.A. figures.

USA Today, which reported on the unclaimed money, said that some airports had installed kiosks for passengers to deposit spare change for charitable causes. Denver International Airport collects money for a program to help homeless people, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport accepts donations to support a United Service Organizations’ program for members of the military and their families.

John Dedell, a video conferencing designer from Safety Harbor, Fla., said he flew about once a month for business and puts his loose change in a backpack for safekeeping.

“It really does not surprise me that people leave loose change behind,” he said in an email. “People seem to leave all kinds of things, and I don’t think there has ever been a trip that I didn’t hear ‘Will the person who left … come back to T.S.A. to retrieve it.’”

A combination of fewer T.S.A. screeners, tighter budgets, new checkpoint procedures and more passengers has already created long lines at airports around the country.

Money left unclaimed has nearly doubled, to $765,759.15 in the 2015 fiscal year from $383,413.79 in the 2008 fiscal year, the T.S.A. report showed. The sum has increased every year except for one since 2008.

Look for more loose change to be left behind this summer as air travel reaches its peak. Officials warn of extraordinarily long waits to get through security, which might mean more anxious passengers dashing for their gates and forgetting to pick up their money.

Correction: May 12, 2016

An earlier version of this article misspelled part of the name of an airport in American Samoa. It is Pago Pago International Airport, not Pogo Pogo.

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