KLM’s Tracking 101

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IN September, KLM stole the attention of netizens with its one-of-a-kind YouTube video, which featured an adorable Beagle named “Sherlock” retrieving passengers’ lost items and racing to return them to their rightful owners all over Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The video was a hit on social media as well, and Sherlock’s advertisement soon became a top trending topic on Twitter while thousands of Facebook users shared the video with their friends.

Today, the video has amassed a staggering 14.25 million views on YouTube, and KLM’s Lost & Found team has found themselves unwittingly propelled to stardom as hundreds of news outlets around the world scrambled to write a story about their ingenious, albeit rather misleading ad, as it would appear.

In reality, KLM’s Lost & Found team comprises 20 hardworking employees — although, unfortunately, none of them sport a wet nose and a waggy tail. This group works around the clock in shifts, and their hard work and dedication are the inspiration for the concept of Sherlock the Beagle.

The Edge Financial Daily spoke to Joost Ruempol of KLM Corporate Communications for an insight into their Lost & Found service as well as the idea behind the video.

“Sherlock symbolises the service we offer to our customers. It shows the effort and dedication of our Lost & Found team.

“The KLM Lost & Found team is active at Schiphol Airport and reunites up to 80% of the found items with their rightful owners. Sherlock is the team’s mascot. There is no actual dog working for the Lost & Found team,” said Ruempol.

For such a successful team, it may come as a surprise to most that it has only been in service for half a year. It all started as a one-man team navigating the vastness of an airport, the sheer number of people and the number of lost and forgotten items that get stowed away on planes.

KLM’s Lost & Found team has now become a “healing ground” of sorts — it comprises KLM staff who are in the reintegration process of going back to their usual jobs. Some have gone through traumatic mental or physical problems, others are returning from pregnancies.

What KLM has found is that working on the Lost & Found team boosts staff morale and gives these people a sense of purpose, thanks to the positive experiences that they are left with after having reunited lost items with their worried owners.

It’s a win-win situation for KLM: their staff is able to recover more quickly and get back to their usual jobs, and passengers are grateful that their treasured possessions aren’t lost forever.

Everyone who’s done a lot of travelling has — at one time or another — left something on a plane by accident. Whether it was a camera, phone, tablet, laptop or something simple like a stuffed animal, we’ve all felt a sense of loss that we were never going to be able to see the item ever again. So, it’s not difficult to imagine how passengers would have felt when receiving a phone call from KLM’s Lost & Found team notifying them that their missing items will be returned.

It’s not rocket science, really. KLM goes through several simple steps to ensure that missing things have a way of going back to their owners.

“After landing, the purser and crew walk through the plane once all passengers have disembarked the aircraft.

“When they find forgotten items they call the KLM Lost & Found team to pick them up at the nearest desk. Most important is information like seat number and flight number, which make it possible to find out the passenger who left the item.

“The team also uses social media to reunite passengers with their lost items. Ground service agents at the airport can also contact the team if they find items around the airport. The team proactively checks the KLM lounges and transfer desks a few times a day. A match can be made within a few minutes, although it can also take longer. If after three days the item’s rightful owner hasn’t been found, it will be handled over to a dedicated Lost & Found department at Schiphol Airport,” Ruempol explained.

KLM passengers who’ve lost their belongings can also contact KLM via Facebook or Twitter to inquire about their items. Dedicated teams will respond to these messages and try their best to locate their belongings.

The Lost & Found team locates anything between 10 and 20 lost items per day and reunites them with their rightful owners 80% of the time. A pretty impressive feat as the team has only been in service for only half a year.

In all, Sherlock’s presence in KLM’s viral video served not to manipulate the masses into thinking that an adorable Beagle was really a part of their Lost & Found Team, but to remind people about the enormous dedication that the team puts in on a daily basis in their quest to reunite missing items with their rightful owners.

In fact, each person on the team can be called “Sherlock Holmes”; legendary for their mystery-solving skills. Sherlock the Beagle, on the other hand, is just another talented (albeit very special) scent hound of an actor!

Left: In a screengrab from the video, Sherlock sniffs items that are found on the plane.
Right: Then runs off to locate the owner.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 30, 2014.