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What to Do If You Leave Something on a Plane

What to Do If You Leave Something on a Plane
Caroline Lupini

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?


[Image Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (3)


  1. j2simpso

    May 20, 2019 at 1:56 am

    Another piece of advice would be calling the airline’s baggage department at the airport.This is different than the general airport baggage claim which is often staffed by people who don’t work for the airline. Not all airlines publicize their baggage claim number for a given airport, but if you can manage to find it they’ll often find it faster than through any other channel. For instance, here’s an example of a fellow FTer who left their laptop behind at FLL who managed to reach out to the airline’s baggage department :

  2. RocketG

    May 21, 2019 at 11:22 am

    I once didn’t realize that my fitbit fell off while I disembarked. As I headed down towards ground transportation I got a call and the agent asked if I’d lost my fitbit. They found it during the plane tidy. They said they’d sent it to security for me and 5 days later I wandered down on my way home and picked it up. (phew).

    More recently I got off the plane, was just inside the gate and realized I’d left my bose headset in the seat pocket. I runted to get it and the agent said that was a no go. I patiently waited and someone went on and retrieved them for me.

    I also once found someone’s id in my seat pocket – I assume that found it’s way to the young lady as well.

  3. randysea

    May 23, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I left a book at my seat on a Delta flight from Paris to Seattle a year or so ago. It was a just published book by a French friend, not any old ratty paperback. She had signed it. I really wanted it back.

    I filed a lost item claim. Lots of emails saying they were “looking hard” for it. Yah, shur, ya betcha. I never got it back. I bet there are so many books left behind they don’t even really look for them.

    A friend left a jacket on a flight from Australia with a very unusual logo and color on it. No way it would look like trash. She immediately filed a claim. Nada.

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