Sunday, January 15, 2012

$400,000 in forgotten coins left at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints

Airline passengers leave about $400,000 a year in coins they forget to, or choose not to take with them as they scramble to catch flights, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

In 2010, that loose change amounted to $409,085.56. That's $376,480.39 in dollar coins, quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies, plus foreign currency worth $32,605.17.

People who leave money behind may be rushing through a checkpoint for a variety of reasons, and travelers heading to foreign countries may simply feel they have no use for U.S. change, said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association.

Then there's the jingle factor: Coins just aren't that appealing in an increasingly cashless society.

"Many people aren't carrying change these days anyway," Stempler said. "It just weighs down in their pockets and purses. I know in the city I see a lot of people giving it to homeless people just to get rid of the change."

Passengers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York left the most change in 2010 ($46,918.06), followed by Los Angeles International ($19,110.83), Hartsfield Atlanta International ($16,523.83), San Francisco International ($15,908.02), and Miami International ($15,844.83), according to the TSA.

The TSA "makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint," agency spokesman Greg Soule said. Money that can't be returned to its owner is used to finance agency operations.

Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida wants to change that.

Legislation he's proposing would give the money to the United Service Organizations to help operate their welcome centers for U.S. military personnel around the globe.

"Allowing TSA to keep unclaimed taxpayer money for any and all purposes is an egregious breach of its duty to the public that it serves," Miller wrote in a recent letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y. "This money should be put to good use, and there is no better organization to use this money wisely than the USO."

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