I’ve been traveling for business on an average of one week per month for the past six years. Include personal travel, and this means a lot of time spent in airports. With airports come the TSA security checks and all the related security theater that comes with the TSA. I have never said or written anything nice about the TSA in the years I have been dealing with them; until now.
I flew out of Washington National airport last Friday morning for another five night business trip. It was an early morning flight requiring me to catch my shuttle ride at 5:10 AM. I had been busy with packing the night before and didn’t get to bed until past 11:00PM so I was pretty tired.
Once at the airport I checked in, dumped my check baggage off at the TSA scanners and made my way to the security line. I unloaded my company laptop computer and prepped for passing through the security gauntlet. The lines were already chaotic with early morning travelers. I won the lottery and got to go through the x-ray machine instead of the porn scanners which I thought was a good deal. Except that I had to go through three times because I keep missing metal stuff in my pockets. Each time the machine beeped at me I had to go back out and empty my pockets into another tray. While I was doing that other people were going past me through the x-ray machine.
I finally cleared and retrieved my gear. By now the receiving trays were in complete chaos but I found everything, so I thought, and left the security area.
The rest of my flight was a routine one connection trip. Once at my destination I paid a visit to my work site, said hello, and headed for my hotel and check-in. In my room I unpacked and opened my computer bag to setup my laptop.
It wasn’t in my bag.
After a brief moment of horrified confusion I realized that I must have left it at the airport security line that morning. I spent a few moments panicking, then settled down and thought through what I needed to do next.
I went downstairs to the hotel computer, pulled up Mr. Google and did a search on “Washington National airport lost and found.” I found the info and pretty quickly learned that airports have two lost-and-found centers; one for TSA security lines and one for the airlines themselves. For the TSA lost-and-found there was a webpage with both telephone and website claims processes.
By now it was about 5:00PM. I called the lost-and-found claims number only to learn the office was closed until Monday, but helpfully they had a voicemail option. I left my voicemail with name, contact phone, and description of what I lost along with where/when I lost it. Then I went to the website and filed the same claim online.
Both the recorded message and the website claims page promised a response “within one to two business days.” That suggested two business days if lucky and I would not have an answer until at least Tuesday. Both the telephone message and website gave the airport’s lost-and-found location so I planned on making a visit when I returned the following Wednesday. Then I called my boss to let him know what happened, and figured out how to do my work over the next four days without my computer.
Monday morning, about 6:45AM while I was eating breakfast at the hotel restaurant, I received a call. It was a representative of the Washington National Airport TSA lost-and-found informing me they did in fact have my laptop. The lady provided a description that I confirmed, and she explained it would be waiting for me at their lost-and-found when I returned on Wednesday.
Sure enough, yesterday morning I landed, retrieved my check bag, and headed over to the lost-and-found. It was conveniently located in the “A” terminal right across from the airport USO. I provided the desk person my name and what I lost; she went into the back room, rummaged around a bit, and then came out with my laptop. I signed for it, checked that it would power up, and was headed for home mission accomplished.
So, I need to give credit where credit is due. Thank you TSA, for operating a lost-and-found that actually finds lost things and gets them back to the owners.
Editors Note: For people traveling through Washington National Airport, the TSA Lost and Found contact number is 703-417-0673. This webpage provides a complete list of contact numbers for all US Airports.