What To Do When You Leave Your Belongings On A Plane

It happens to the best of us. Small belongings we bring with us onboard an airplane inevitably get sucked into that little black hole we call the "seatback pocket," and after a long day of travel it can be easy to forget to double-check it before leaving. But make the mistake once, and you'll surely never make the same snafu again.

Additionally, you may have a harder time retrieving items of value, as one woman found out when she left her Apple AirPods behind on her flight and ended up tracking them to an airport employee's home, per CNN. Yikes! Unfortunately, electronics disappearing into the ether after being left on an airplane is not an uncommon anecdote among forgetful travelers. Whether it's because of individual malice or genuine incompetence on the airline's part, it is up to you to decide. Regardless of why it happens, though, there are some things you can do to reunite yourself with your lost items and prevent it from happening in the first place.

How to get your most important items back

Yes, it's possible that you will get your stuff back if you've forgotten it on your plane. However, it depends on what you left in your seat. If you left something essential on the plane — like your passport or wallet — and you've already left the plane and exited the jetway, you cannot go back onto the plane to retrieve it. However, you can immediately return to the gate, notify the agents or airport employees, and let them know what happened and which seat you sat in. The flight crew will search the plane for it if they are still aboard, or the cleaning crew will retrieve it when they search the plane. Depending on the airline's or airport's policies, the item(s) may be returned to you at the gate if you're quick enough or even at baggage claim. Though, if you forgot your passport, this will be heavily dependent on the airline, the airport, and how strict the border control is at your destination. They are equally as likely to just send you back on this first flight home.

If you lost your valuables upon returning back to your home country or were flying domestically and didn't realize until you got home, the airline or airport may try and contact you or — if they don't — you can inquire with the airport's lost and found. Information on this can usually be found on the airport's website.

Ways to avoid forgetting your things on the plane

It's completely normal to forget things from time to time, and sometimes there's just no avoiding it! It happens. However, we can take some conscious steps to avoid forgetting something as important as a passport or laptop on our flight. First, small important items — like passports and wallets — should always be returned to the same pocket in your backpack, carry-on, or purse. This way, when you take them out to show them to airport staff or to pay for items, you know exactly where they are every time. Never (and we really mean never) put these items in the seatback pocket. It's far too easy to forget them in there as it enters the out-of-sight-out-of-mind territory.

For electronics, the same line of reasoning can be applied. Always have a designated pocket for these items. You may want to go a step further and write your contact information on the case, like the cover of your Kindle or tablet, the sleeve of your laptop, or the inside of your headphone case. For small electronics like earbuds, you may simply have to rely on keeping track of these closely and follow the previous advice not to leave these items in the seatback pocket.