Looks like the Transportation Security Administration is getting phat pockets from passengers’ leftovers. According to media reports, fliers left behind in excess of $400,000 in while filing through the metal detectors in 2010, the latest year numbers are available.
In 2010, travelers left behind a whopping $409,085.56. That’s $376,480.39 in pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar coins, plus another $32,605.17 in foreign currency.
The total numbers have been pretty consistent the past few years, although the trend is slightly upward. In 2008 the total amount that was left with TSA, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, was $364,000 and 2009 the amount was $399,000.
Hurried travelers should know the coins they leave in haste don’t become tips for the security agents, said Nico Melendez, a spokesperson for the TSA. The money left in plastic bins is put in a jar and at the end of each shift they take it, count it, and send it to the finance office.
The collected cash goes into the TSA’s general operating budget and is spent on general expenses — everything from technology to lightbulbs — since Melandez says they never know how much money people will leave behind each year.
The TSA says it does make every effort to return the money to travelers. For example, the TSA says an agent turned in $5,000 that he found on the floor at Newark Liberty International Airport. Because the cash was found near the United Airlines Elite Access check-in desk and not left in a plastic bin, the screener handed it over to the airline, who said the money will go to charity if no one claims it.
Here’s how much the TSA has collected at five of the U.S. biggest airports: