Each day millions of people crisscross the globe on flights. Domestically the airlines tell us that 99.5% of all checked bags arrive safely. Of the .5% that don’t, an astonishing 95% are ultimately reunited with their owners. But given the sheer number of flights each and every day that still leaves an incredible amount of lost luggage. Add to that the whacky items passengers leave on planes tucked into the black hole of an airline seat pocket, and you have an impressive, if not strange array of left items. You’ll be shocked to hear what has been lost or left on planes. And so that’s exactly what we’re about to do.
Robert Lehr, Manager of Central Baggage Services for Southwest says, “Basically, if you can carry it on a plane, it’s been left on a plane.” That includes the usual assortment of cellphones, iPads and e-Readers, but also prosthetic limbs, a glass eye or two, and even a few live snakes. One unnamed carrier found a live monkey dressed up in a dog suit in a small canine carrier. Of course the owner who went through so much trouble to smuggle his pet left him tucked under the seat in front of him.
In the US a good portion of all missing luggage ultimately ends up at Unclaimed Baggage, which since 1970 has been a retail clearinghouse of sorts for lost bags. The company, which has a sprawling retail store in Alabama, buys the wayward luggage, sorts the “treasures”, discards the junk and prices and sells the rest. Over the years they’ve found a missile guidance system (which was returned to the US Air Force), ancient African artifacts, more than a few Wedding Gowns and even a full suit of amour; talk about overweight charges.
These days with airlines charging for checked bags more items are ending up being left on planes than ever. Several years ago one our Producers was on a flight with one of the three stars of the movie Charlie’s Angels (we won’t say who). But the distracted star left a copy of the movie’s script in the seatback pocket when leaving the aircraft. Our hero Producer noticed this and promptly returned the script to her. The star was extremely appreciative and thanked our Producer profusely, though didn’t see fit to give him a kiss. He still bemoans that fact to this day.
We can’t be too judgmental of what others leave on planes however as our crew once deplaned in Lima, Peru leaving a very expensive TV camera onboard. Happily it was reunited with our Cameraman and the shoot continued. This though is a cautionary tale of how easy it is to leave things on planes or lose luggage. By the way, the free drinks in Business Class may have contributed somewhat to our team’s forgetfulness. Still things do happen, items go astray and bags are lost.
To make sure that you have the best chance of being reunited with your lost possessions experts recommend that you label everything, inside and out. Put your name, mobile number and Frequent Flyer Account number on all bags; on the outside and on the inside. Also it doesn’t hurt to get in the habit of checking those nasty seatback pockets and overhead bins before deplaning.
So what about you, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve lost or misplaced while traveling? We want to hear your story.