Lost your teeth at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport? There's an office for that | Phoenix New Times


Lost your teeth at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport? There's an office for that

From false teeth to sex toys and prosthetic legs, lost-and-found employees at the Phoenix airport have seen it all.
Travelers at Sky Harbor frequently lose laptop computers, according to Leisha Walker, who is ground transportation lost-and-found front office manager at the airport.
Travelers at Sky Harbor frequently lose laptop computers, according to Leisha Walker, who is ground transportation lost-and-found front office manager at the airport. Rebecca Rhoades
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More than 125,000 passengers arrive and depart daily at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. They pass through the terminals, ride PHX Sky Train and shop at the duty-free stores — and they leave behind a lot of stuff. If they’re lucky, those belongings will end up in the airport’s lost-and-found.

“On a typical day, we can get upward of about 50 to 100 items,” said Leisha Walker, the ground transportation lost-and-found front office manager, during a recent tour of the area. Since January, her lost-and-found has logged about 7,000 items, she added.

The lost-and-found is located at the rear of the Operations Building near the West Economy garage and Terminal 3 Sky Train station. It's more of an overstuffed closet than an office. Shelves are piled high with plastic containers filled with watches, jewelry, eyeglasses, bank cards and phone changers. White ID tags hang from water bottles, briefcases and laptops. Suitcases are stacked in a corner next to hanging rods that hold coats and jackets for every season.

“We get clothing, hats and glasses. We get medications. We get golf clubs, wheelchairs, hearing aids — anything that any human being normally uses, we get,” Walker said.

According to Sky Harbor officials, the airport has one of the best lost-and-found return rates in the nation at 28%.
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About 28% of lost items are reunited with their owners, according to airport officials.
Rebecca Rhoades

How to recover lost items at Sky Harbor

Because Sky Harbor has three lost-and-found offices, your chances of getting your lost loot back increase if you know where you left it in. Walker manages the general lost-and-found, which covers common spaces at the airport, including parking garages, Sky Train stations and trains, restrooms, restaurants, shops and other main areas inside the terminals.

Possessions left at airport security checkpoints are held at the Transportation Security Administration’s lost-and-found on Level 7 of Terminal 3. And items forgotten at gates or on planes are handled by individual airlines. Those lost-and-founds are usually housed near the baggage claim.

“If you lost it on the curb or were in a taxicab, or you think you left it the restroom, then your first stop should be our lost-and-found,” Walker said.

When a wayward item is turned in, Walker’s team catalogs, tags and stores it in hopes of matching it with a passenger. “We will reach out if there’s a phone number or email on it,” Walker said. If no owner is found, the item is held for 10 days.

After that time, everyday articles such as clothing, headphones and shoes are donated. Currently, the airport works with Habitat for Humanity. High-dollar items, such as computers, phones, fine jewelry and cash amounts greater than $200, as well as weapons, are handed over to Phoenix police.

Keys are held for 30 days before being sent to the airport’s facilities department and melted.
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From cameras, electronics and jewelry to water bottles and children’s toys — even large roller bags — any kind of item that travelers use ends up in the lost-and-found.
Rebecca Rhoades

‘We never know what we’ll get’

Of the 7,000 or so items turned in to the general lost-and-found so far this year, 1,600 have been returned. And sometimes, the returned items are peculiar — to say the least.

Take the traveler who lost his false teeth. “When he called, we didn’t have them at first,” Walker said. “But we log in every call that comes in. So even though we didn’t have them at first, when they did come in, we were able to look back in the files and get the gentleman his teeth back.”

But that’s not even the strangest thing Walker has seen. “We’ve had prosthetic legs. We’ve had millions and millions of adult toys come through here. We sometimes get heavy construction items worth thousands and thousands of dollars,” she said. “We had luggage that had $700 — cash money — tucked into a shoe. And he got it back. And recently, we got some luggage that belonged to the Air Force with over $10,000 worth of stuff.”

So the next time you’re at the airport, if you lose something, no matter how small or insignificant, call the lost-and-found. You just might get it back. “I suggest that you call. You never know what we’ll get. I’ve seen a lot of stuff come through here. You wouldn’t think that people will turn in cash money, but they do,” Walker said.

The Sky Harbor lost-and-found is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., though items are turned in 24 hours a day. Items can be picked up in person or shipped at the owner’s expense. Call 602-273-3333 or email [email protected].
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