By Ed Brock
It didn't take much for Lucian Dillingham to lose his black portfolio at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Dillingham, who owns several concessions in the airport, was sitting in the airport's atrium about three weeks ago with the portfolio sitting next to him when he got a phone call.
"I got up to walk because I was getting some interference on my cell phone," Dillingham said. "I came back and it was gone."
So Dillingham went to the Hartsfield-Jackson lost and found department.
Every day about 100 lost objects are brought to the Hartsfield-Jackson lost and found department at one end of the North Terminal, said Roy Springer, manager of operations for Atlanta Airline Terminal Corp.
"A majority of them are keys and belts because they come from the security checkpoint," Springer said.
AATC handles most of the day-to-day maintenance around Hartsfield-Jackson and the company operated the airport's security checkpoint before it was turned over to federal authorities after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The company continued to take care of the lost and found department because it had an established system from when it ran security.
But don't go to Springer's department if you left something on the plane. The airlines have their own lost and found collections.
Other places where objects are frequently lost are the bathroom and the train that runs from the terminal to the concourses. Lost objects include bags, cell phones, laptop computers and more unexpected items like false teeth and, in one case four or five months ago, an artificial leg.
"It happens that it was a spare that the owner had," Springer said. "We were all trying to figure that one out."
They also get a surprising number of crutches and canes, Springer said, but he thinks the owners of those objects get into one of the airport-supplied wheelchairs after the checkpoint.
Dillingham said some people leave things at his concession stands and his employees bring them to lost and found.
"Most frequently it's credit cards," Dillingham said.
With the credit cards they no longer turn them in to lost and found, but rather they call the credit card company to report it lost, then destroy it.
Each object is logged into a computer under an identifying number.
About 60 percent of the objects are reclaimed, Springer said, but most of the clothing is left behind.
"People just don't call back for belts," Springer said.
Keys, on the other hand, are most likely to be reclaimed, as are laptop computers.
"They all get returned because people know where they left them," Springer said.
The owners of those objects are usually easy to find, too. The first thing the lost and found worker does with a lost cell phone is turn it on, go to the directory and look for a number like "Mom" or "Home." Then the worker calls that number and leaves a message with the ID number for the lost object and the lost and found phone number.
It works the same way with laptops and bags with tags.
"Anything that has an ID on it is easy," Springer said.
If the owner lives in another state and doesn't plan to return to Atlanta soon, AATC will mail the item to the owner COD or will send it by FedEx if the owner provides an account number.
And to reclaim an object by phone the owner must describe it in detail. When the object is logged in, a description is entered in its computer file.
Also, the Transportation Security Administration workers at the checkpoint usually put a label on the object with the date and time it was left behind, aiding in identification.
If all else fails and the object remains lost it is donated to various charities, such as the airport's chapel.
Dillingham's portfolio book never made it to the lost and found, and he's abandoned hope of recovering it.
"I've come here three times, so ...," Dillingham said.
The hallway leading to the Hartsfield-Jackson lost and found is behind the Air Jamaica ticket counter and clearly labeled. It is on the third floor, so be prepared for a short elevator ride.
The hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and the phone number is (404) 530-2100 extension 100.