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When you fly with little kids, you are likely hitting the skies with lots of stuff. The more stuff and little hands you have onboard, the more likely something gets left behind. We have a pretty good system in place for packing up the big ticket items towards the end of the flight and thankfully don’t have a track record of losing very many major things on planes (knock on wood). But, every system has cracks, on our most recent United flight home from Grand Cayman, my Coach sunglasses decided they weren’t done vacationing as we exited the plane.
They were very much on my face as we boarded the plane as shown in Exhibit A below, but had somehow disappeared by the time we were off the plane.
My best guess is that in the process of unhooking the car seat and getting our stuff and children together to exit, they either fell off from being hooked on the top of my dress, or I sat them down for a moment never to pick them up again. Now, they are several years old, probably a bit dated, have scratches on the lenses, and are certainly well beyond any built-in credit card purchase protections, but I’d still prefer to have them rather than not have them. Once we realized they were indeed not stashed in any corner of any bag, I brushed up on what to do when you leave an item on an airplane.
What to do when you leave an item on the airplane
My mom has been through this before and ultimately was successfully reunited with the iPad she left on a Frontier Airlines flight into Houston. As I shared then, if you are still at the airport, the best thing to do is go back to the gate, or at least the check-in counter, and plead for help from the airline staff with all the information about your missing item that you have available. The longer you wait to start the search, the further away your item will likely become. Getting a real human involved in the search ASAP is preferable if at all possible.
If the item is an electronic with a built-in tracking feature, I would use that feature to track the item as soon as possible as it can be intentionally disabled very quickly in the wrong hands. In my case, my sunglasses clearly don’t have a tracking feature, and since we were already long gone from the airport when I accepted that the sunglasses were really missing I didn’t get to plead at the gate for them to re-check row 24 seats D, E, and F.
Since I had already left the airport, all I could really do was fill out United’s online lost item search form that almost all of the major US airlines now have available on their websites. The one major US airline without an online lost item search form is Spirit, and they ask you to contact the baggage office at the airport where you landed for assistance with an item left onboard.
Fill out online airline missing item forms
For United and the other US airlines with online lost item forms, you need to provide a detailed description, including brand, color, size and distinguishing features for your lost item. If you’ve lost an electronic item, it is best if you can provide the item’s serial number. The online tracking system used by United and several other airlines will automatically notify you that the search for your missing item has begun, and provide you follow-up messages at 2, 5, 15 and 30 days after a lost item is reported.
- American Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Spirit – have to go through the airport’s baggage office
Unfortunately for me, the updates have so far have been that the item has not been found.
I’m not very hopeful that my sunglasses will ever make their way back home, but I know of multiple success stories where owners and items are ultimately reunited thanks to the airlines’ lost and found systems and procedures. At least you have a chance to bring your sunglasses back from vacation if you fill out the airline lost item tracking forms.
Have you ever left something on an airplane and then used the lost item tracking forms to locate your missing item?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.