A United Boeing 777 - Photo: Al@fh | Flickr CC

A United Boeing 777 – Photo: Al@fh | Flickr CC

It finally happened  – one of my greatest traveling fears – I lost my wallet in a foreign country.

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation after more than 20 hours en route, maybe it was the chaos of wrestling with my squirmy 15-month-old, or maybe I’m just that absentminded, but I somehow managed to leave my wallet on the plane after a 14-hour flight from Washington Dulles to Beijing.

I realized it when we were at the baggage claim – far too late to turn around and go back to the gate.   Before we left the airport, I contacted United’s baggage services, which had someone check around my seat on the plane for the wallet, without success.  I also filed a claim with the airport’s lost and found.  But I left the airport that day thinking it was gone forever. What a pain.

Boarding onto a 777 flight - Photo: Alan Light | Flickr CC

Boarding onto a 777 flight – Photo: Alan Light | Flickr CC

It could have been worse.  My passport was tucked away in a much safer location. I only had a relatively small amount of cash in the wallet. And I had ensured that my wife and I were carrying different credit and ATM cards in case of such an event. The biggest bummer for me was that I would need to spend several hours in line at the DMV to get my driver’s license reissued.

The next day, I got an email from my mother back in the US, who had received a phone call from LaVerne Gaither, a United flight attendant.  LaVerne had found my wallet on the return flight back to the US and handed it over to the gate agent at Washington Dulles airport.  When I got home, I found out she had also contacted me through Facebook, sending along photos of the wallet and its contents.  I called United’s lost and found handling at Dulles and, after filling out a short online form, my wallet was on its way back to me.

I’ll be the first to admit – United has made a lot of negative changes recently, especially for us lowly non-elites. Case-in-point – this never would have happened if I hadn’t had to get my wallet out to pay for my formerly complimentary drink on a trans-Pacific flight.  However, this is a great example of how dedicated many United’s employees are.  LaVerne would have done her job satisfactorily if she had simply handed my wallet off at the gate and gone home, but I would never have known to call Dulles if she had stopped there.  Were it not for her taking the initiative to go out of her way to find me, I would be spending my day today standing in line at the DMV.  It’s a simple thing, really – and it probably only took a few minutes of her time.  But it made all the difference in the world to me. Thanks LaVerne – and all the hardworking flight crews for that matter.  Faith restored.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR - DENVER, CO. David is a civil engineer by training and trade, but his head is in the clouds. A licensed private pilot and skydiver, he grew up around airplanes and airports. He calls Colorado home, but travel is in his blood. You can find him sitting in coach with his wife and toddler on the way to their next great adventure. Email me at davedlg@airlinereporter.com

A Very Special Southwest Deck Party

United breaks guitars but they find wallets 🙂

Yawn, Scott. Old news. Boring old news. And by the way, it was United Express. Not United. And no, they are not the same. Glad to hear your story David. Most of the people at United are honest and dedicated.

Hmmm. When I left my kindle in the seat pocket, they didn’t even return my calls or emails.

Patrick – Might be worth filling out their online form for left on board items. From what I understand this is a new system, and it worked well for me. http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/baggage/lost-onboard2.aspx

Yup. Filled out an online form. It’s been a while (maybe it was an old form). But dispiriting.

David-Thanks for sharing your story. It is a confirmation that there are STILL GREAT people out there doing FABULOUS things !!! I know Laverne personally and when she is not in the air doing FABULOUS things for people, she is volunteering in the Atlanta community. She is a HERO to many. But as she pointed out that it was this good deed that she did that brought her the luck of someone else turning in $100 she had lost today. Let us all remember this circle of giving !!!

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