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Help! I Left My Laptop at Airport Security

laptop ipad passport
My most recent flight to London was a disaster from the start. I arrived at Penn Station with only two hours to make it to the airport and through security before my plane was scheduled to depart. To make matters worse, the NJ Transit train was delayed, I barely missed the connecting AirTrain, and the TSA Pre-Check line was closed. When I finally reached the front of the long, snaking security line, I threw my belongings on the conveyor belt and rushed through the x-ray scanner to collect my luggage and sprint to the gate.

I made it to my seat, relieved I had caught the flight. To relax, I reached into my bag for my iPad to watch some movies I had downloaded, but I couldn’t find it.

Funny, it wasn’t in my carry-on, or my purse… or on the plane at all! I had left both my iPad and laptop at security.

Fast forward a few weeks later, I had both my iPad and laptop in my possession, but here is what you should do if you ever lose anything at the airport to get it back.

1. Don’t panic!

Which is something I did NOT do when I first realized I had lost my iPad and laptop. On the plane, I had tracked down a flight attendant, explained my situation, and tried to have someone on the outside run to security to grab my iPad and laptop before we took off. This strategy will NOT work because you are the only one authorized to claim your lost belongings once they’ve been taken into lost and found.

Don’t start worrying yet though! Did you know that the TSA actually has a very high return rate for lost items? At LaGuardia, 92% of laptops are returned to their owners and at Seatac the return rate for lost items is between 85-90%. These numbers are remarkably high and should provide some comfort that you will most likely get your belongings back.

2. Report missing items immediately

Once you’ve realized you have left something at the airport, report the lost items immediately. You can find the contact information of the airport here. Each airport has a different process, but with Newark, I called and left a detailed message describing my lost items. Remember to include details such as:

  • Brand name of lost computer / tablet / cell phone
  • Container or bag the items were in
  • Any identifying information (i.e. sticker on the outside, business card taped to cover, etc.)
  • Where you lost your item (i.e. which security gate)
  • Detailed description of what you look like (i.e. clothing, bags carried, etc.)
  • Flight information (i.e. departure date, check-in time, airline, flight number, etc.)

3. Fill out a lost property report if necessary

Upon initial inquiry, the TSA employees were unable to locate my lost items, which sent me into triple panic mode. They emailed me a Lost and Found Property Inquiry Form to complete and return (as shown below).
With the details from the form, they would then go back and look through security footage to find out what happened to my lost belongings (really cool, I think). Through this process, they were able to figure out who had found my iPad and laptop and when they were tagged in the lost and found database. I was then given the option to pick up my items in New Jersey or have them mailed to me. The system totally works!

4. And for the future, tape your business card to your electronics

Luckily, I had my contact information taped on the bottom of my laptop, which made it easy to identify and return to me. I highly recommend having your contact information somewhere on your electronics to give TSA agents a name to page, a phone number to call, or a means to identify you by if you ever lose them.

I was extremely impressed with how quickly and professionally the TSA handled the situation. I lost all hope of ever getting my stuff back once my plane had taken off, so I couldn’t have been more surprised and relieved when I had it all back within a matter of weeks.

The lesson learned here is to give yourself enough time to make it through security, but in case you ever find yourself in a situation like this one, take comfort in knowing that there is a well-established process in place for getting your belongings back.

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Comments 2

  1. Jonathan Smith

    This would not be good news at all. And what if it is an international airport overseas? I am guessing you should just assume that your item is long gone, but still go through the paperwork process just in case?

  2. Vanessa Vanderman

    This exact thing happened to me when I flew home from California last summer. The paperwork process was a little bit of a pain, but I had just purchased my iPad and did not want that to be gone forever. Take the time to go through the process and you will see that it is worth it!

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