Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October
BY ROGER SLAVENS
How to Track Down Missing Items
What you should know about lost-and-found policies of
airlines, hotels and rental car agencies
The wristwatch was a present from my siblings that I'd worn
since high school graduation without incident. But somehow I lost
it between breakfast in Helsinki and the shuttle ride home from
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Ultimately I received, to
my surprise, a package from Finnair containing my watch along with
notes for a story I hadn't even realized were missing. An attendant
on the Helsinki-JFK flight had found them in the seatback pouch in
front of my assigned seat.
Unfortunately, travelers' lost-and-found experiences don't
always end so happily. The following outlines how the tracking
process generally works for the places you're most likely to lose
something - an airplane cabin, hotel room or rental car. To track
down items left on a plane, call the reservations number and ask
for the lost-and-found department, a customer service
representative or a local number. Call the local branch of the car
agency or the specific hotel for items left there.
LOST IN FLIGHT
Leaving something on an aircraft is risky business. The major
airlines concur that there's less than a 50 percent chance you'll
see it again. "Items clearly marked with some sort of
identification stand the best odds of being returned," says Dave
Castelveter, a US Airways spokesperson. However, commonly lost
objects - glasses, keys, gloves, cellular phones - don't usually
bear an ID.
The process starts with the cleaning of the cabin, done after
every flight by the flight crew and more thoroughly by
professionals when the craft is put to bed at night. If cleaners
find an object in the seatback, the chance they can trace it to you
goes up, since they can use the seat number to get your contact
information. But returning unmarked items in the overhead bin
requires a lot more sleuthing.
"When employees find personal belongings onboard, ideally they
should tag them and mark the seat number - if possible - and flight
number, as well as the date and time," says Toni Rivers, manager of
system tracing for Continental Airlines' baggage headquarters in
Houston. "But realistically, that doesn't always happen."
Items are forwarded to the carrier's lost-and-found desk in the
airport, where they are held for five to seven days, on average.
There, clerks try to find the owners by looking up seat assignments
and using any other clues available. When the clerks are
unsuccessful, the items are cataloged and stored, waiting for a
call from you. Be prepared to describe the item you've lost in
Unclaimed objects finally are sent to a central location,
usually where the airline's mishandled baggage is held. There they
sit for 30 to 90 days before being sold to a salvage company,
auctioned off or given to the employees who found them. (Airlines
reportedly generate millions in revenue by selling passengers' lost
or mishandled possessions.)
LOST ON LAND
Hotels and rental car agencies also stress that the surest
protection against permanent loss is labeling. However, since these
companies can trace ownership faster and easier than the airlines,
it doesn't seem as if IDs would be as important. Or are they?
All major hotel chains and rental car companies contacted claim
rooms and cars are searched thoroughly once travelers have left;
any possessions left behind are quickly matched with the client and
sent to lost and found. "If the items aren't shipped immediately,
then at least [the customers] are called to let them know the hotel
has them," says Hanne Dittler, vice president of rooms for Westin
Unlike the airlines, however, hotels and rental car agencies
don't send lost items to a central clearinghouse. Generally, the
items remain where they were found for 15 to 90 days, then are sold
to a salvager, donated to charity or given to the employee who
turned them in. Hotels and car companies do boast a return rate of
about 75 percent, though.
Avis spokesperson Lou Cafiero's best advice: "Give yourself
plenty of time to look throughout the car. Most people rush off to
catch their planes."
With hotels, travelers can contact not only the lost-and-found
department but also the concierge and management, says Katrin
Lieberwirth, speaking for Hyatt Hotels. "Hyatt keeps a log book of
all items lost at each hotel," she says. "It serves as an immediate
reference when guests call."
She offers these methods for preventing loss: "For short stays,
unpack only those items you need every day; leave those items
needed only occasionally in your suitcase. And shake out your bed
coverings thoroughly before you check out; often, clothing and
other items might be hidden."
Roger Slavens is a senior associate editor at Frequent
Flyer magazine, a sister publication of M&C. This
article was adapted from Frequent Flyer.
Back to Current Issue indexM&C
| Events Calendar
| Incentive News
| Meetings Market
| CVB Links
| Reader Survey
| Hot Dates
| Contact M&C