Last year Dell computers commissioned a study that found that 12,000 laptops are lost each week at U.S. airports. Los Angeles leads the pack with 1,200 laptops reported lost or stolen at LAX weekly. Incredibly, most laptops are left behind at security checkpoints, with only 33 percent ever being recovered (17 percent before the flight, 16 percent after).

Now, part of our shock about these numbers comes from the absent-mindedness of  travelers who lose sight of a valuable piece of luggage — and one that they probably need to conduct their business or lives at the other end of their flights. But another thought comes to mind: Why don't the TSA screeners call after people who have left their notebook computers behind — are they themselves too busy? do they assume such left luggage is dangerous and immediately dunk the laptops in a bucket of water?

Calls to LAX and Burbank Airport's TSA offices went unreturned by

posting time, but Sandee McFarland, who works for a private company

that manages Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, says screeners do attempt to

page passengers who become separated from their belongings — then

lists the most-often lost items.


“We get belts,” says McFarland who works in Bob Hope's lost and found

department. “Everyone leave their belts, cell phones, clothing items,

thumb drives, keys, watches. I've read about the laptops, but I don't

get those — TSA has them.”

A newsletter for

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees offers some advise for

tech-lugging travelers. Besides geek-squad mantras to encrypt and back

up data, the tips also include some very down-to-earth wisdom: Only

take a laptop if it's really necessary to your trip and give yourself

lots of time “to avoid mistakes made more likely by having to hurry.

Airports are a physical and mental obstacle course.”

One employee who works at a Southern California airport and who did not

wish to be identified, confirmed how spaced-out flyers become —

especially those who show up half an hour before takeoff and think

they can just walk straight on to the plane. This employee noted that

TSA screeners will page travelers by name when their

identities are known. Still, even here, the employee says, travelers

will often later admit they heard their names on the public address

system after leaving the security checkpoint — but somehow didn't make

the connection that they were being asked to recover lost items.

The Livermore Lab newsletter says the best way to ensure that lost laptop gets returned is to  leave your

name and phone number in its battery compartment — an area not

available to prying eyes, but one that screeners are trained to quickly

access. Either that, or take the train.

LA Weekly