The cobra in the Pringles can, and other secrets of America’s busiest airports

A peek inside the bizarre world of airport contraband.


November 27, 2019

The highest-flying celebrities depart through a private terminal. Your confiscated contraband often gets sold at auction. And your music-playing birthday card can set off a panic in the security line. 

Those are just a few untold stories of screening agents at LAX

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brandon Presser got an irresistible assignment. He had the chance to work up close with TSA agents at Los Angeles International Airport.

One thing he learned: At LAX, your banned items are collected, sorted, and logged at a giant lost-and-found facility. After 90 days, anything that’s left unclaimed is sold to the highest bidder.

It’s not just belts and watches. Among the items left behind: surfboards, a sleep apnea machine, and dozens of computers. If you need a tablet or laptop, the LAX lost-and-found has some 6k.

Another takeaway: Airport food prices are outrageous

The markup on food and drinks at LAX is about 18% above what you’d find at a typical store.

Why so much? Our Zachary Crockett solved this infuriating mystery a few months ago. Fact is, airport retailers must cover a ton of high costs, including construction, rent, labor, and security.

But that doesn’t stop LAX travelers from consuming, among other things, more than 120k pounds of orange chicken.

What’s the strangest item you’ve ever seen carried on a flight? Drop us a line at [email protected], and we’ll share our favorites in an upcoming send.

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