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Airports face growing mountain of unclaimed laptops

Lost property offices are seeing an increase in the number of laptops handed in, particularly after last month's security scares
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Written by Will Sturgeon on

Business travellers are fuelling a growing mountain of lost laptops at UK airports which are increasingly being auctioned off as their owners fail to claim them.

Heathrow airport, the busiest international airport in the world, serves millions of business travellers each month, many of whom travel with laptops, but a member of the lost property team at Heathrow airport told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com, that hundreds of those laptops end up being handed in each month.

And, as a result of airport chaos in the wake of heightened security last month, that mountain of unclaimed laptops is now reaching record levels.

At Heathrow an average of around 120 laptops is handed in every month, of which at least 15 or so will end up at auction.

The reasons for this are manifold. The most likely is that travellers are boarding flights out of the UK or may mistakenly assume their laptop has been stolen rather than lost, given the airport also plays host to "people who make their living stealing bags off trolleys", according to our source. Similarly they may prefer to report it stolen and claim on their insurance than hunt out lost property and slow down their journey.

But if you realise you are suddenly travelling without your laptop there is reason to be optimistic.

The Heathrow worker said: "Many people assume their laptop won't have been handed in. Which is a shame because often they are here. We get brand new laptops all the time and their owners just never turn up to collect them, so after three months they are auctioned off."

And the mountain is growing all the time.

Referring to the security measures brought in after an alleged plot to blow up a number of flights out of the UK was thwarted, the source said: "During the bad times a couple of weeks ago the number of laptops being handed in tripled."

Typically it is security staff and not members of the public who hand in lost luggage, the source added, saying the public tend to be more wary of unattended bags at airports now.

Research out yesterday suggested that 40 percent of all electronic devices lost at UK airports go unclaimed, with mobile phones more likely to be left unclaimed than laptops and PDAs.

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