The Dumbest Travel Mistake I’ve Ever Made

The Dumbest Travel Mistake I've Ever Made

Earlier this week, I made what is quite possibly the stupidest travel mistake I’ve ever made. After 472 commercial flights, it finally happened… I left my passport on the plane.

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Normally after losing your passport you’d realise fairly quickly. But by the time I realised, three hours had passed and the plane had already operated another flight.

I had placed my passport in the seat pocket in front of me when boarding my flight in Paris. After landing in Amsterdam, I had a lapse of concentration and simply forgot that I’d left my passport there. This was completely my fault and, admittedly, an incredibly stupid travel mistake. But it could happen to anyone.


Once I realised that my passport was missing, I panicked. I feared that I would never see it again and knew that with every hour that passed, the chances would become even slimmer. Unfortunately, the airline (in this case, KLM) didn’t initially share my sense of urgency. I immediately called them, and an automated message told me to submit a claim online and wait for them to get back to me. I wasn’t prepared to wait, so tried contacting the airline on social media. The reply was prompt and friendly, but not all that helpful.

I desperately needed to get my passport back so returned to the airport, hoping for the best. The airport lost & found desk knew nothing of my passport, but they did get me in touch directly with the KLM Lost & Found team.

The police didn’t have my passport either. If the document had been found by cleaners after my flight, I was assured it would have been handed in to the police. It wasn’t, which meant my passport was probably now somewhere in Austria (where the next flight for that aircraft had operated to).

In the meantime, I had searched for the registration of the aircraft that had operated my flight and looked up where the plane was on Flight Radar 24. I saw that the aircraft was almost back in Amsterdam. I relayed this information to the KLM Lost & Found team and they asked the crew to search around my seat for the passport when the plane landed back in Amsterdam. They did, and didn’t find it.

Gutted, I pleaded with the KLM staff to please take another look in the seat pocket where I had sat earlier in the day. By this time, the plane had already pushed back from the gate and was about to depart again for Denmark. Nonetheless, they relayed the message to the crew operating the next flight and this time they did locate my passport – it was still in the seat pocket where I had left it all along!

There was just one final problem… as the aircraft doors were already closed, my passport was now stuck on board and the plane was about to leave for Copenhagen. Thankfully, a quick-thinking pilot opened the cockpit window and threw the passport to a waiting ramp agent on the ground. Eventually the passport made its way back to me and I could leave the airport, extremely relieved.

I guess there are two morals to this story. Firstly, look after your belongings! But secondly, if you ever make a similar travel mistake – and it could happen to anyone – it really helps to be persistent and take ownership of the problem. If I hadn’t returned to the airport, kept in direct contact with the KLM staff and done some of my own research (in relation to the whereabouts of the plane), I’m not so sure that my passport would ever have turned up via the regular, bureaucratic channels. Nonetheless, the KLM staff that I dealt with at the airport were all very helpful and I’m happy to say that there was a good outcome this time!

You can read my AFF post about this experience – and share your own travel mistakes with the AFF community – here: Made any travel mistakes lately?

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at editor@australianfrequentflyer.com.au