We just came back from a nice Halloween family getaway in Aruba. While we did hit plenty of hiccups at the beginning of our stay at the newly-converted Hilton (the former Radisson that I frequently raved about), thankfully it was resolved favorably, and we were able to really enjoy ourselves in a relaxed setting at the Marriott (more on that in a later post).The real disaster of the trip was realizing that I had left my purse (a really nice purse, may I add), with virtually my entire life inside of it, onboard the aircraft when I landed back home Sunday night. Imagine that pit-in-your-stomach feeling just knowing that you’re separated from 3 passports, tons of credit cards, and every form of photo identification you own. It sucks, simply put.
What was even more upsetting was the fact that I had International travel just days later.
Here’s how it all played out:
With two kids in tow, a carry-on, diaper bag, and a backpack, I didn’t think twice to grab my purse from under the seat. I guess I can blame exhaustion, distraction, and/or a lovely phenomenon called “mommy brain” for that slick move.
Our plane landed in Newark at around 9:15 pm, and it took me until I pulled into my driveway at 11 pm to realize my purse was left behind. In a sheer panic, I did everything I could to try to find a direct number to the United Baggage Services department in Newark (there isn’t one, I learned). I then called the United premier line. While the agent was sympathetic, she directed me to file a “lost item” claim online – not exactly reassuring.
Before filing a claim, I hopped in my car and drove back to EWR to see if it had been located or turned in. I was told that the “left on board” rounds for the day were already completed at 9 pm, and to check back again tomorrow. When items are left on board, the cleaning crew or flight crew take those items and deposit them into a secure drop-box at the gate. Those boxes get emptied out on a daily basis and then are sorted by the lost and found department.
I went home empty-handed that night, but I was determined to check back again the following day. Luckily a good friend was at EWR the next morning and offered to check the status for me. He told me that the bag hasn’t come up yet, and also that the bins would not be checked again until Tuesday afternoon! AH!
My anxiety was through the roof, and I felt naked without my belongings… but I still had hope. At this point, I didn’t really care about the purse itself, I just wanted my passport or at least some form of photo identification (aka driver’s license), so that I could get an emergency passport for my trip on Friday. I had already made an appointment at the Stamford, CT passport agency for same-day service as a precaution.
On Tuesday morning, I went my local DMV to attempt to get my license renewed. I was excited to see that the parking lot was rather empty… no lines at the DMV?! Was this going to be my lucky day? False alarm – it was actually closed for election day. So instead, I headed back to EWR… maybe there was some good news waiting for me.
Except there wasn’t. Luckily for once, I got connected with a really great UA baggage service agent named Terrance. He was sympathetic, and I could tell he genuinely cared about me reuniting with my purse. He took a lot of time helping me, and even saved a picture of my purse on his phone to show the head of the lost and found department. He told me to go home and that they would be in touch with me later that night if they found anything.
I waited, and waited… finally at 8 pm, I decided to go back to EWR again. At this point, the whole staff knew me as the annoying woman searching for her purse. The agent I spoke to sighed and said, “we will call you if we locate your stuff, ok?” As a last resort I said, “Look, can I just please take a peek in lost and found myself? This is the worst feeling ever, and I just need to know if I really need to start making progress to a new passport, credit cards, etc. before my trip.”
She let me in the room. My purse and I locked eyes immediately. I was SO relieved. I was also surprised how much stuff was in there! It was FILLED with all types of items left behind.
As much of a stressful hassle this whole process was for me, I’m kind of thankful it happened because I’ve at least learned some lessons about the “left on board” process, and I can pass along some tips to others who might one-day be in the same crummy situation.
- Be extra careful not to leave anything behind: Seriously.
- Don’t have all of your IDs in one place: I’ve now given Mr. Points Traveler my Global Entry ID and some of my credit cards to hold on to in case of an emergency.
- Be proactive: I credit being annoying as heck as the reason I got my purse back in a somewhat “timely manner”. Sure, you can sit back and wait to be contacted, but being proactive helps speed up the process.
What to Do If You Leave Something on Board
- If it is somewhat immediate, try to go back to the gate and see if any crew is on board to check for your item.
- If the plane has already been cleaned, head down to baggage services and see if anything was brought down.
- If not, file a claim online with the airline right away. Be very descriptive! I can’t even tell you how many items I saw when I walked in that room. There were passports, coats, phone, bags, glasses, everything!
- Be super proactive! If you live close enough to the airport, try going back a few times for updates.
- Be friendly. Being arrogant or “DYKWIA” isn’t exactly going to motivate anyone to go out of their way for you.