Lost property at Frankfurt airport

Items that are left behind and turned in at airports, are handed over to the lost and found office.

Lost property at Frankfurt airport

Frankfurt (dpa) - The frantic email came from Florida. Attached was a photograph of a small, soft toy monkey.

A child had forgotten it at Frankfurt Airport and missed it badly, says Rike Krueger, deputy chief of the airport's lost-and-found office. The monkey is sitting on a shelf, awaiting its reunion.

Roughly 22,000 objects end up at the lost-and-found office every year. The number is hardly surprising for an airport - one of the world's most important air traffic hubs and fourth-busiest in Europe - that served more than 64.5 million passengers last year.

Some of the items were found in the terminals, others were confiscated during security checks. They include all sorts of things: cuddly toys, kitchen utensils, high-priced watches, e-cigarettes.

While items that are typically lost, such as jackets and vests, hang on a clothes rail, the shelves hold an assemblage of oddities.

Krueger points to a folded-up wheelchair. 

"Some travellers apparently learn here how to walk again," she quips, adding that she's stopped dreaming up stories to fit the objects.

"After a while you don't ask yourself 'Why?' anymore," she adds.

There are passengers who fill suitcases with apples. And diehard do-it-yourselfers who take their tools with them on holiday.

"Chainsaws are classics," Krueger says. "We get a lot of them, particularly in summer." They're not stored on the open shelves, but put in a special cabinet for hazardous goods in an adjoining room.

"The cabinets close automatically if something in them catches fire."

Owners of lost or confiscated items generally have three months to reclaim them unless they're perishable, such as foodstuffs, in which case they're disposed of immediately.

"If there's identification, such as an address card in a suitcase, we get in touch with the owner ourselves," Krueger says.

When the three months are up, very personal items are destroyed.

"We once had a wedding album turned in to us," Krueger recalls. "Your heart bleeds when you have to get rid of something like that."

The remaining unclaimed items are sold in nearby Darmstadt in up to eight auctions a year. "There isn't anything that goes under the hammer that doesn't find a taker," remarks Birgit Wendt, head of the auction house.

Wendt, who has kept records of the auctions for 30 years, says that contrary to what many people think, technical devices aren't the biggest draw. "Many products are security-locked, so they serve only as providers of spare parts," she points out, noting that designer items are usually more popular - especially among bargain-hunters.

There are occasional exceptions to the three-month storage limit: "If the objects are very valuable, we keep them as long as six months."

Storage isn't free of cost. The more valuable the item and the longer it's stored, the higher the storage fee.

There's also a reward for the finder in some cases. "Since our legal status is that of a public transport company, the finder has a right to a reward but not to the item itself," Krueger explains.

As for the little toy monkey, a long journey awaits: It will shipped by air to its owner in the United States.