A lost passport can force your journey to a screeching halt. We’ve already talked about what to do if you lose your passport when you are overseas. But what do you do if you haven’t even made it to your destination before your passport goes missing? Today we’ll discuss how to deal with a passport lost at the airport or on an airplane.
This travel calamity just happened to the lead singer of the band Papa Roach. Jacoby Shaddix and his bandmates were en route to Colombia on December 5 so they could play a concert in Bogota on the 6th. Their travel plans had them flying from Los Angeles to Dallas and then on to the Colombian capital. When their flight landed in Bogota, the other members of the band realized that Shaddix wasn’t with them! He’d never made it on to the connecting flight in Dallas, because he’d lost his passport somewhere between LA and Texas. Luckily, Dallas has a US Passport Agency, and Shaddix was able to get a lost passport replacement issued right away. He flew to Colombia on December 6, and went straight from the airport to the theater to rock the waiting crowd!
Take Care Not to Lose Your Passport at the Airport
When you arrive at the airport for an international flight, you may need to pull out your passport several times. If you are checking luggage or need to get a boarding pass printed, you’ll need to go to the airline check-in desk. The airline desk agent will need to see your passport to check you in.
Your next stop will be TSA security, where you will also need to show identification. Technically, you could show your driver’s license, but if your boarding pass shows that you are getting on an international flight, it makes more sense to show your passport to the security officer.
You may also need to show your passport at the gate when you board your flight.
Every time you pull out your passport, you run the risk of dropping it, leaving it behind, or putting it back in the wrong spot. Be conscious of what you are doing with your passport! Designate one secure spot to keep your passport while traveling, such as the inside pocket of your coat or a zippered compartment in your handbag, and make sure you carefully return it to that spot every time.
If Your Passport Goes Missing While You Are In the Airport
Don’t panic! Stay calm, and go through the following steps one by one:
- Check your belongings. Do a thorough search of your belongings, as you might have just shoved your passport back in an unexpected place. If you are traveling with companions, have them check their belongings as well, in case one of them is holding your passport.
- Go back to the security area. The #1 place that travelers leave items behind is at the security area. It’s no wonder — it is awkward having to juggle all of your personal items, especially when you are trying to hurry so you don’t hold up the line! Ask the security guards if your passport has been found. (If you lose your passport before you get to security, the first place you should check is the airline check-in area, if you went there first.)
- Go to Lost and Found. Every airport has a lost and found area, so head over there and see if anyone has turned in your passport. If it’s not there, the staff can take down your contact information in case it turns up later.
- Retrace your steps. Did you get a coffee at Starbucks? Did you go to the ladies room near gate B-6? Check everywhere you’ve been in the airport. If your passport is still nowhere to be found, and you’re ready to accept that it’s truly lost, the next step is to…
- Talk to your airline about rescheduling your flight. Find out your options for delaying your departure for a day or two, to allow you to get a new passport.
- Go to the nearest Regional Passport Agency. Most of the cities that have major international airports also have US Passport Agencies, where you can usually have a new passport issued same-day on an emergency basis. Check our lost passport requirements to make sure you have everything you need to get your new passport. If you lost your passport at a regional airport, you may want to go ahead and fly to your connecting city so you can go to the Passport Agency there. For instance, if you lose your passport at the airport in Charlotte, NC, but you are scheduled to connect to your flight to Mexico in Atlanta, you can make your first flight to Atlanta and visit the Atlanta Passport Agency to get your new passport.
If You Lose Your Passport at an Airport Outside the US
What happens if you lose your passport at the Montego Bay airport as you’re getting ready to fly home after your Jamaican vacation? Or if you drop your passport somewhere in the Frankfurt airport while you’re waiting for your connecting flight to Vienna? You can still follow our step-by-step plan. The only difference is that for Step 6, you won’t be going to a Regional Passport Agency to replace your passport. Instead, you’ll go to the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. They will be able to issue you an emergency passport that you can use to continue your journey. This may be a limited-validity passport, rather than one valid for the normal 10 years. If you are issued a limited-validity passport, you can go through the passport replacement procedure when you return to the United States.
If You Arrive at Your Destination Without a Passport
If you think you may have left your passport on the plane, go back to your gate immediately. Crews will be cleaning the plane and prepping it for the next flight, and they can check for your passport.
What happens when you arrive in a foreign country without your passport will depend on where you’ve come from, and where your passport was lost. No matter what, you can expect to be taken to a special immigration holding area while your passport situation is sorted out.
If you have just flown from the United States, you will likely be put on the next flight back home. You’ll be able to return to your travel destination after your passport has been found or replaced.
If you are in transit between two foreign countries, the first thing you’ll want to do is call the airport you just left to find out if your passport was found. You may be allowed to fly back to that airport to retrieve your passport. Alternately, you may be able to go to the US Embassy or Consulate in your current location to get a new passport.
Have you ever lost your passport while you were flying? How did you handle it?