One of the most challenging aspects of traveling, for me, is keeping track of all my stuff. I do my best to keep everything in a relatively sensible place, but sometimes once I hit that airplane seat (especially for a long flight) all chaos breaks loose. Did I put my passport in my wallet, or did I throw it in the grocery bag of snacks I’m carrying? Did I put my wallet in my backpack or did I stick it in the seat pocket? Here’s some advice: never stick anything in the seat pocket. You’ll thank me later.
Anyway, let’s expand this thought experiment to one of the worst-case scenarios. Picture this: your plane has landed and you’ve become but one exhausted person in a herd of exhausted people, all pushing through the bottlenecked aisle and rushing towards the arrivals hall. In an effort to disembark as quickly and painlessly as possible, you hastily shuffle out of your row and off the plane.
But eventually, the next time you reach for your passport, your wallet, your tablet, even your laptop bag — it’s not there. Your chest tightens, your face flushes, your head spins — cue panic.
If this ever happens to you, here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: Calm Down
Telling somebody to calm down is absolutely the worst way to encourage them to calm down, but nevertheless, it needs to be done. Don’t panic, or panic as quickly as possible and get it over with. Scream into your travel pillow. Practice grounding and square-breathing. Do your best to clear your head, because you need to act quickly.
Step 2a: Airside
Retrace your steps and go back to the gate. Since it’s likely that another flight will soon be departing from your arrival gate, it’s best to get there as quickly as possible. Speak to the gate agent and describe your lost item to them; it’s also helpful to remember your seat number and, if you can, where you think you might have left your item. The gate agent will then alert a crew member to look for your item, and you’ll get it back from them.
Step 2b: Carside
Just your luck; you’ve cleared the security border and now you realize you’ve left something behind. Don’t worry; just head to the baggage representative for your airline and file a lost and found claim. It might be a little early for your item to have ended up in the lost and found already, but the representatives also have the ability to call the gate directly to check whether or not anything was retrieved from the plane that matches the description of your item.
Step 2c: You’ve Already Left
If you were in such a hurry that you didn’t have the time to realize that something was missing, and you’re not able to physically return to the airport, who you gonna call? Baggage claim. The first number you should dial is baggage claim at the airport, and file a report that something is missing. Chances are, they may already have it for you in the lost and found.
Additionally, you can visit the website for your airline; most airlines have a webpage specifically for reporting and claiming lost items. On top of that, if social media is good for anything, it’s customer service. Try Facebook or Twitter to get ahold of your airline, and a representative will most likely be able to direct you in your quest to retrieve your item.
Once your item is located, it can be a bit of a process to get it back. In some cases, the airline will fly it to an airport near you on another flight, and then you’ll be responsible to pick it up or have a designated person pick it up on your behalf. But before that happens, you’ll likely have to follow a bit of a paper trail to make sure the item is really yours, that you’re willing to go through the bureaucratic steps to get it back, and that the powers that be have crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’. Bottom line: prepare for an exercise in patience, but you’ll eventually get your item back.
Step 3: Learn
Leaving something behind isn’t a moral flaw, nor is it something that happened because you did anything wrong. It is, however, a reminder to all of us to be vigilant about our space and stuff.
If you tend to be a forgetful person, consider investing in a carry on bag that can store all of your stuff in a designated spot and be intentional about storing things in their place. Always remember to label your luggage, and again, never stick anything in the seat pocket!
Have you ever left something on a plane before? Did you get it back?
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