EGLIN AFB — Several years ago, items placed in the lost and found area at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport might have totaled about half a dozen per month, says Okaloosa County Airports Director Tracy Stage.
“Now, we often see up to about 250 items a month,” Stage said. “It’s a tremendous amount of items.”
The items include iPhones, toys, credit cards, children’s and adult’s clothes, hats, seat cushions, sunglasses and even fishing poles.
The most recent batch of items included someone’s cane.
“It’s amazing the things that get turned in to lost and found,” Stage said.
All of the stuff that’s accidentally left behind by travelers is found by staff everywhere around the airport, from the parking lots to the airplanes, he said.
The large amount of left-behind items perhaps is a reflection of a greater number of travelers who choose to bring their stuff on board with them.
Too, VPS continues to see a steadily rising annual number of passengers.
For example, in fiscal year 2017, the airport had a record-high 1.1 million passengers (outbound and inbound). For the current fiscal year, VPS is on track to have almost 1.4 million passengers.
No matter how such data might fluctuate, however, Stage said airport employees do everything they can to return lost items back to their owners.
According to the airport’s lost and found policy, all lost and found items are inventoried and are held for at least 30 days for claiming. Owners who are located can receive paid return shipping on items that can be sent by mail.
Items that continue to go unclaimed are donated to various organizations. Officials from the groups must sign for and provide pickup of the inventory.
Stage said there is no set schedule when it comes to clearing out long-held items. However, once the airport’s donation closet fills up, which is roughly every 30-45 days, the inventory is donated, he said.
Organizations that have received long-unclaimed items include the Airman’s Attic at Eglin Air Force Base, The Fisher House of the Emerald Coast, the United Service Organizations, the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society and Goodwill.
“This is good stuff that people can use,” Stage said.
People who believe they have left an item on the plane should contact the airline, and those who think they left an item on the grounds or in the facilities of VPS should contact the airport police at (850) 651-7166.