Man Uses AirTag, Watches His Wallet Travel To 35 Cities On American Airlines

An American Airlines passenger landed in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, accidentally leaving their wallet behind on the flight. He reported the wallet missing.

The man had an AirTag on his wallet, and showed him that it was still on the plane. And, he says, he watched the wallet travel to 35 cities.

He had three reactions:

  • He should have gotten better lost and found service as an AAdvantage Platinum member.
  • Clearly the airline isn’t thoroughly cleaning their aircraft if they hadn’t discovered the wallet.
  • He should be credited for the miles that his wallet flew!

Of course American Airlines no longer credits miles based on distance flown. Unless his wallet was on a paid ticket for each segment, they don’t award any miles. Lost and found is a real failure, and probably because there’s little incentive for anyone to try very hard to find something, to go out of their way to turn it in, and for people in lost and found to expend great effort to re-connect passengers with belongings. That’s hardly an American Airlines issue. It’s industry-wide.

Coming out of the pandemic most people internalize ‘planes are supposed to be cleaned’ but the truth is that they may be sprayed with an antimicrobial, but that’s different than getting a deep cleaning between flights or even overnight. There’s very little actual cleaning done between flights. Planes aren’t on the ground long enough. And when a flight is delayed, even basic trash pickup from seats is one thing that they cut down on to try to gain back time.

There’s generally more cleaning after a long haul international flight, at an airline’s hub, than there is after a domestic flight. It’s not surprising to see a plane go several days without a wallet being found on board, although it seems inexcusable to me not to do deep cleans overnight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So essentially they don’t clean anything but only spray some alcohol-based solution. Or do they spray something different – thus breeding spray-resistant varieties? Or something that does nothing at all since it has not enough alcohol, like most of hand sanitizers? I wonder why they even bother at this point

  2. Anyone who thinks that public ANYTHING is cleaned properly is delusional. The only way to stay healthy when travelling is to have a robust immune system and scrub stuff with an alcohol-based wipe. Now that the airlines (maybe) have eliminated change/cancel fees, think twice about travelling if you’re rundown, over-tired or feeling lousy.

  3. 35 flights and counting, some AA representative can’t go look at his seat location and retrieve the wallet? It’s not like they would have to search the entire plane.
    Really poor for any passenger, let alone one of their better customers.

  4. Returned from Cancun on aa last Friday. Getting off in CLT guy behind me finds passport on floor and notifies flight attendant. FA says what do you want me to do with this? Guy says maybe make an announcement to see if person is hopefully on plane. She did and the person wasnt on plane . So the cleaning crew didnt find it and I assume the poor soul landed in CUN without a passport.
    This is the same FA gave our dinner choices as Eggplant parmesan or fish. When queried as to what type of fish, she replied “fish”. Also brought us cold rolls after we finished dinner. I can only assume this was a USairways FA.

  5. After 35 flights, I think there might be a *slight* possibility the wallet and AirTag are no longer together. And maybe the AirTag is riding around somewhere not easily seen.

  6. Years ago found a wallet that fell out of the jacket in an overhead bin on an AA flight. It was stuffed full of $100 bills. The drivers license picture was of a young man who had been sitting in the aisle seat a couple rows up from me. Got his name from the ID and subsequently ran through the terminal shouting for him. Fortunately found him with a young woman on their way to their connecting flight. Turns out they were newlyweds starting their honeymoon and he had all their cash.

    Can you imagine the price he’d have paid — and how long he’d have paid it — had they got to their destination only to find out he’d lost his wallet and all their money? 🙂

  7. Or someone picked up the wallet, and found and dumped the airtag, leaving it to take the grand tour without the wallet, and people are looking for a wallet that isn’t there, when they should be looking for a little disc that rolled into a crack that is possibly the same color…

  8. Different airline (southwest)…different technology (chipolo wallet card). Got off a plane from Vegas and left the gate area. My phone chirped saying my wallet was nowhere near me. Ran back to the gate… Agent was skeptical…but they went on the plane…checked the approx seating area I was at (I don’t know what row Southwest..somewhere in the middle). Pilot and agent came back and said they couldn’t find it. Gave them my phone with the alarm set to chirp the tracker and sure enough .. they found it with the second sweep Point being .. things drop or wedge between seats…. Good luck any cleaning crew will find it.

  9. Cleaning and lost property aside…. much bigger concern here too that shows a massive breakdown of American Airlines processes.

    Every air carrier aircraft must have a security search once every calendar day (more or less, there are some buffers but only in the hours) and before/after any international segment. Every single item on that plane for the most part should be touched or searched. Clearly searches did not occur or were not done properly. Every one of those could be a $27,000 fine from TSA or higher civil penalty. Airlines have been fined for people finding say an iPad in their seat pocket from a prior flight and turning it in, because clearly the airline or designee did not adequately search that airplane.

  10. Really looks like Cry baby and doesn’t tell what finally happened to the wallet. I am sick and tired of useless articles with not enough information

  11. Oh the garbage I’ve found in airline pockets. I never put anything in them because some are just nasty. Wrappers, used tissues and napkins.

    The WORST was a Quantas flight from Sydney with garbage still on the floor around the seat. Had obviously never been vacuumed. When I let Quantas know, their response was….crickets.

  12. Over the past 3 years I promptly reported “left behind” items at least four times with AA lost and found, giving Flight #, sear #, full description, etc. Only once did I get an acknowledgment of my claim, but never retrieved the items which included a set of headphones, a quality cap, a book and a small diddy bag. Yes I am forgetful in my advanced age, nonetheless I am very disappointed in AA’s lost and found services.

  13. I will say that my daughter left her passport in Sydney at control and we were frantic when we discovered it. Quantas tracked her down in the airport to return it.

  14. Left a Filson jacket with money & my I.D. on my seat following a United flight into LaGuardia. Obviously my fault. Provided United with the flight and seat number but they reported finding nothing. The coat was too large and visible to me missed, so someone working for United or their cleaning company made out like a bandit.

  15. Bruce T
    Yes but if someone is near the wallet that has a iPhone then it will show up on find my phone app

  16. Y’all have unreal expectations. If a wallet is wedged between the arm rest and seat no one will find it. It could have fallen between the window seat and fuselage, there is a variety of nooks and crannies. Did OP know his tail number which identifies the A/c?? You expect someone can back trace the aircraft 35 times from where his airtag says it is? Cleaning is done, not deep cleaning.

    Gary seems to think he can run an airline better than anyone so I suggest he start applying to do that and show airlines how it’s done and easily.

  17. American Airlines has outsourced their lost-and-found process.

    Its now an IVR & web page that leads to a black hole.

    But, in theory, it exists.

  18. Watch your stuff. If you leave it on a plane it’s not the airlines problem. Might as well have left it on the street.

  19. Hope is in short supply so here’s a little bit to brighten the day…. In September 2012 my bf and I were flying home to ONT (CA) after spending the weekend in Denver. We were seated in the first row of Economy Plus, so no seat pocket stowage. Before take off I took my little ID wallet out of my purse. Put it in my lap. Midflight I pay for drinks with a credit card, then I fell SOUNDLY asleep. I didn’t wake up until my bf handed my purse to me to deplane. Got home, slept, woke up, did laundry, then about 10p (24hrs after landing) I ordered a pizza in for dinner. Where’s my wallet? Wsn’t in my purse. Go through all the bags…no wallet. It’s small, but recognizable because it has a Vespa scooter one side and glows in the dark Call United. Fill out form online. Months go by… still nothing. United promises they looked for it.

    Flash forward — it’s now 2015. My flight from MSP lands in ONT. Gather my bags, making sure I have my new wallet. When I get home there’s an email from United stating they’ve found my wallet. Confused, I look in my purse. Yep, wallet is there. 3 days later I get a FedEx envelope. Inside is my glowing Vespa wallet, ID, credit cards and $22 in cash. A new employee at United Lost & Found matched my wallet with the lost item report. (The new employee said my wallet stood out because she had a Vespa too.) It might take almost 5 years but not to worry … Your wallet/luggage/elderly parent/toddler/husband/etc. might be returned. Just have a little faith.

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