What to Do If You Forget Something on the Plane

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The plane taxis to the gate, the seatbelt sign comes off, you gather up your belongings, your kids, your kids’ stuff, the stuff you dropped, etc. and you try to get off the plane as quickly as possible to get to your next flight, the bathroom, your final destination, etc. before slowing down those behind you.  It can be a hectic time in family travel, especially with a couple kids in tow (pro tip: deplane last with little kids if you have nowhere else to be immediately).

Then later on your heart drops into your stomach because you realize you forgot your phone, wallet, computer, kids’ beloved toy, or some other essential item behind on the plane.

It is so easy to accidentally leave something behind on the plane, especially since it can be tempting to slide skinny objects like iPads and laptops into seat back pockets or similar where they virtually disappear from view.  So, after your moment of panic, what do you do next to increase your chances of getting your items backed?

Well, my mom had this exact scenario play out a few weeks ago with her iPad on a Frontier flight, so here is her story and some suggestions to get back your items if this happens to you.

In the chaos and pressure to deplane, I set my iPad in the seat next to me while I gathered my jacket and under seat bag.  The iPad cover was an identical color to the gray airplane seats and it got left behind.  

I realized on the way home that I didn’t have my iPad,and I immediately went online searching for what to do next. The customer relations 1-800 number had regular business hours and the evening flight time made that a dead end for the moment.

I filed the online Frontier lost and found form and waited for morning so that I could call asking for more guidance. A phone call the next day connected me to the Lost and Found department.  The procedure for items left on the plane was explained to me and did not sound encouraging….items left on the plane are returned to the city the flight originated in, which for us would be Denver. 

At that point, lost items are sent to corporate headquarters….I can feel my iPad gets even further away from me.  If it turned up at corporate headquarters, I would be notified and would be asked to send the amount needed to have it Fed-Exed back to me. However, and it was a big however, I was told that some airports hold lost items a day or two before sending them back. 

Being that I was close enough to the airport, they encouraged me to go back to the Frontier check-in counter and see if they still had it. They gave me the next flight time and time that the counter would be open over the phone.  I went to the airport, and the nicest man (I think he might be Santa Claus doing part time work off-season), said, “I think we have your iPad.”  Hurray!

After some technical verification, I was reunited with my electronic friend. Sometimes Christmas is in October!

lost ipad

Being as proactive as she could be meant that my mom was reunited with her electronic friend very quickly.  Here is a summary of some tips she used, as well as a few others that will increase your chances of getting back something you accidentally leave behind on the plane!

  • If you are still at the airport, go back to the gate ASAP and ask for help from the airline’s staff on retrieving your item.  Tell them where you think it was left on the plane.  The quicker you act the easier it probably will be to get your item back.
  • Utilize Twitter to contact the airline and ask them to contact the gate to assist with getting your item – this is most likely to help if you are still at the airport and the plane has not yet left for the next flight.
  • Even if you don’t remember immediately to check with the airline while you are still at the airport, contact the airline specifically at the airport location where you item was likely off-loaded to see if they may still have it stored locally.
  • If the item you left is something like a phone or iPad, track it if you can to narrow down which city it may be in. This will help narrow down your search.
  • If all of that fails, contact the airline and find out their exact procedures for track down lost items which will likely include filling out an online form such as these with United and American.

Much of the time you can be reunited with your item, but for the times that doesn’t work out you may have some protection based on the credit card you used to purchase the item if the purchase was made in the last few months.

Have you ever left an item on a plane?  Were you able to get it back?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. Always active the Find my iDevice! Last year I left my iPad on the seat of a Super Shuttle. I called immediately, finding out just after the driver pulled away. The dispatcher said they would follow up with the driver. In the hotel I logged into iCloud and locked the device. Later that evening I was called back, with the driver claiming that it wasn’t in the shuttle. The next day I get another call from the dispatcher saying they had the device. After I picked it up the I realized the iPad had been completely erased. However, with the lock activated the iPad could not be restarted without entering my password. Guess the driver thought it was no longer useful and decided to turn it in.

    I also left my iPad on an airplane. Realizing that I left it behind only after getting home and the airport closed, I logged in once again to iCloud. Since I had connected to the airport wifi I could see my device was sitting in the general area of the lost and found. Sure enough, calling the next morning I found out they had it. Finding out quickly online that the iPad was safe put my mind at ease.

  2. I recently left my Bose nose cancelling headphones on an American Airlines plane at my home airport. I didn’t even notice them missing, as I usually put them on my carry-on. the next day I received a call from American letting me know that they had my headphones and I was so glad they did. I was able to set up a pick-up time at the airport counter to get them back. Excellent costumer service from American!

    • Left my Bose headset and my iPod stick. I put them in the seatback and fell asleep then woke up to see that the plane had landed and half of the people had left. In a mad dash to meet my team before our next flight, I took off without them.

      I asked a FA on my next flight what were the chances of them of them being turned in and she said “slim to none – they were a valued commodity that even an FA might keep” and she was right. I called the airlines right after landing from my connecting flight, I filed all of the paperwork, and I checked for months to no avail.

      I actually stopped taking anything I did not need for the trips I took for a year because I was afraid of leaving such a valuable item again. I finally relented after suffering through too much airplane noise and getting a massive ear and headache and bought another set. I have not lost them in (knock on wood) over 4 years.

  3. Different rules on ELAL.
    Do not waste any time, head straight to the lost and found.
    ELAL security will have found your item and turned it in before you even realize it was forgotten. They will not load new pax before the aircraft is “sterile”.
    After a 12 hour flight we hysterically were trying to argue our way back on board to retrieve valuable items, the items were waiting for us as soon as we presented ID.

  4. Two years ago I left my brand new iPhone on the plane. I realized it as we were pulling away from the airport and we immediately called and they had some one at the gate board the plane and look for it but they didn’t find it. I came home, put it in LOST mode (it had been in airplane mode so there was no way I could locate it or call it), filled out appropriate paperwork with the airline and figured it was gone. Well, one month later I got an email saying that my phone had been connected to wifi and it included the address of a home across town. I called the police but still didn’t think anything would come of it. But that night I got a call from the police that they had found my phone. Apparently the home belonged to someone who worked in airport food service who had been sold the stolen phone by someone who worked on the cleaning crew of the airline! They drove the phone to my house and gave it to me (unfortunately the expensive case was missing). I sure hope that guy lost his job!

  5. I left my PASSPORT and the passports for my WIFE AND THREE KIDS in the seat back flying Air Canada from Toronto to LAX. We’d had a delay flying into Toronto from Frankfurt, customs in Toronto was a train wreck, and our connection ended up being VERY tight (like they were closing the doors when we ran up to the gate begging them to keep it open); we’d also been flying already for 12 hours that day. As a result, I failed to put our passports in the standard spot in my backpack, wearily throwing them in the seat back in front of me…and I promptly slept through the entire YYZ-LAX flight. As a result, I totally spaced and groggily left the plane at LAX without said passports.

    And I didn’t realize it for FOUR DAYS, right up until the night before we all had a flight to Mexico!

    I called Air Canada in LAX in a full-on panic, praying against all reason that someone found them jammed into the pocket and could fly them in from wherever the plane found itself. Remarkably, they had found the passports that same night (which was a little surprising, given the trash and used headphones I’ve often found in seat backs!) and had left them at the customer service desk in LAX. We were able to pick them up there on our way out the following morning and all’s well that ended well.

    Needless to say, I don’t care if I miss a flight: I ALWAYS spend the 30 seconds required to throw them in the little dedicated pocket in my backpack now!

  6. This post and the comments are giving me anxiety! I hate losing things, even things that are not very valuable. Just that feeling of knowing you’ve left something somewhere and a stranger is going through it… ugh! Glad your mom found her ipad! Sorry to others that have not been so lucky.

  7. As a frequent traveler, this has unfortunately happened to me several times. I’ve lost two pair of glasses (reunited with one). The one I am very sad about is losing my back support. I realized it an hour after I deplaned and immediately checked; however, another passenger probably picked it up while leaving the plane because there was no sign of it even though the plane was still at the gate. Beyond that I have also left things behind in security and never get those things back.

  8. My wife left her iPad on her seat in FC when we deplaned our Delta flight in SAN last Feb. As we were getting on to the car rental shuttle I received a call from Julie at Delta’s lost baggage office by the carousel asking if I had left a computer on the plane (our tickets were in my DL account). I had my laptop and said “no”, and then I asked my wife if she had her iPad – ??? I told Julie where we were, we jumped off the shuttle just before it was going to pull out, and went back to the baggage office and retrieved the iPad. Kudos to Delta, the FAs and/or plane cleaners who found the iPad, and Julie, who immediately contacted me (we still say “hi” to Julie every time we are waiting for our baggage at SAN).

  9. I love all the stories of successful reunions and hate when it doesn’t work out! I would hate to lose an expensive item of any sort, but I’m always most afraid of forgetting my kid’s blankie or similar since I couldn’t replace that. It is stressful to remember to get all the stuff sometimes!

  10. Could you please explain how to use Twitter to ask an airline to help you out on something. I have a Twitter account and clicked on “follow” a few things like the Washington Post just to see how it worked. I don’t understand how to utilize it to ask for individual help on something. Thanks.

    • Dan, sure. So there are a few ways to do this, namely tweeting at the company directly or sending a direct message. To tweet directly at American you would do something like @AmericanAir – can you help I just left an iPad in the seatback pocket 8A of flight number 123 at the Miami airport.

  11. Leave things at home that you won’t be needing . Then you don’t have to keep track of them .
    I try not to put anything where I am likely to forget it . For instance I would be reluctant to set a brown item on a brown cushion or a small but important/expensive item in a seat pocket .
    My small carry on has one zippered pocket for passport , ticket , boarding pass only . So far I’ve been lucky . Knock , knock , knock !

  12. A couple of years ago I deplaned an overnight Copa flight in PTY and went to the gate where my connecting flight was about to leave. As soon as I got there I realized I left my iPad in the seat pocket. I ran back to the gate and told the gate agent my seat number, but he said he wasn’t allowed. He didn’t offer a solution, so I insisted someone get it. I think the other gate agent (I forget who it was) reluctantly boarded the plane. Thankfully she returned it to me with a snide “you need to be more careful.”

    It all worked out, but sometimes I like to remind myself that customer service in the US isn’t all that bad. Nice job by Frontier!

  13. I left my HTC phone on the plane, coming in from JFK to AUS. We just got off our TK flight that morning, coming in from IST. That’s the first of our miles-influenced trip (paid some w miles, others with $). I was so tired on the AUS-bound flight, I fell asleep looking at pictures that I took with the phone.

    When we got to the baggage claim, I remember about the phone. Immediately asked the AA baggage office to see if anyone find a phone. Filled out lost and found form. Followed up with AA 1-800 number, called the airport the next day (and the day after), no phone. We followed all the tips above, except Twitter.

    Long story short, the phone was not recovered. In it was our video of being treated to impromptu choir recital at Notre Dame de Paris, right after noon Mass.

  14. I have lost way too many items ona plane. Anything high dollar or of importance i always make sure i put in my carry on bag under my feet. A book and a water bottle can go in the seat pocket (if they fit) but ipads, DVD players, phones, passports, etc always go in a carry on or my pocket for me.

  15. Well this is timely, just got off my PDX-HNL flight on Alaska yesterday and came to realize I forgot my GoPro 🙁 called them, they said they’d look and take it back to city of origin if found but unlike an iPhone or iPad the camera is much harder to trace or show as many mine so I doubt I’ll be seeing it again 🙁

  16. Well here’s my story, at present I am sitting in the glorious sunshine in Maui. We flew from Honolulu on Sunday 7th November 10.45am arriving 30 minutes later, iPod in front pocket, iPad in hand reading from it starts taking pictures, oh we’re landing already. Collect items put iPad in bag off we go, pick up our luggage then shuttle to our hotel. As soon as I walked through the door of the reception it hit me I have left my iPad. Hawaiian airlines have been informed, we have phoned Honolulu and Maui list property and nothing. My 1st time forgetting or losing a treasured item so needless to say I am gutted. We fly home to Scotland on Friday night so I will try and try until then. They were notified in just over an hour but nothing has turned up……

  17. I believe! just wanted to update you and let you know AS called me and has found my camera and will be sending it back. My faith is restored. Thank you for this post!

  18. Thank you so much for this post! I did not know where to start when I found out I left my iPad but thanks to you! I even created a Twitter account. I am one of the lucky ones and was able to reunite with it.

  19. 2nd leg of a trip from MSP to Madrid, and I threw up right as the plane was landing. No barf bags in either seat so I threw up on those lovely little blankets they give you and on myself. Had carry on luggage only. Waited until everyone was off the plane so I could go change in the bathroom. Took my necklace off that has my wedding ring, a silver cross, and a mother/child pendant with 3 diamonds in it, and put it in the sink because it needs rinsing too. You guessed it – I left it there. By the time I got out of the bathroom, the only people left on the plane was the flight crew and cleaning crew, and the necklace was too big to go down the drain. Filled out one of those online forms, went the the airport the next morning, and now ( with your hint) reached out to them via Twitter. Nothing yet. Considering calling the Madrid police. Thoughts?

    • I worked for two airlines for 25 years.. because you lost them outside of the USA I think you won’t get them back. I hope you had them insured! Since most cleaning crews are contract and get paid nothing there is no incentive for them to be honest. When I worked at an airport they even stole from us. If they get caught they don’t get fired, nobody wants the job…I don’t bring anything valuable when I go on trips. No jewelry…Sorry this happened!

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