If you enjoy people watching, then an airport provides the best metaphor for life. After all, there is a great amount of emotions on display: joy, sadness, expectations, anxiety. There is also a wonderful simplicity in sitting and watching travelers stroll by, guessing what their backgrounds are, who they love, what they might be feeling as boarding time approaches.
That being said, I can only imagine what people must have been thinking when I touched down at Malpensa Airport in Milan and found myself having a Home Alone face-slap moment.
“My bag!” I exclaimed in dismay when I realised that I didn’t have one of my carry-ons. This was no ordinary piece of luggage that I had forgotten at the airport counter in Paris. My carry-on contained every piece of jewelry owned by my family which had been passed onto me and Martina, my daughter.
At the time we were moving from France to Italy and I didn’t want to send our valuables ahead with the international movers, so I thought taking it with me on the plane was the safest option – until I found myself at one airport with my bag abandoned at another.
If this has ever happened to you, you will know my appeal to the Italian flight attendants was not particularly helpful especially since the loss happened outside of their domain. In this case, I had to contact the airport directly. Little did I know that most large airports have their own protocol for lost and found items, but it all depends on where you’ve left your item.
For instance, if you leave your item at Transportation Security Administration-TSA, then you should check the TSA lost and found. If you leave it in the aircraft, it’s the airline’s role to try and find it and if you leave your luggage somewhere in the airport, like the bathroom, it’s airport police with whom you should check.
In large airports, like Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport– where my bag was left-there was no one I could talk to directly, everything had to be done online. I had to fill out a web-based claim form with as much detail as I could and then I had the most agonizing wait.
I was told that if my bag was found within 78 hours or so, the airport would contact me. If not, well, I could consider a part of my precious family history gone.
My story got me thinking about how my lesson could help others and so I came up with a list of thing you can do if something meaningful you own gets lost at an airport. Lots of my tips are preventative in nature.
Act fast, as soon as you realize something has been lost or misplaced at an airport follow the protocol immediately-call and/or fill out those claim forms. More often than not, especially in large international airports, everything is done online without personalized contact, which can be frustrating. Just know you have to follow through precisely with each step.
Take pictures of all the luggage you travel with including the brand, tags and all identifiable markings before you check in.
If you have any contacts at the airport, now is the time to call in a favour. Anybody who may know the ins and outs of the airport could be an asset. Head to social media as well someone may know someone who knows someone.
Avoid traveling with family heirlooms but if you must put your name on it. Putting a luggage tag or taping a business card on items helps in retrieving them. It also doesn’t hurt to have easily identifiable marks or labels on your items – stickers, ribbons, a bandana, etc.
Find a place for everything, especially loose items you keep in pockets, like cell phones, keys, money. Put all of them away.
If you are not prepared to handcuff yourself to your valuables, have a checklist of the items you are traveling with. After the security checkpoint and before you board, pause a while and ensure it’s all with you.