Going the extra mile to return lost items

He was handed a laptop bag left behind by a passenger at Changi Airport, just one item among thousands left at the airport each year. So what did Mr Haresh Chandran do? When he found out that the laptop's owner, who had already left for India, needed
He was handed a laptop bag left behind by a passenger at Changi Airport, just one item among thousands left at the airport each year. So what did Mr Haresh Chandran do? When he found out that the laptop's owner, who had already left for India, needed it urgently, the Certis Cisco Aviation Security service operations executive paid for his own ticket and flew there to return it personally. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Award winners at Changi Airport’s 2016 Annual Airport Celebration include Mr Haresh (left), who flew to India to return a laptop a passenger had left behind, and Mr Wahid, who returned a pouch which contained A$10,000.
Award winners at Changi Airport’s 2016 Annual Airport Celebration include Mr Haresh (left), who flew to India to return a laptop a passenger had left behind, and Mr Wahid, who returned a pouch which contained A$10,000. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

When another airport staff handed him a laptop bag left behind by a passenger on a departing flight in November last year, Mr Haresh Chandran could have just left it at the information counter with other lost-and-found items.

Instead, the Certis Cisco Aviation Security service operations executive, who oversees 150 customer service officers, called a phone number he found in the bag to try and return it.

Mr Haresh, 28, then learnt that the flight the passenger, an Indian national, was on had already departed. The laptop contained documents vital for the passenger's business meeting the next day.

When Mr Haresh found out that sending the bag by courier services would take at least three days, he went beyond the call of duty and flew to Trichy, India, to return it.

To do that, he used $910 he had put aside for his annual prayer trip to India as well as the entry visa he had earlier applied and received for that trip, which he ended up forgoing.

For his kind deed, on top of his consistently good conduct, he won the Gold Award for Outstanding Service Staff of the Year at the Changi Airport's 2016 Annual Airport Celebration held on March 2.

Mr Haresh, who has worked with Changi Airport Group for almost five years, was one of 21 award recipients at the ceremony, 18 of whom were individual award winners.

Some might find flying to India to return the laptop a little extreme, but Mr Haresh has a motto.

"Your daily actions are your daily prayers," he said.

"I can always earn the money back, but I can never get back a chance to help others."

He added: "Sometimes, we do meet rude people, but we also meet good people. The important thing is to just try your best and help people sincerely."

Mr Haresh, who started off as a front-line customer service officer, said he sympathised with the businessman, who said he needed the documents for a final business pitch to a group of investors.

This reminded him of his own family's financial struggles when his father, the main breadwinner of the family, lost his job two years ago, said Mr Haresh. He added: "We struggled a lot. I can understand how it feels and I don't want another family to go through that."

The Indian businessman was so grateful he invited Mr Haresh to dinner with his family and offered him accommodation.

When he tried to reimburse Mr Haresh for the flight, the latter declined. "It was my decision and I will take responsibility for it," Mr Haresh said.

The laptop bag was among more than 34,000 items received by the airport's lost-and-found department last year. Among them, 40 per cent were returned to their owners. Common items include mobile phones, tablet computers and passports.

Such items are tagged and their descriptions recorded, before being kept for up to 60 days. If nobody claims them, they will be donated to the Singapore Red Cross Society or disposed of if they potentially contain sensitive material.

Another award winner, trolley service officer Wahid Said, was also honoured for his dedication in returning lost-and-found items. He and Mr Haresh each received $1,500 worth of Changi Airport vouchers, a trophy and a certificate.

Mr Wahid had returned numerous items, including wallets, passports and, most notably, a pouch containing A$10,000 (S$10,300).

The 71-year-old, who has worked at Changi Airport for more than eight years, did not even open the pouch before returning it.

When asked why he did so, he said simply: "It is my duty."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Going the extra mile to return lost items'. Print Edition | Subscribe