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I guess it happens quite frequently: you have already checked in, and at the security check you realize that you have in your backpack your grandmother's Klingon bat'leth blade, an item that has been in your family for generations and that you absolutely do not want to throw away.

What are your possibilities at this point? What do you do with a forbidden item with which you cannot fly, and which you do not want to throw away?, The airline company will probably offer to send it as a stored luggage, but that may be inconvenient (because of the price, or because the item is too fragile, too large, or too small). Are there other possibilities?

An option could be shipping it, but I have never seen a courier or a post office in an airport. I have never looked for one, actually, but if there are any they are not well advertised (unlike every other store in an airport), and I assume that they are not open at all the times of the day when an airport is operational. Are there any other possibilities?

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From your last paragraph, I presume you've never been to Japan. ;) Here it would be a no-brainer to ship it, as virtually every airport has a shipping service counter. – fkraiem Feb 8 at 23:42
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If you're travelling with a bat'leth why don't you just use the transporter instead of flying? – CJ Dennis Feb 9 at 7:43
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I know people who have flown (accidentally) with a machete in their carryon. So, you can always hope. Helps if you happen to be a white male, though. (Ironically later he was hassled about baby formula for his daughter, who was flying with him) – Wayne Werner Feb 9 at 23:38
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If possible you can consume it telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/11822355/… – d.putto Feb 10 at 10:00
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@d.putto - I suspect even the most seasoned sword-swallower would balk at the prospect of forcing a Klingon bat'leth down their throat... – Darrel Hoffman Feb 10 at 21:17

13 Answers 13

up vote 75 down vote accepted

It happened to me once in London Heathrow. In my case I didn't have any emotional attachment to the item and it only cost around £3 to replace, so I threw it away, however I discussed with the security and the airline what my options were. They offered me the following options:

  1. Throw it away (I actually ended up doing just that)
  2. Post it to whatever address I wanted it - in Heathrow airport, there is a post office, although not in every terminal.
  3. I could put the item in a separate bag/whatever and check it in. If I didn't have a bag to put it into, there are plenty of shops landside that sell luggage (various bags, suitcases, etc.) - I could purchase the right size bag there, put the item in it and go back to the airline counter to check it in. Depending on the airline and how many bags with how much weight you have already checked in, they may charge you for this additional one.
  4. Refuse to fly - my checked in luggage would be returned to me, but I would forfeit the ticket.

The main point to keep in mind is that you're still landside. Depending on how much time you have left before your flight, you could even go back home, leave the item there and come back to the airport. For example, if you're in Heathrow and live somewhere near Paddington, you can easily get from the terminal to home and back to the terminal in under an hour.

That said, your options may be very much limited by what airport you are in.

If everything else fails and the item is REALLY, REALLY priceless, you can always turn around, go to the airline desk and tell them that you changed your mind and don't want to fly. They will then return you your checked in luggage. You pack your item there, then buy another ticket. Prepare to be quizzed by some men in black though :) "Changing your mind" after having checked in is considered a very suspicious move.

P.S. The item that happened to be in my backpack was an 8mm drill bit for glass and tiles, which I lent to a colleague, then he returned it, I put it in a small outside pocket on the backpack - and completely forgot about it. I flew with this backpack almost 3 months later - and ended up throwing the bit away, as buying a new one was the cheapest option.

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+1 Interesting that drill bits appear to be strictly prohibited. I'm sure that's prevented a lot of terrorist incidents </sarcasm>. Maybe it's a conspiracy to force passengers to check at least one bag... – Spehro Pefhany Feb 8 at 22:30
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If it is something small and replaceable as a drill bit, and if it happens while you are flying out, there is another creative solution: walk out of the airport to the first green area, and bury it like a pirate's treasure. On your return, it will hopefully still be there. – Federico Poloni Feb 9 at 7:10
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@HankyPanky In all my travels around the world, I only have been to one airport where security screening is after the immigration control - Tbilisi, Georgia. I do see your point though, especially if you're on your return flight, having used a single-entry visa. – Aleks G Feb 9 at 13:23
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@AleksG, actually, this is quite frequent... Off the top of my head, security is after (exit) passport control at CDG (at least T2E), SIN, HKG. Not 100% sure, but I believe this is the case in SYD and BNE as well. It is indeed not the case in TLS, BLS, GVA. And of course it's not relevant in countries where there is no explicit passport control on exit (USA, UK...). – jcaron Feb 9 at 14:34
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@Calchas Probably not as suspicious as digging in the ground next to the airport and hiding an unknown metallic object... – Federico Poloni Feb 10 at 13:22

In the US, according to the TSA you have some options:

When prohibited items come through the checkpoint, passengers are given options:

  1. Take the item to the ticket counter and check it in your baggage or a box provided by the airport.
  2. Many airports have a US Postal Service or other shipping services area where boxes, stamps and envelopes can be bought so you can ship your items home.
  3. If there is somebody seeing you off, you can hand the prohibited item to them.
  4. If your car is parked outside, you can take the item to your car.
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As a special case of #2, at some airports there is an (unmanned) kiosk right by the security line where you can pay to have the item mailed back to you. These are operated by private companies and they typically charge a price that's higher than the standard postage. – Nate Eldredge Feb 8 at 23:21
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This is very useful -- in particular, I had no idea that the airport could provide a box for packing such items. – Federico Poloni Feb 9 at 7:12
    
+1 I once ended up checking my carry on. Wedding gift, cutlery set. Oops. Had some explaining to do, but managed to catch my flight. – sq33G Feb 14 at 12:49

This option is probably not available everywhere (but it's available in terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5 at Heathrow), it only works if you'll be back to the same airport at some point, and the cost may be a tad high if you'll be away for while (but probably cheaper than the fees for an extra checked bag): just leave the item as left luggage!

The company managing this at Heathrow can also (supposedly) wrap, ship, deliver items, and they sell accessories.

Not sure how prevalent this is in other airports, but I'm pretty sure most major airport will have similar services.

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If you have friends or relatives in the area, they might be able to claim your left luggage if there is a code, if there is a paper ticket or key you might be able to get that to them within a few days, still faster than waiting till you return from a long trip. – Willeke Feb 9 at 22:31

Something like this happened to me some years ago. I was flying from Sydney, Australia to Bali, Indonesia with China Airways - I think!? There was a final hand-luggage check at the departure gate. I was "randomly" picked and my bag was checked. Unfortunately, I'd completely forgotten that my Leatherman Wave was in my hand luggage!

Leatherman Wave Tool

Apart from the initial shock of the security guard finding the above item, I was rather surprised that it hadn't been found earlier going through X-Ray. My hand luggage was basically my day bag that I'd been carrying around for weeks (I was backpacking).

Anyway, they were great about it. They gave me a "receipt" and the item travelled separately. I then picked it up from the "confiscated items" counter when I got to my destination. No additional cost, no time wasted. I think I was lucky!

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A few years ago, I had a nice big screwdriver with removable bits which I had forgotten about in my laptop bag for a while. It travelled (at least) CDG-HKG-SYD-HKG, and it's only in HKG that they eventually noticed it! – jcaron Feb 9 at 22:38
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@jcaron Did you manage to keep it? I would have been completely gutted had I lost my Leatherman. Not only was it my only dependable (and truly awesome) tool whilst travelling, it was a gift and had been engraved. – w3d Feb 9 at 23:23
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I was so stunned it was there (and just out of an 8-hour flight connecting onto a 12-hour flight) that I didn't put up much of a fight (especially with the SO looking at me like I was crazy having that in my bag)... – jcaron Feb 9 at 23:34
    
Throwing away a Leatherman should be illegal. – Stefano Borini Feb 14 at 16:34

In San Francisco (and probably other airports?) there are small self-serve dropboxes, next to the line to go through security. You can take an envelope from the supply on top, fill it out, including writing your credit card number down, and they will ship the contents to you for about $20.

I did this a few years ago, when I forgot to leave my pocketknife at home. I felt like a chump paying the $20, but since the knife would cost me $30 to replace, I did it. About a week after I returned home, the package arrived.

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Japan

The time I made this mistake with a multi-tool in Toyama (around 2007 I think), I simply (and even with my limited Japanese it was simple) brought the situation to the attention of the checkpoint workers, who handed me a plastic bag with a form on it to fill out, stuck the article in the completed form-bag, tore the receipt off the top and handed it to me, and made the tool disappear into the bowels of the airport.

After we landed at Haneda, I went down to baggage claim where I found the "forbidden articles" desk (conveniently labeled in Kanji, Romanji and English).

The only snag was that the man who was tasked with helping passengers get their bags off the carousel was also the person working the desk. So I had to wait until all the luggage was removed from the carousel before I could recover my tool. That last bit feels like a Japanese solution to me and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was done that way on purpose.

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I once realized I had my pocket knife with me and I was not checking any bags. I went outside and buried it in the dirt. A week later when I can back, I dug it back up.

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My home airport has a kiosk near where the line forms for security that's meant for mailing things that can't fly. It's nowhere near as obvious as it should be, I wasn't aware of it until the day I found myself almost in front of it waiting for my wife in the restroom. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the security people know about it and can direct travelers there but neither have I seen them direct anybody there. (I haven't seen them fail to, either--the only contraband I've seen caught was water.)

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I would ask someone that is not going to fly to keep the item safe until my return, and offer money in order to do so.

Even though you are asking a favor to a random stranger, this is not as awkward as it sounds. And there are plenty of options you could choose. This would work better if the person in question lives in the same city as you, but it really depends on the circumstances.

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Although this would work I'm not sure how you'd find such a person. I think you're maybe thinking of the staff in the airport -- I'm not even sure if they'd be allowed to accept things from a passenger. I just don't see how this would actually work in real life. – SpaceDog Feb 9 at 5:15
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I did exactly this once: I asked a gal working behind the counter at a shop near security if she could hold my very nice pocket knife. She put it under the counter, refused to be paid, and refused to be responsible for it. It was still there on my return. Very few people will actually lie to your face, even if they never met you before. – Jeffiekins Feb 9 at 19:28
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I would not accept "packages" from random strangers at an airport – EdmundYeung99 Feb 9 at 20:26
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@EdmundYeung99 I would not accept closed "packages" either, but if the object is in plain sight (a pocket knife for example) and not questionable (a bottle of fluid) then I think most folks might be willing to help. I would however ask for identification and a short handwritten note from the person leaving the item. The note would (in plain language) acknowledge ownership and waive liability if the item is lost. I would personally copy the id info onto the bottom of the note (to be sure it is correct). – O.M.Y. Feb 10 at 15:35
    
I accidentally had a knife with me once at the Manchester NH airport. This was pre 9/11. Small airport. I went to the police office in the airport and explained it to the guy. While not part or their normal service, and probably against policy, he agreed to hold it for me until I returned a few days later. It was there at the police office in the airport when I got back. – chadbag Feb 12 at 19:14

In most of the Europe, if you are found with prohibited items you are given a chance to go back to the Airline counter and arrange a checked in service (maybe meaning that you'll have to buy a bag to put it in).

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I have indeed seen counters that will pack and ship for you, at some expense. I believe I saw that in Zurich and London, but memory is foggy. I've also noticed long after that something prohibited went through without getting caught, which can be annoying in a difficult-to-describe way.

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I find it difficult to understand your last sentence. What do you mean? Why would it be annoying if you can bring the item with you without hassle? – Federico Poloni Feb 8 at 21:59
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Because that also means a Bad Guy with a (gun|knife|mace|H-Bomb) didn't have his stuff examined either. – Andrew Lazarus Feb 8 at 22:01
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@FedericoPoloni That's not the only problem. You might have a very hard time if you're chosen for secondary screening at the gate and the item is found on you. They will assume that you intentionally hid the item to get it past security. Good luck proving otherwise. – Aleks G Feb 8 at 22:04
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@AndrewLazarus Look at the bright side; what you've managed to slip through inadvertently isn't nearly as bad as some of the other stuff people have gotten on board with. ;) One of the most egregious I can remember hearing about was a U.S. Army Green Beret who had forgotten that he had 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) of C4 in his bag. He completed at least one flight with no one noticing and TSA finally noticed on his return flight. – reirab Feb 8 at 22:59
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@AleksG If you forgot about some item, and the first security check didn't find it, but it is found at some secondary gate screening, then you're still in the same position you'd be in if it were found at the first security check; you just forgot about it. If anyone would be in trouble, it's the first security check personnel for not doing a proper job. – Xen2050 Feb 9 at 11:01

Going to post my answer from another question here again:

Same thing happened to me at Schiphol with a rather expensive Leatherman Tool. Went back out, down to the newspaper stand and brought a boatload of postage stamps. They were even kind enough to give me a free envelope (otherwise I was going to wrap it in a sheet of paper).

Dropped it in the mailbox and went back, took perhaps 15 minutes in all. Needless to say a very strange letter but was lying in the mailbox when I got back.

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Some airlines (like Avianca in Colombia), have mail service that sends packages between airports, so another option could be sending the item to yourself and pick in your destination

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