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YOU’VE been through customs, got your duty-free, grabbed your bags — but there’s something you’re missing, and you’ll be kicking yourself.
Unless of course, the thing you left behind is your leg.
Each year, an alarming amount of list property gets handed in at airports around Australia, with a prosthetic limb among the more intriguing discoveries to have turned up at Brisbane Airport.
Up to 1000 items a month get handed in, but only about one in three items actually gets reunited with owners, according to Jenni Greaves, who leads the team of volunteers who look after lost property at Brisbane Airport.
We asked Greaves for her tips for travellers who’d rather avoid the stress of losing something, and top on the list is luggage labels.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t have identification on anything, even their suitcases,” she says.
“If there’s a phone number, people will ring it if they find something.”
And she highly recommends allowing extra time to travel.
“Come an hour earlier to the airport so you’re not so stressed going through screening — that’s when you leave things in the tray, when you’re running late for your flight,” she says.
And in the event that you do find yourself missing something after a trip, it’s always worth at least trying to track it down, Greaves says.
“I don’t know why people aren’t more proactive in seeking their stuff,” she says.
It’s simply a matter of filling in an online form (you’ll need to enter a description and the likely date and time it was lost) to check if the airport has located your missing items.
Here are nine essential things you need to check you’ve got before leaving the airport:
Prescription spectacles and sunnies are among the most common items handed in — often left at the security screening area.
“Prescription glasses are a really sad one, and a hard one for us to reunite unless they have a distinguishing feature,” Greaves says.
But if you have left your specs behind and don’t manage to collect them, rest assured your misfortune is another person’s good luck. Greaves says any glasses that aren’t claimed are recycled as part of a partnership with Thai Airways to assist those in need overseas.
“(People’s) pants must fall off when they get to the other side (of security screening), because we’ve got all their belts,” says Greaves.
Phones are the next biggest item that gets handed in, after belts and glasses.
“If you haven’t backed up — and a lot of people haven’t — it’s all your photos, and that’s heartbreaking,” says Greaves.
Laptops and tablets also frequently turn up in lost property — yet Greaves is constantly surprised how few owners follow up on their missing items.
“We had two brand new iPad Airs, still in boxes with the wrapping on (that went unclaimed),” she says.
YOUR WEDDING RING
Greaves says it never ceases to surprise her how many items of jewellery arrive at lost property, with many precious pieces among them.
Unclaimed valuables are auctioned off in bulk, with the proceeds (more than $21,000 at Brisbane Airport last year alone) going to charity.
The moral of the story? Scale back on the bling when travelling — and if you’re jet lagged, don’t take your rings off when you wash your hands at the airport.
YOUR DUTY-FREE BOOZE
Last-minute gifts are often the first thing to get forgotten. Every few months, dozens of unclaimed bottles of alcohol wind up getting auctioned off to support charity.
Greaves says duty free bags are frequently left in the top rack of luggage trolleys at the taxi rank.
“They’re getting all their bags into the taxi, and they’re flustered and they jump in ... The bags are red — how can you miss that? But they do.
“And we’re talking high-end stuff here — we’re talking Moet and the alcohol in the nice boxes, not cheap wines.”
“We get about 60 passports a month that we don’t reunite,” Greaves says.
Part of the problem, she says, is that once people have returned from their trip, they won’t actually notice their passport is missing until the next time they go to book an overseas holiday, by which time it’s long since been cancelled after being returned to the relevant consulate.
“We’ve had ticket wallets with six passports — mum, dad and the kids — all in it,” she says.
To reduce the risk of getting separated from your passport, Greaves advises attaching a sticky note with your phone number on it, and always tucking it away safely as soon as you pass through passport control.
YOUR FAVOURITE TOY
One of the most rewarding parts of the job is when volunteers get to reunite a special toy with a distraught child.
“There was this threadbare teddy bear, its stuffing hanging out, with multi-coloured stitching holding it together — you could see it was much loved,” Greaves recalls.
“It belonged to a nine-year-old girl who had left it behind on an overseas trip. When her father came to pick up the bear, he said she was so upset she hadn’t been sleeping, so he was sending it to her overseas by courier.”
Hot tip: if you can’t work out why you’re feeling a little lopsided or having trouble chewing your airline food, it’s probably time to check in with lost property.
A prosthetic leg, crutches, hearing aids, dentures ... they’ve all been known to turn up in airport lost property, much to the puzzlement of volunteers.
Greaves says one of the most memorable lost property items she’s come across was an urn containing ashes, which took pride of place on her desk for a while.
“You can picture that conversation in your head,” Greaves says. “The family would be turning around and saying ‘who’s got Uncle Russell?’, ‘I thought you had him’.”
Thankfully, reuniting the remains with loved ones wasn’t actually too difficult.
“It was great because on the urn they had a funeral home named on it, and they were able to contact the family.”