Have you ever left something on an airplane?  I have.  It’s gut-wrenching the moment you realize you’ve left something behind.  Fortunately, this has only happened to me twice. 

The first time I forgot something on a plane I was just a teenager.  I left my diary in a seatback pocket.  That diary had over a year’s worth of writing in it including an entry from September 11, 2001.  It was irreplaceable, a priceless item.  Luckily, the flight attendant who found it remembered that I was the pilot’s daughter and a few weeks later, she was able to drop my diary into dad’s work mailbox.

The second time I left something, I was not so fortunate.  It happened a year ago.  I was part of the working crew on a flight that had just landed at JFK International Airport.  All of the passengers had deplaned except for one poor single mother who was struggling to get all of her stuff together.  I could tell my co-workers were getting impatient.  A certain number of flight attendants (depending on the type of aircraft) must stay on board the plane until everyone has left.  We were technically “off the clock” and no longer getting paid so everyone was anxious to go home.  I decided to be proactive and offer assistance.  I set my cell phone down on a seat so I could help and that was the last I saw of it.  When I realized my cell was missing an hour later, I called Cabin Cleaning Services, but they “didn’t see it” while picking up the aircraft.  Riiiiight.  Without any sort of tracking software on the smartphone, I am positive that it’s been wiped clean and either resold or kept by the person who found it.

You know how some images just stick with you?  I was prompted to write this entry because this morning I had a sickening memory play through my head.  The memory was sparked by a smell, as so many of my memories are.  When I boarded the plane last week, Cabin Cleaning was still on board tidying up.  A worker approached me with a small, zippered pouch. 

“Is it yours?” she murmured, her lips barely moving as she spoke.

I denied ownership to it, as did my fellow crew members.  The cleaning lady then unzipped the black bag to examine the contents.  She wrinkled her forehead at the tiny, glass bottles inside.

“Oh,” I said with recognition.  “I think those are essential oils.”

The cleaning lady looked at me skeptically.

“You know, oils that you rub on your skin to help with headaches or allergies,” I explained further.

Quickly the woman unscrewed the lid on one of the bottles and smelled.  Then, she passed the bottle to me.  I inhaled the scent of lavender and something sweet.

“Yep,” I nodded as the woman returned the bottle.  “I think they’re oils.”

And just as I was about suggest that I take them to the gate agent so the owner could be contacted.....PLOP!

Without a word, the woman unceremoniously dropped the tiny pouch into a plastic bag filled with garbage.  A weight dropped in my stomach and my jaw went slack.  In my mind, I was seeing dollar figures lost.  Those oils, probably a dozen bottles, may have been worth hundreds of dollars and they were tossed away without a second thought.  I was strongly tempted to put on a pair of plastic gloves and retrieve them, but as I struggled with indecision, the cleaning lady strolled away and the clock hands ticking on my watch urged me to prepare for boarding.

What Should You Do If You Lost Something On The Airplane?

1.  Prepare for the worst.

Unfortunately, your item may have been junked by some thoughtless cabin cleaning crew member or it may have been stolen by someone with less moral integrity than you.  You may want to consider whether or not the item is replaceable.  If you lost a wallet, you may want to start cancelling your credit cards.

2.  Return to the gate.

If you haven’t left security, return to the gate and speak with the gate agent!  This is your BEST chance of retrieving your item.  Tell the gate agent exactly where you left the item and he/she will go back onto the aircraft and look for it.

3.  Write down the facts.

If you’ve already checked with the gate agent or if you’ve left the airport security, prepare a report. Write down all the facts about when and where you lost your item.  This includes:

-Flight Number
-Flight Times (Departure and Landing)
-Seat Number
-City / Airport where the flight landed

4.  Contact the airline.

The contact information for your airline’s Lost and Found should be available on their website.  Report all the information you recorded in step 3.

5.  Contact the airport.

Some airports will also have a Lost and Found contact.  Give them a call and report the information you’ve recorded in step 3.



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    Jenn Grahams

    is a flight attendant and an aspiring writer.  She lives in the Midwest with her husband, many pet fish, and two chinchillas named Kuzco and Pancho.

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