Leaving behind belongings on a plane is a frustrating, and potentially scary, situation. In this video/post, we cover the process of getting back your valuables when you realize that you left something on the plane.

A couple of years ago, I was flying back from Europe and had purchased several pricey boxes of chocolates at the airport as souvenirs and travel gifts for my family. I carried everything onto the plane with me, and placed it in the overhead bin since there was space. But after the flight was over and I had left the plane with my luggage, I realized that I left the chocolates behind.

At the time, I figured it was probably a lost cause to get it back. But when a co-worker of mine who took a red-eye flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles accidentally left his laptop on the plane, it made me curious about the subject.

Is it lost forever?

The good news is that if you leave something valuable behind on a plane, it’s very possible to get it back. The only drawback is that it can take a while, and you’ll have to fill out a ton of paperwork. Most of the airlines have an online form that you can complete to initiate the process.

The key to getting back your valuables is to act quickly and provide as much information as possible. Having information like the model and serial number can help identify the item. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes have the item intercepted by the staff before it goes into the lost and found process.

If you’re curious about my co-worker, he did eventually get his laptop back from Delta. It took about three months for the airline to locate and ship it back to him. He didn’t notice that his laptop was missing until he came into the work the next day, which meant that it had already entered the lost and found process. Had he noticed it sooner, he might have been able to get it back before it went into the lost and found process.

Additional tips and considerations

Besides filling out a claim and waiting, here are some tips that can improve the odds of getting your belongings back.

1. Go to the gate if you’re still at the airport:

If you’re in still in the terminal, ask the gate staff if they can contact the crew on-board. Having information like the seat number can help. If you ask nicely, most reps should be able to coordinate a quick search as long as the plane isn’t being boarded by the next flight.

2. Use social media to engage airline support:

Engaging airline support via Twitter can make a huge difference. Many airlines actively monitor their social media accounts. Sending them a quick note via Twitter or Facebook is generally the fastest way other than going directly to the gate.

3. Keep a record of the model and serial number:

Any specific identification info can help with locating process. Having the information available in a tool like Evernote or OneNote can make it easy to retrieve the information from your phone or another device.

4. Make sure that to turn on tracking features on your device:

If your phone, tablet, or laptop has a tracking feature, then make sure it is activated. For example, Apple devices have a “Find my Phone” and “Find my Mac” feature that be activated for free in the iCloud settings.

5. Lock your device:

Make sure you add a passcode or password login to your device before your trip. It’s good practice even when you’re not traveling as it protects information from being stolen.

6. Attach a physical tracking device:

This might be overkill, but attaching a Tile or similar device can add another way to track your item. Tile offers adhesives that you can attach to your device. It’s not foolproof, but can help if your device doesn’t already have a tracking method built-in.

Have you ever left something valuable behind on a plane? If so, were you able to get it back? Please let us know in the comment section below.


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