Losing or misplacing things is never a pleasant experience but doing so while traveling can be very stressful. In most cases, however, if the right action is taken immediately the chances of recovering your lost item increase dramatically.
If you happened to have misplaced, lost, or left behind something on United Airlines then our guide is your best chance of being united with your belongings. Read on for a detailed and comprehensive step-by-step guide.
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United Airlines lost and found
Every airline has a different way it helps its passengers find lost items. While the carrier handles the lost items requests by itself, it outsources the actual search process to a specialist by the name of Chargerback… but more on that later.
Before you start filling out a bunch forms you need to ask yourself where you might have left the item you are missing because that will dictate who you need to contact.
For the first few sections below, we will assume you left your item on a United flight and provide you with some steps for that scenario.
But if you think you may have left the item somewhere in the airport or in the TSA area, we will also give you some specific tips for that situation.
If you have already left the plane
In the event that you have left the plane, the most prudent thing to do is to get back to the gate you came through while disembarking from the flight. Your goal is to immediately get hold of a United Airlines crew or staff member (even if it’s a pilot).
Inform the staff what your item(s) looks like, give them your seat number and they might be able to send someone with access to the aircraft and recover it.
You might not get back the item immediately because sometimes there are procedural protocols that need to be followed but the quick action will at least ensure that the item is secured.
Keep in mind delays could mean giving unscrupulous people the opportunity to take your lost belongings. It is not necessary to assume that it is the crew or the cleaning staff that would do this, it could just as easily be another passenger on the same flight or the next. But you’ll just want to act quickly.
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If you are still at the airport
In the event that you have left the sterile gate area but you still have not left the airport premises, your next plan of action should be to get hold of the United Airline staff at their counter.
United counters may be found throughout the airport in some locations — just look for information desks to help you locate one. If you can’t find one, you can probably head to the United baggage services counter (but more on that below).
IMPORTANT NOTE: While you can approach the general staff at the airport to help you locate your missing item, in most cases this person will just go through a long-winded process and in the end put you through to United Airlines staff. All you would have done is end up wasting precious time.
Because of covid, aircraft these days are thoroughly cleaned by large crews. The longer it takes for someone to be alerted to look for your item, the more likely it is that a greater number of people have been through your seat.
My personal experience has been that, for the most part, cleaning crew are honest. If they find a lost item they will immediately report it and the item ends up in Lost and Found. But a simple fact of life is that not everyone has a good sense of ethics.
This is why I can’t emphasize enough the importance of locating a United counter quickly.
United Airline Baggage Services Counter
The baggage service counter typically deals with lost luggage but they can also help you with other lost items.
At the United counter, the most important thing is to give as much information as you can about the lost item. This will not only improve the chances that your item is found quickly but also reduce the time it will take for it to be returned to you.
There is a chance that they could send someone to find your item and even have it delivered to you at baggage claim but in all probability, you will be asked to fill out this form.
Put in as many travel details as possible including mentioning your name, flight number, boarding airport, final destination (if it is not the airport you are at currently), and most importantly, mention the seat number.
As for the information on the item itself, mention the make, model, color, serial number (if available on-hand) and describe the item as clearly as possible with any distinguishing features, such as a scratch on the top right corner of the screen, etc.
Note: If the staff has not been able to find your item while you are at the airport, make sure you are very clear on the next steps before you leave the airport. Ask the staff about the next procedural steps, local contact details (phone, email, etc), when you should follow up, policies on lost and found, etc.
If for any reason you don’t have access to email you can use the following address to inform United about your lost item through snail mail at this address:
Baggage Resolution Service Center
900 Grand Plaza Drive
Houston, TX 77067
What is Chargerback?
Chargerback is a lost and found service provider that many of the nation’s leading airlines, including United, use to manage their lost and found operations. Once you submit your details to United some of the follow-up and contact will be with Chargerback. For more information on how they work, you can visit their site here.
Items left at the TSA Security Checkpoint
In case you believe that you have lost your item at any of the gates, at the ticketing counter, or at any of the TSA security checkpoints, then United Airlines might not be able to help you as these areas come under the jurisdiction of the TSA (Transport and Security Administration).
TSA has its own Lost and Found Department located at all the airports and you can find the relevant contact details for each of them here.
Items lost in and around the airport facility
If you believe you might have misplaced your item at any other location at the airport other than those coming under the jurisdiction of the TSA as mentioned above, then your lost item will eventually find its way to the Lost and Found Department of the airport in question.
Each airport usually has its own independent lost and found department. The airport staff will be able to assist you in finding the counter so that you can register your complaint (sometimes this will be located by a desk for the airport’s police department). The procedure for recovering your item is more or less the same as listed above.
Again, give as much information as possible to help them locate your item quickly. Every airport’s lost and found department has its own dedicated contact number which you should note for future follow-ups. Again, try to get a non-generic email address as the response is usually faster when you talk to a specific person in charge.
In many cases, items lost anywhere at the airport have a chance to end up at the airport’s lost and found department, so always do check with them even if you are following up with United or TSA.
In case you think that you might have left your item at a specific business at the airport like a restaurant or a rent a car service, then I would advise that you get in touch with them as soon as possible.
What if you left the airport?
It happens to all of us, we don’t realize we are missing something until we have a need for it. In case this has happened to you and you realize you have misplaced an item after leaving the airport premises you just simply need to fill out this form and start the procedure.
Traveling first or business class?
There are great benefits to traveling in first or business class and one of them is the extra attention you get from the airlines. Most airlines, including United, will make an extra effort to help you if you are using any of their premium services or are a member of their frequent flyer club. So mention this whenever you communicate with them.
There are also independent third-party Lost and Found services out there like Crowdfind. I don’t have personal experience with them but just remember it’s possible to handle your lost and found claim without paying anybody.
How long will United Airlines keep looking for your item?
United will look for your item for a period of 30 days from the filing of the report. After that, they will send you an email informing you that the search was unsuccessful.
While there is no guarantee that you will find your lost item, your chances increase if you move fast and take the right steps as mentioned in our guide above.
The key is speed and giving as much information as possible so that the process becomes easier for the relevant authorities. I wish you the best of luck in recovering your lost items.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.