I left behind a family heirloom tucked within a seat cluster at Gate D36, American Airlines in Dallas, Texas, at 9:30pm August 3rd before we even boarded a plane. A friend found a 1950s calendar from my in law’s store when they remodeled their kitchen, and felt it was meant to be returned to our family, presenting it to us as we hugged good bye. We crumbled with gratitude and sentiment. It was wrapped securely enough within a bright yellow packing tube about 25″ high and 4″ diameter and affixed with a label marked “Donna P…” Believing it too precious for suitcase cargo or mail, and too excited and impatient to think it through, it seemed a natural carry on. Then our departure was delayed 4+ hours and required 3 unusually distant gate shuffles. And I was dumb.
“GOOD NEWS!” the American Airlines agent exalted at the final stop. “Returning pilot has agreed to continue with this flight back to Boston.” I remember turning to my husband to ask if the pilot’s tired I’m ok with waiting, you know? No longer sluggish, we herded through the jetway eager to sit again. By the time we clicked the overhead compartment shut, I remembered too late the irreplacable item I neglected to grab. The flight attendant said the captain would alert a gate agent, but there was nothing more to be done. We arrived home hopeful that our package might stand out at baggage or Lost and Found. The FAQ directions for American Airlines provide a link to a rather straight forward on-line form. It was a relief how simple it was to fill out, and that a system was in place. Plus the pilot had alerted the gate immediately.
But it wasn’t simple. It turns out that there are at least two lost and founds: the airport and any individual airline. The two lost and found lists we needed are managed by “Chargerback Lost and Found Solutions” though they are not connected. Items returned from TSA, public spaces, busses, bathrooms, and airport security are filed with the airport’s TRAVELERS AID DALLAS/FORT WORTH. Items left at airline gates are handled separately, in this instance AMERICAN AIRLINES LOST AND FOUND. Was the tube I stupidly left behind tossed out, handed to a gate agent, moved, or delivered to some authority? It didn’t matter. Any scenario was muddled because I left it at an airline gate. Upon hearing that gray area explained I knew we were doomed. Both help lines recommended contacting the other.
Since filing, I receive zero news status updates from both Travelers Aid and American Airlines, emailed within minutes of each other. At first the messages felt reassuring “Nothing has turned up. Don’t worry; we’re still continuing the search.” Also encouraging: “Providing detailed information about your item(s) is the best way to help us with our search.” Ok! So I added the absurd and desperate detail of the tv show streaming the last time I had possession. “I left it by Gate D36 before boarding on flight to Boston– a flight that was delayed 4 hours and gate switched 3 times. Our family sat in black chairs designed in a round configuration watching a single big screen TV in the gate area showing a special on Machu Picchu. The tube was left standing up, tucked right alongside chairs. Our backs were to windows of gate. Our chairs were the only ones facing the impossible to miss tv.” Lost and Found pleas would make a strange published volume.
After receiving the same form response multiple times, the Lost and Found closing remarks loom most: “If we are unable to find any items that match the description of your reported lost item within 30 days of your report, we will send you an email advising you that our search was unsuccessful, and your report will be closed.” Has any item ever been returned via this rote route?
I googled Lost and Found success stories related to the airline and airport. The news was grim and mostly related to items left behind on planes. “Return” stories if any involved people heading back to the airport immediately. Others entailed police reports and security cameras. We did not have a good enough friend in Dallas to dig through the airport for us, nor did we feel our selfish ask warranted bothering police. Until we did. And that was way too late. We should have made the phone call to the airport non- emergency police in addition to the Lost and Found reports within the first 24 hours. There’s a shelf life on security footage and our travel date expired. I’m sure there are people who might have done this automatically, because the police officer I spoke with said it happens all the time and not to worry. I’m sharing this tip in case you’d hesitate as we did. We’ll never know if it could have helped. Also, we’re not on Facebook. Social media may have helped though we were told that the Lost and Found reports are not set up with social media feeds. Perhaps this experience will make its way to the Dallas Airport and American Airlines Lost and Found customer service departments, and the tube will stand out.
(Our package tube is not little, but it is yellow. I’ll use any excuse to listen to Ella.)
INC.com published 8/17/18 Why is Your American Airlines Flight Late? Here’s Brutally Honest Reason Why (From the American Airlines President) by Bill Murphy Jr. “…So, the company’s president, Robert Ison, offered an explanation for American Airlines’s bad performance–an impressively honest one. One of the key reasons he cited? It’s a bit surprising: American has a lot of old planes, he reportedly said. Old planes simply break down and need maintenance more often.” Airport Lost and Found items increase from delays– bound to happen with tired travelers, some minding kids, and gate shuffling. The airport and the airline could cut down on operating costs related to Lost and Found sharing one system. Lost and Found could generate positive customer experiences rather than finger pointing, ridiculous “space” blame, loss, even theft.