What to Do If You Forget Something on the Plane

Nov 2, 2015

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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?

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