Airports are places of heightened emotion, be it anticipation, excitement, joy relief, grief, stress or despair. As the beginning or end point for many, airports often mark an achievement or moment in life that is big. Honeymoons, gap year adventures, travelling interstate for a funeral, heading oversees to meet distant relatives... airports connect people to big places and really big moments.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and resulted in widespread border closures, more than 24 million passengers would travel through Brisbane Airport every year. We are now lucky to get a third of that, with just over 8.1 million passengers travelling through Brisbane Airport in the 2020 calendar year.
When it is averaged out, that equates to around 22,000 people each day in 2020 experiencing heightened emotion and a flood of adrenaline and cortisol. Amidst the hustle of check-in, bag drop, security screening and getting the right gate, it is inevitable that a few valuable items sometimes accidentally get left behind.
What becomes of these misplaced, forgotten possessions?
Hidden behind locked doors within BNE's Domestic and International Terminals are two incredible treasure troves overflowing with thousands of unclaimed items just waiting to be rehomed. They are the type of rooms that would leave Benjamin Franklin Gates and Indiana Jones smiling from ear to ear.
From inflatable pools, surfboards, tyres and rice cookers through to laptops, cameras, jewellery and mobile phones, you can find just about everything within the lost property rooms! Literally. Don't believe me? What if I were to tell you that a prosthetic leg was recently handed in to the Domestic Terminal's Visitor Information Centre? It happened.
In the 2019 financial year, there were 10,351 items of lost property handed in across both terminals, including more than 700 passports, 300 laptops, 500 mobile phones, and 280 iPads. Move aside Dick Smith, I have all I need to set up my own electronics store right here at BNE!
Turns out I also have all I need to open up a shop front featuring an array of obscure items that you didn't know you could possibly lose, with false teeth, a sewing machine, life-size kangaroo garden ornament, moon boots, motorized scooters and a wheelchair also featuring in the lost property rooms recently. Dibs on the sewing machine.
Lost and found
In pre-COVID times, reuniting lost items with owners from around the world would be a daily challenge for our Airport Ambassadors - a team of 170 volunteers who roam the Domestic and International Terminals during peak periods to provide invaluable assistance to passengers and visitors.
Jenni Greaves of Southern Queensland Tourism, who manages BNE's Visitor Information Centres and the Ambassadors Program, believes lost property has the uncanny ability to make some shifts more interesting than others, and often more rewarding.
"Nothing surprises us anymore! We've had baby birds, lost toddlers, odd shoes, cremated remains, expensive suits and designer dresses all handed in."
"Our Airport Ambassadors try their utmost to reunite items with their owners and there are a lot of people grateful for our efforts and for those people who were honest enough to hand in lost goods."
Rest assured, fellow travellers - every effort is made to return lost items to their rightful owners, but around two-thirds remain unclaimed each year. It's a staggering percentage, especially considering the depth and value of the items.
Items like neck pillows, blankets and fresh food are not logged as lost property. They are kept at the Visitor Information Centre desk, and if not collected, are disposed of.
More valuable items are held at the airport for 60 days and, if still unclaimed, are then donated to charity or put aside for Pickles to collect for Brisbane Airport's once-a-year online Lost Property Auction.
It's a win-win for the public because not only do we get the chance to pick up some hectic bargains (anyone after a bag of jewellery?!), any money raised during the auction is then donated to a worthy cause that supports the Brisbane and Queensland community. Now that's my kind of auction!
More than $21,000 was raised for Australia Zoo Wildlife warriors in BNE's inaugural online auction in 2017, and a further $15,000 and $25,000 went to The Courier Mail Children's Foundation in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The 2018 funds were dispersed through The Courier-Mail Children’s Fund to the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation (QATSIF) to support 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders complete Year 12.
The 2019 funds were dispersed through The Courier-Mail Children’s Fund to Active Eight (A8), a grassroots charity based in Toowong that is dedicated to assisting young people with disabilities to activate and achieve their full social, emotional and physical potential.
A8 used the funds to install Australia’s first dance and yoga ceiling hoist system, allowing children with serious mobility issues the opportunity to take part in dance and yoga activities.
COVID-19 may have delayed our fourth online charity auction, but the collection for the 2021 Lost Property Auction is currently underway.
Trust me. It's well worth checking our website and marking this one down in your diary.