Have you ever wondered how many restricted and prohibited items are confiscated every year by airport security?
The number stands at roughly 400 000 at Helsinki Airport, according to Finavia. While most of the items are water bottles, cosmetics and personal hygiene products that exceed the restrictions on carry-on liquids, occasionally air passengers are faced with the decision of whether to risk missing their flight or lose something of monetary or emotional value.
If you have ever found yourself in such a position, you will be able to empathise with Kimmo Collander, the founder and chief executive of Cotio, a startup offering airports a way to return confiscated items to passengers.
Collander reveals that the business idea was conceived following a “miserable” experience at airport security. “I had forgotten my pocketknife in my hand baggage, and at the time there was no way to reclaim it,” he tells.
Simple but effective
Cotio launched its service at Helsinki Airport in September 2016.
The idea is simple: Whenever airport security staff remove an item from a passenger, they place a sticker with an identification code on the item and present the passenger with a receipt for the surrendered item.
A similar receipt will be used to replace any items removed from checked baggage.
The passenger can then use the identification code to reclaim the item through the online service of Cotio, which delivers it directly to the passenger or to a smart post terminal at the airport.
“Our role depends on the wishes of the airport operator. We can either pick up the items directly from airport security or from a depot used by the airport operator,” says Collander. “We make it as easy and fast as possible for the airport staff. The item is marked, the customer gets the receipt and can order delivery of the item at their own convenience.”
Collander reveals that the startup is currently working on introducing radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to its service to facilitate the monitoring and simplify the pricing of reclaimed items.
He points out that the service is an excellent means for airport operators to improve the customer experience, particularly as security screening is one of the most stressful parts of passengers’ journey through the airport.
“If it leaves a bad taste in their mouth, it’ll stick and the airport may suffer later if they have to make a choice between several alternative routes,” highlights Collander.
Another benefit for airport operators is that the service allows them to resolve conflicts that could otherwise clog up security screening queues.
The benefits for air passengers are more obvious: “Passengers don’t enjoy having to hand over their items – and like getting them back. Some items may have emotional value that can’t be measured in money. They’re especially important,” explains Collander.
Cotio has estimated that roughly a million items worth more than 10 euros are confiscated annually at airport security.
“That’s purely our own estimate,” stresses Collander. “One or two in every 10 000 passengers are potential customers for us.”
He reveals that the three-person startup is currently looking to expand its ownership base and partner up with a few airport operators in Europe. Cotio has already received 150 000 euros in funding from Business Finland.
“We’ll move forward with the partnership contracts in the months to come and should start expanding quite rapidly after that,” he tells.