Southwest Airlines Employee Tracks Down Owner of 80-Year-Old Letters Left on Flight

The letters were written by a man’s late mother during her high school and college years. 

We've all been there—returning home from a trip only to discover we've left a favorite sweatshirt or pair of earphones behind on the plane. Recently a Southwest Airlines passenger lost an irreplaceable piece of his family's history while aboard a flight. But thanks to a determined Southwest employee, he has been reunited with the letters written by his late mother 80 years ago.

According to Southwest Airlines, an employee found the left-behind letters under a seat and brought them to a baggage service office at Chicago Midway International Airport to be added to the lost and found. When Southwest employee Sarah Haffner came across the letters, she went above and beyond, making it her personal mission to find their owner.

Southwest Missing letters
Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

"After no one claimed them, Sarah kept them in a safe in the office," Southwest public relations specialist Brendan Reid told Southern Living. "For days, Sarah searched the letters for clues as to whom they belonged, but only came up with dead ends since the letters were written in the 40s."

Eventually Sarah noticed a return address dated August 2021 with the name Rachel Degolia on one of the envelopes. Thinking she had found the letter's owner, she searched the Southwest system for Rachel's name, but was shocked when the search came up empty. Undeterred, she put her newfound sleuthing skills to the test and found a phone number for Rachel online.

She gave the number a call. As soon as Sarah introduced herself and said she was with Southwest Airlines, Rachel excitedly cut her off asking if she had the letters. It turns out, Rachel's brother Carl was the one who left the letters behind on the plane, which is why Rachel couldn't be found in the airline's system.

"We were so thankful and relieved to find out that the Southwest baggage staff saved the letters from our mother that my brother had inadvertently left on the plane and figured out how to contact me to return them," Rachel said. "Our mother died 25 years ago, and her letters dated from her high school and college years, written to her brother, were irreplaceable."

What an absolutely incredible story!

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