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18 Craziest Things Left Behind at Airports

Updated: Sep. 03, 2023

Expensive paintings, a block of cheese, and a riveting journal are just some of the craziest things left behind at airport terminals, restrooms, parking lots, and TSA checkpoints.

Aerial. Car parking. View from drone.


Sure, you may park it there for the duration of your trip but why wouldn’t you come back for it? According to Jeff Martinelli, CM, manager of customer programs, Pittsburgh International Airport there’s a host of reasons including unpaid parking fines, it’s a junker, or the death of the owner and no one comes forward to claim it. Some recent standouts of abandoned cars include a 2015 GMC Sierra and 2005 Land Rover, shares Martinelli.


Wall projector

No one came forward to claim a wall projector left behind at Pittsburgh International Airport. We guess that person won’t be showing their annual three-hour vacation slideshows anymore. Speaking of pictures, your seatmate might not be interested in your vacation snaps. Keep this airplane etiquette in mind when you fly.

Akhmad Dody Firmansyah/Shutterstock

Electronics, laptops, and tablets

From April 2017 to March 2018, 637 Mac Book Pros, Samsung Amazon Kindles, and similar electronics were left behind at the Pittsburgh International Airport. This category ranks third in the most common items left behind, with belts at 780 and jewelry at 863 for this airport.

Glasses on the table
wutcharawit nunjuntee/Shutterstock


Passengers visiting the Pittsburgh International Airport left 548 prescription glasses from April 2017 to March 2018. Bad news for anyone that needed them for sightseeing or reading in-flight magazines but good news for the Lions Club in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where the airport donates unclaimed glasses. For nearly 90 years, the Lion’s Club has assisted the visually impaired by fixing up used glasses and distributing them to people in underserved communities.

fishing rods with spinning and reel of a fisherman for surfcasting in beach shore
Gena Melendrez/Shutterstock

Fishing rod

This certainly gives “the one that got away” fishing story a new twist. But hopefully, this passenger went on a fishing trip of a lifetime before they left the fishing rod at the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Airport luggage with Jacket in airport terminal.


It happens—in a rush, you leave a jacket or sweater you had to take off to get through a TSA checkpoint. Or maybe it was too stuffy in the terminal, so you left your coat on the back of your chair when your flight boarded. While you may have lost your favorite cardigan, you can feel good about where it ended up, especially if you left it at the Pittsburgh International Airport, where 50 boxes of clothing were collected and donated to the Circles of Greater Pittsburgh, a nonprofit who helps the materially poor become self-sufficient.

Satin texture of curved flag of Norway
Yeti studio/Shutterstock

Norwegian souvenirs

It’s hard to fathom a brand new box of cherished mementos chosen for family and friends got left behind at the airport, but that’s what happened at the Pittsburgh International Airport. A box of Norwegian souvenirs went unclaimed; maybe the passenger didn’t realize there was a lost and found or didn’t think the box was worth tracking down.

Notebook and pen on grey wood background, close up
Mouse family/Shutterstock

Page-turning journal

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport found a journal of a man who was convinced his wife was trying to kill him. Maybe he was trying to flee the situation or leave it on purpose for someone to find. “We often wonder about the origin of items like this, but rarely get the chance to hear the stories behind them,” says April Conway, APR, public affairs.

Crutches stand near the wall in the hospital
Vladimir Gappov/Shutterstock

Multiple canes and one singular crutch

“We can only assume the TSA screening process heals the infirm,” jokes Conway. Or maybe they were in a lot better shape than they thought and wanted to leave the memories of ill health behind. Either way, the crew at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport are scratching their heads at how these got left behind.

Detail of weed
Nick Starichenko/Shutterstock

Carry-on bag full of marijuana

“Apparently, a passenger realized it was over the legal limit, and they couldn’t bring it with them on their journey,” says Conway. It’s prudent to know what’s allowed in carry-on bags and checked luggage before you get to the airport. Here are some other useful tips for stress-free air travel.

Necklace on wood floor

Diamond necklace

Diamonds are a girl’s best friends, except when you accidentally leave them at the airport and part ways. Thankfully, the woman who left a diamond necklace worth around $10,000 was reunited with it again. Conway says the passenger didn’t realize it was missing and was actually surprised the airport had a lost and found. You won’t believe these amazing stories of things lost, then found.

Pile of dust on concrete floor , close up
Love the wind/Shutterstock

“Playa dust”

You may have heard of Burning Man, the annual gathering that takes place in the Black Rock Desert but what you may not know about is the “playa dust,” a corrosive and extra fine silt that comes back as an unwanted souvenir. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport sees all kind of things covered in it—including a hula hoop and toiletry bags left behind from the last gathering.

Cheese block macro isolated on white background cutout


It wasn’t just a hunk of cheese, but a large block of cheese and, “we don’t have any direct flights to Wisconsin,” Conway jokes. Maybe it was just too heavy to lug around or it was something stinky like Limburger cheese. You should never eat this type of cheese or these 12 other foods when you fly.

Fashionable woman high heel shoes

One high heel shoe

Yes, you read that correctly—a single high heel, a Michael Kors shoe to be exact. “The owner called us and paid for FedEx to mail her back the single shoe. It was her favorite,” recalls Conway. These are 10 sneaky money traps people always fall for when they travel.

closeup of older womans hand holding a teeth denture
wernerimages 2018/Shutterstock


Dentures seem to end up in a lot of places besides people mouths—down the toilet, on a plate at a restaurant or in the glove box. According to Lucy M. Burghdorf, Director, Public Affairs & Communications, Hollywood Burbank Airport dentures are also left behind at the airport. You probably shouldn’t put your dentures on the tray or do these other things when you’re on a plane.

Golden trophy on wood background.

Award plaques

It might not be the highly esteemed Oscar, but award plaques were left behind and found their way to the lost and found at the Hollywood Burbank Airport Burghdorf says. Find out the 13 things airlines won’t tell you—but you’ll definitely want to know.

Paper tube mockup scene, blank objects for placing your design. Cardboard paper tube with papers.
Andrej Sevkovskij/Shutterstock

An expensive painting

In 2015, a painting worth about $40,000 was left behind at the Newark Liberty International Airport. It wasn’t wrapped or framed; it was rolled up in a hard cardboard cannister so it could be easily transported by the owner. At first, TSA thought they were looking for a framed piece of art, not a cannister but once they had the correct description, the painting was found and reunited with a very grateful owner.



According to the TSA, more than $869,000 was left by passengers at TSA checkpoints in 2017. What happens to all the money collected? The TSA website says, “Unclaimed money is deposited into a special account to be tracked and subsequently disbursed. Ultimately, TSA uses the money to maintain and improve security operations.” By the way, Here are 12 things your TSA officer isn’t telling you.


What happens to all that stuff?

TSA estimates that approximately 90,000 to 100,000 items are left behind at checkpoints each month—and that’s just the TSA area, not counting restrooms, food courts, or the planes themselves. As soon as you know something is missing call the TSA affiliated with the airport. TSA generally keeps items for 30 days before it is destroyed, given to a state agency for surplus property, or sold as excess property. As far as items lost in the airport outside of TSA area, policies vary from airport to airport but generally, items are kept for 30 days. Some airports host annual auctions, like the Pittsburgh International Airport that sell a variety of unclaimed items, including vehicles.