What Happens to Items Confiscated by Airport Security

Airport security underwent major changes following the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. Heightened security measures include body searches, pat downs and strict carry-on policies. Items such as sporting goods, household utensils and things capable of hurting someone are not allowed in carry-on baggage as they pose a security risk. As such, these prohibited items are confiscated by airport security. So what happens to these items after they’re confiscated?

Ends up as Donations

A common misconception is that airport security officers get to keep these confiscated items for themselves. This is not true and in fact, security officers are not allowed to pocket confiscated items. These items will likely be thrown away or destroyed, or in most cases, end up as donations to various state surplus warehouses. Airports usually hire contractors who regularly send trucks to pick up the items at the airport and then sorts, packs and then list the items for sale. The confiscated items are then sold to the public through a retail store or auctioned off online through eBay or through govdeals.com.

Government agencies, like police or fire departments, are sometimes offered to go through some of the confiscated weapons or tools, first, before these items are sold to the public. These public protection agencies can save money on items like knives and stun guns as these are sold at a fraction of the retail price.

Other items are donated to government approved, non-profit organizations. Confiscated scissors are sometimes received by public schools, Swiss Army knives can end up in youth organizations like the Boy Scouts, and nail clippers and files are given to homeless shelters. Some non-profit organizations even sell the donated items on online auction sites and keep the profits.

Liquids, however, is an altogether different story. Huge amounts of liquid items are surrendered every day at airport security checkpoints and are immediately thrown away. The donation or sale of these liquid items is not feasible and carries the risk of litigation. This is because security officers cannot know for sure that it is truly shampoo inside shampoo bottles or if the water is really water. Given this liability and safety issue, liquids items, whether liquor, perfumes, lotions or water, are generally disposed of.

Passengers Have Options

After these items are confiscated, there is almost no chance of getting them back  However, a majority of passengers just surrenders these items as they are either in a rush to catch a flight or just don’t want to go through the hassle of lining up again in security check points. These rules are meant to maintain public safety, but sometimes it can result to passengers being upset.

But travelers in fact have several options to avoid losing their belongings included in the prohibited items list.

A lot of the items in the prohibited list are allowed to go into checked luggage. Passengers can go back to the airline counters and place the items in their checked-in baggage and still make the trip. It can also be handed over to relatives or loved ones who came to see them off at the airport. Passengers can also leave the items in the car if they drove to the airport. Some airports even have post offices so passengers can mail the prohibited items to themselves.

Avoidable Problem

Passengers can easily avoid these problems by taking the time to learn what they are and are not allowed to carry on to a flight. A listing of items that are not allowed on an aircraft is provided by the Federal Aviation Administration in its website. Knives of any length, hockey sticks or baseball bats, and corkscrews are some of the items included.

List of prohibited items link