What to do if you leave something on the plane

Dec 28, 2019

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The plane taxis to the gate, the seat belt sign comes off, you gather up your belongings, your kids, your kids’ stuff, the stuff you dropped, etc. and try to get off the plane as quickly as possible. No matter how long the flight, for some reason (probably having to do with the 100+ people behind you also waiting to deplane), getting off the plane often becomes a harried and stressful experience.

Being stressed, tired or in a hurry are key ingredients for accidentally forgetting something important on the plane.

Once you realize you forget your phone, wallet, computer, the kids’ beloved toy, or some other essential item behind on the plane, it’s often too late to just turn around and head to your assigned row to retrieve it.

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(Photo by Peter Bannan/ Getty Images)
(Photo by Peter Bannan/ Getty Images)

Recently, even actress and singer Mandy Moore fell victim to accidentally leaving an iPad on a flight home when she was already not feeling very well.

Unfortunately, my family has also had this scenario play out a few times, notably once when my mom forgot her iPad on a Frontier Airlines flight to Houston. Luckily, both Mandy my mom’s stories have happy endings thanks to both of them being very proactive in tracking down their lost items.

Here’s what to do if you forget something 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. You likely can’t get back on the plane yourself, but they can. Tell them exactly where you think it was left on the plane. The quicker you act, the easier it 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 really helped in Mandy’s case, but you don’t have to have 2 million followers to get help on Twitter.
  • If you don’t check with the airline while you are still at the airport, still contact the airline’s airport location where your item was likely offloaded to see if it is being stored locally.
  • If the item you left is something like a phone or iPad, track it using ‘Find My iPhone’ or similar to narrow down which city it may be in. Of course, it will run out of battery eventually, so do this sooner rather than later.
  • Contact the airline and find out its exact procedures for lost items. This will likely include filling out an online form such as these with Delta, United and American. You’ll then get updates from the airline in your inbox. If the item is found, you may be asked to pay for shipping charges to have it returned.

When my mom (Grandma Points) realized on the drive home from the airport a few years ago that she didn’t have her iPad, she immediately contacted Frontier’s customer service number. Sadly, it was closed for the night by the time she called, but she filled out the online Frontier lost and found form and waited for morning.

She called Frontier again the next day and was told that items left on a plane are returned to the city the flight originated in. From there, lost items are sent to corporate headquarters. However, she was told that some airports hold lost items a day or two before sending them back from where they came. 

Since it had been less than 24 hours since her flight, she was encouraged to head back to the Houston airport and ask the Frontier check-in counter for help. To her complete shock — they had her iPad!

Related: Best credit cards for booking airline tickets

lost ipad

Hopefully, you can be reunited with your forgotten item if this happens to you. But, if it doesn’t work out, you still might be able to rely on purchase protection for the lost item thanks to your credit card. If it was your cellphone that was left behind on the plane, you may have some protection based on the credit card that you use to pay the monthly bill. 

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

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images

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