Data doesn't add up on study of missing laptops at U.S. airports

There's a gap between what airports claim and what a study says

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

A Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman attaches caveats to the agency's statistics. She said they only represent laptops found in public areas of the airports, such as baggage claim areas, airport shuttles and restaurants. A laptop left on an aircraft would be handled by the airline. If the laptop is left at a TSA checkpoint, the TSA would take responsibility for it, so the Washington Airports Authority's numbers of lost and missing laptops aren't necessarily complete.

Larry Ponemon, who heads the research institute, said the difference between the study's findings and the laptop incident numbers reported by the airports is a result of the methodology used by his researchers. The study involved interviews with "rank and file" personnel who cover a wide range of areas in airports, including TSA checkpoints, facilities, departure gates and retail establishments.

Those airport workers are more aware of what Ponemon said accounts for the lion's share of the 12,000 laptops lost each week: Laptops that are temporarily lost in airports but quickly recovered. One example would be someone who leaves an airport restaurant or security checkpoint without his or her laptop but then promptly returns to claim it. Such an incident would not be reported in official statistics, he said.

Ponemon said he stands by his finding that 12,000 laptops are lost at airports each week, but he said he plans to revise the study to better explain its methodology. He also said there is a need to clarify the report's assertion that "only 33% of the laptops lost and found in airports are reclaimed."

Ponemon said he believes the recovery rate of lost laptops may be as high as 85% because laptop owners who are temporarily separated from their computers are likely to be reunited with them.

Even for those laptops that turn up in an airport lost and found, Washington area airport authorities say the recovery rate is high. At Dulles, 37 of the 43 laptops lost in 2007 were returned to owners; at Reagan National, 269 of the 276 lost laptops were also returned. Ponemon said his study reflects the varying rates of success, depending on how aggressive individual airports are in reuniting laptops with owners.

Ponemon said he is planning a second study to help validate the results of this laptop loss study by surveying business travelers about their own experiences with laptops.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon