INSIDER TRAVEL SECRETS

Confessions of an Airline Lost and Found Agent

Did you leave your camera, iPad, or teddy bear on the plane? Here’s how to get it back without a fuss. Plus, we’ve got the inside scoop about the silliest things discovered in the lost and found department at Southwest Airlines—and some of them might surprise you!

THE BEST PART OF THE JOB

That's one of the great things about working here. We have the opportunity to really see folks who thought that there was no chance they were going to see their item again, to change that, and to see them so happy is just really a blessing for us. The feedback we get from our customers—we get lots and lots of letters. A lot of thank you's and sharing some of the things they went through and how they couldn't believe that they got these back. We've had a lot of really good praise from our customers thanking us for the service.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU LEAVE SOMETHING ON THE PLANE

Within the first 24 hours, they should contact the baggage service office in their arriving city. If the item hasn't been located or it's been more than 24 hours, they should go on Southwest.com or AirTran.com and fill out a Lost Item Report. That report is really critical. It gets really good information, detailed information including serial numbers, and it really enables us to match them up with their lost items to return them. It really depends a lot on when they contact us, but typically, if they contact us in short order and get back to us when they're contacted that we have found their item, usually we can get it back to them in just a couple of days. It works really well. We give them multiple ways that we can return the item to them, but typically we use FedEx, and we can get it back to them next-day if it's really pressing.

HOW TO GET YOUR STUFF BACK—AND WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON'T

When a customer fills out that report, we immediately send them back an email confirmation, and we give them continued emails just to let them know the status of the search for their item, but once we actually find the item, we contact the customer and ask them how they'd like to have it returned. So usually, primarily we use FedEx, but we will use other shipping methods if the customer prefers it. All items are processed by a third party and with the proceeds going to charity, Southwest earns no revenue from lost and found items at all. Additionally, it's a no charge service that we're doing for our customers. Really no other airline in our industry goes to the lengths we do to reunite our customers with their items. It has really been just a huge, huge win for us. We actually started some of these new processes almost exactly a year ago with the ability for customers to go online and our return rate and the ability to really reunite our customers with their items has been just tremendous. In just the last year, we've seen probably a 400 to 500 percent better rate of returns than we were able to do before—even high value items were somewhere around a 300 percent increase in what we've been able to return to our customers.

ALWAYS REMEMBER TO CHECK YOUR SEAT BACK POCKET

There are so many folks that leave things behind and they're just not thinking about it. We had a lady recently that had lost an item—I believe it was an iPad. We were able to find it for her and return it to her, and she was really happy about that of course. She flew a couple of days later and was sitting in her seat and the flight attendants actually got on the overhead and asked everyone to check their seat back pockets to make sure that nothing had been left behind, and her response was, are they talking to me because I was the one who lost something the last time? But anyway, she ended up checking her seat back pocket and had left her Notebook in there, and she was like, oh my gosh, how could I have done this again? So, you wonder how people do it the first time, but it's easy to do it multiple times. Folks just aren't thinking about that. It's crazy.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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