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Passengers leave thousands in loose change at L.A., S.F. airports

Passengers at LAX lost $41,506 in loose change after passing through security checkpoints last fiscal year

Travelers nationwide left about $675,000 in loose change at airports in the last fiscal year, and nowhere was that forgetfulness more costly in California than at Los Angeles International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration reports.

Passengers at LAX lost $41,506.64 after passing through security screening checkpoints between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, TSA officials said. San Francisco International Airport’s haul landed second on California’s list at $34,889.63. The two airports – California’s busiest – far eclipsed the rest of the state’s aviation hubs.

Where does the money come from?

Your pockets, mostly. Occasionally passengers forget or don’t bother to pick up the pennies, nickels and quarters they dig out of their pockets and put in the plastic bin that passes through the luggage scanner as they pass through metal detectors.

“TSA makes every effort to reunite passengers with items left at the checkpoint; however, there are instances where loose change or other items are left behind and unclaimed,” the TSA said in a statement. “Unclaimed money, typically consisting of loose coins passengers remove from their pockets, is documented and turned into the TSA financial office.”

Where does the money go?

Back into the TSA. In 2005, Congress gave the agency authority to put the money it collects from airport checkpoints back into security operations.

For fiscal year 2014, that amounted to $674,841.06 nationally. In 2013, it collected $638,142.64, and in 2012, it took in $531,395.22.

How much of that money comes from California airports?

There are many small, municipal airports across the state, so tabulating an exact amount is difficult. But LAX, the nation’s second-busiest airport in 2014, has been the tops in collections in California for some time. In fiscal year 2012, LAX took in $21,916.23 in loose change and in 2013, it found $37,259.60.

SFO’s data show it’s finding more loose change each year, just like at LAX. Its revenue has climbed from $19,873.88 in the 2012 fiscal year to $24,195.70 in 2013 and nearly $35,000 last fiscal year.

California’s 10 biggest airports collectively pulled in more than $100,000 in loose change last fiscal year, according to the TSA.

San Diego travelers have left between $5,500 and $7,200 in loose change at airports since fiscal year 2012. Airports in Oakland, San Jose and Orange County find between $3,000 and $5,000 in loose change annually, according to TSA statistics.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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