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Leaving an item behind on a plane is an invitation for headaches.
But this year Delta Air Lines made a change that might make you wait longer than before to get a lost item back.
It’s outsourced lost & found handling.
Delta now sends all unidentified found items to a central processing center owned by a third-party unclaimed baggage company.
Basically, items are put on flights to Atlanta a few times a week where they are hauled away to a warehouse in Scottsboro, Alabama.
If you call Delta to report a lost item they’ll tell you to fill out this online form and wait (or pray).
Note that the form is not hosted on Delta.com, but on an outsourcing company’s website.
Delta (actually, the outsourcing company) will spend 14 days searching the inventory database for your item, but if it doesn’t show up in the system by then, you’ll never see it again.
And the people in Scottsboro are in luck.
Because then Delta will ‘salvage’ your item, which means it sells it to the outsourcing company for pennies on the dollar. And the outsourcing company might then sell your items in its 40,000 square foot store right next to the warehouse, which attracts millions of visitors wanting to buy lost property.
Delta will claim this is a more organized way of dealing with lost items, with more sophisticated inventory handling. Maybe that’s valid for a huge hub like Atlanta.
But it feels like a way for Delta to cut costs at your expense.
Delta is not alone in this
Southwest Airlines uses the very same company to handle its lost and found, with an online form similar to Delta’s.
But at least Southwest makes the company wait a full 30 days before giving up and selling your items.
Delta gives less than half that time, just 14 days before you’ll never see them again.
American and US Airways still handle lost items at the airport.
While United has centralized lost & found in Houston, it hasn’t outsourced it, so there’s less immediate pressure to get your items sold and turned into profit for the airline.
There is a workaround
While Delta phone agents and its website won’t tell you this option, at some airports the items are still held at the local baggage claim office for a day or two before being shipped off.
So if you lose an item, get back to the baggage office quickly and see if it’s there.
As a last resort, if you’re sure your item has been sent to the central facility in Scottsboro, consider calling the company associated with the Scottsboro facility on 256-999-0980, which some readers have reported helps.
But whatever you do, don’t fill out a claim form at the site AirportLostAndFound.com.
The site charges you to fill out a lost property ‘claim’ and has zero relationships with any airline or airport to search for your lost items. It’s just a bulletin board where reports of lost items can be posted, but there is no way for others to contact you if they find your items. It claims to be a lost and found database, but there is no database for ‘found’ items, rendering it virtually useless, and duping thousands of travelers a year.