This research investigates the temporary involuntary loss of symbolically important, meaningful possessions and how consumers manage self identity in this situation. The losses explored occurred within the context of air travel and included where people accustomed to flying in business class had to travel in economy and where high status in a frequent flyer program was lost. Three stages of fieldwork were conducted; participant observation involving 50 international and domestic flights covering 110,000 miles, depth interviews and engagement online with a range of frequent flyer discussion communities. The short-term, concealable nature of the losses allowed consumers to manipulate private and public meaning to avoid, where possible, the consequences of the loss on self identity. This study contributes by showing that both private and public meanings of lost possessions can be used in identity construction and how identity negotiation can be avoided. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.