United Airlines Passenger Tracks Lost Bag To Apartment Complex

United Airlines Passenger Tracks Lost Bag To Apartment Complex

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Apple AirTags have become an essential for many travelers. The idea is that you can place an Apple AirTag in your checked bag, and then you’ll always know where it is. In the event that it gets lost or stolen, you might have better luck tracking your bag than airlines do.

We’ve seen several viral stories of air travelers with lost bags taking matters into their own hands, though this has to be one of the most interesting situations yet.

Fascinating United Airlines lost bag saga

Valerie Szybala has published a viral series of Tweets which have been viewed over 20 million times in the past day or so. She was traveling with United Airlines to Washington DC, but her bag didn’t make it. She filed a lost bag report for her belongings, and requested that the bags be delivered to her once found.

However, things didn’t unfold as she expected. Following the flight, Valerie tracked her checked bag to an apartment complex, where the bag had been sitting for over a day. So she decided to make a trip there — while she couldn’t find her bag, she saw multiple United Airlines checked bags near the dumpsters, which had been emptied.

She shared the messages she had exchanged with United, where a representative told her to “calm down,” and claimed that her bag was “safe at the baggage services distribution centre.”

After the bag was at the apartment complex for a couple of days, the bag seemed to make a move… to McDonald’s! It then returned back to the apartment complex.

The next day, the bag traveled around 16 miles out of the city, to the suburbs.

https://twitter.com/vszyb/status/1609915204841934849

The bag was then in a shopping complex for around half an hour, before eventually returning back to the apartment complex.

Valerie ended up traveling to the apartment complex a total of four times. On January 2, the bag made another trip to a shopping complex, before returning to the apartment complex. At that point she received a text from a courier, who claimed that the “bag was given to [him] under a different passenger,” and that he “delivered [her] bag in a different address and had to go back to that place and pick it up.”

The two ended up meeting for the bag delivery, as they were near one another. Clearly the courier was a bit startled by her being near his apartment complex.

Funny enough, local news had been involved at this point, so the delivery of the bag was even captured on camera.

Was this theft or incompetence?

This is an interesting story on a couple of levels.

First of all, it’s clear that United provided really bad service here. Admittedly I don’t envy the job of people working in lost baggage departments, but telling someone to “calm down” and claiming that the bag is “safe at the baggage services distribution centre” isn’t good service. Unless the baggage services center is someone’s apartment, this is incorrect information.

Second of all, the big outstanding question is whether this was an honest mistake, or whether the courier’s intent was to steal the bag. I’m not sure what exactly to think here. On the one hand, this seems really suspicious — the bag was at an apartment complex for days, and empty bags were even found by the apartment complex dumpster.

On the other hand, if a bag was stolen, why would the person stealing it be driving around with it to various places? What does that accomplish? Was the bag just left in the car the entire time, and this person was going about their day-to-day activities with it? Along similar lines, this person was a professional courier for these bags, so it wasn’t that some random person stole the bags. While I absolutely think some couriers steal, why would this bag be targeted?

I’m not sure what the explanation is here, but I’m inclined to believe that incompetence or laziness is just as likely of an explanation as attempted theft. There’s not much accountability for couriers in terms of delivery timeline, so maybe he just forgot the bag was in his car, maybe he didn’t want to drive to where it had to be delivered just yet, etc.

Bottom line

For the latest edition of “AirTags save the day,” a United Airlines passenger was able to track her lost checked bag to an apartment complex, where she also found other abandoned checked bags. While United claims the bag was safely in a delivery center, in reality the bag was in an apartment complex, and moved around constantly. After four trips there, she met up with the courier, who delivered the bag.

I’m not sure what exactly to make of this story. United definitely dropped the ball and this woman deserves credit for being persistent. But whether this was incompetence or theft, who knows…

What’s your take on this United Airlines lost checked bag story?

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  1. Peter Guest

    Dealing with almost exactly the same scenario at the moment with Dnata baggage handling in Dubai. Delayed luggage finally arrived at DXB, but when I went to collect it I was informed it was already picked up by a courier. A week of being told every day that the courier says it will be delivered tomorrow, I finally tracked down the courier. Not an established delivery company, just a random man in a beaten up...

    Dealing with almost exactly the same scenario at the moment with Dnata baggage handling in Dubai. Delayed luggage finally arrived at DXB, but when I went to collect it I was informed it was already picked up by a courier. A week of being told every day that the courier says it will be delivered tomorrow, I finally tracked down the courier. Not an established delivery company, just a random man in a beaten up old car which seriously makes you question what kind of visa he's in the country on if he isn't even employed directly by Dnata. Even more dodgy is where was my bag after it was taken from the airport. Fairly certain it wasn't in a proper warehouse with cctv or tracking technology

  2. Kelley Guest

    The "courier" didn't ask her for ID to confirm he was delivering the correct bag to the correct person, the empty bags at the dumpster DEFINITELY are asking for a police investigation. If I were her I'd have called the police DAYS earlier with the airtag info! And, don't customer service people know that telling people to "calm down" is akin to throwing gasoline on the fire?? I'd reach through my phone and throttle the CSR if I'd gotten that message!!

  3. Morgan Diamond

    I don't see the benefit of AirTags. What a waste of money. If you don't get your bags you may track it somewhere but unless you are going to storm into the place where it is (which is extremely dangerous and reckless) then there is not much point.

  4. iamhere Guest

    Problem is the work it took to retrieve the bag. Most people don't have that kind of time especially if they are traveling somewhere for a short time. About the comment she made regarding the delivery man, I don't think he intentionally lied, he just did not know or was told what to say. Makes me not want to check a bag anymore.

  5. Michael Guest

    So many details of this story check out with a recent United Airlines situation of my own. Two of my bags were lost by United/Star Alliance this past summer. I called and chatted with the two United help lines (call and chat), but the call feature had a guaranteed 3 hour wait limit, at which point you were finally connected to a very poor quality call center in India, where the agents lied over and...

    So many details of this story check out with a recent United Airlines situation of my own. Two of my bags were lost by United/Star Alliance this past summer. I called and chatted with the two United help lines (call and chat), but the call feature had a guaranteed 3 hour wait limit, at which point you were finally connected to a very poor quality call center in India, where the agents lied over and over about my bags being okay. Every few days, the story would completely change, from the bags being located and on their way to the bags never having been located. I would send screenshot proof that contradicted their newest claim, but they would simply say that yesterday's agent was mistaken. The online chat service is run by the exact same Indian call center. Again, they would only tell me what I wanted to hear. Just two hours after completing the 20th+ online chat help session (I called/chatted every single day), in which the agent typed that he had no updates about where in the world my bag was, one bag was delivered to my porch. CLEARLY, the Indian call/chat centers are complete scams. I think they were hired simply to take angry calls without any actual access to bag tracking information. How else would my bag lost in Abu Dhabi supposedly without a trace show up two hours later in front of me? However, it was immediately obvious that my bag had been pilfered. It reeked of marijuana, which can't happen if only in a car for an hour or two like the story goes (that the bags are driven directly from the airport to your house). My locks were chopped off the bag, and my laptop and external hard drive were gone from them. Without me asking, the driver said to me, "Sorry about your bag. This is how they gave it to me," which made no sense until I saw how pilfered it was. It was clear that the driver stole from my bag - how would this idiot know my bag was somehow deficient as compared to when I last saw it? I filed complaints with the BBB and the US DOT. Weeks later, United responded to the claims and gave me $500 towards a new flight, $1000 in stolen property allowances, and $250 in interim expenses allowances. No questions asked. Something tells me their willingness to pay for a stolen laptop without question means they know their couriers are thieving.

    1. Icarus Guest

      Indian service centres are a waste of time with staff and go are completely useless and unskilled. Airlines continue to outsource to these services to fifth rate companies employing staff who have never been out of the country, let alone visited an airport.

    2. vbscript2 Guest

      As a contrast, when I had a delayed bag last month, all of my contacts were directly with actual Delta baggage desks that were actually in physical possession of the bag and then the courier who ultimately delivered it, not random call centers in India. And, being in actual physical possession of the bag, the information they had was accurate. The bag was ultimately delivered to me a couple of days after I got home.

  6. Bagoly Guest

    Oh, for the days when courier companies had vehicles and employees, who were identifiable by wearing a uniform.
    Now the companies want to minimise capital employed, social security payments, etc, so they outsource to individuals.

  7. Icarus Guest

    To add, she was really nice and calm about the situation.

    The “ calm down” tweet suggests some outsourcing as they just look in the bag file

    It’s also not in the airlines’ interest to lose the bag given the costs involved if it’s lost

  8. Icarus Guest

    In Europe last summer, there were hundreds of bags in the same situation. Looks like the delivery companies couldn’t be bothered. As far as the airline was concerned the bags were delivered.

  9. Kbulo Guest

    Sorry but to me this looks like this was a well executed earned media stunt for the luggage manufacturer.

  10. Scudder Diamond

    The agent that said "calm down" is getting fired, right?

  11. Scott Guest

    What really needs some investigation and probably won’t be researched is why there were discarded bags by the dumpster at the apartment complex. If we assume there is a bag delivery service operating nearby then it’s not a leap in logic to expect that some bags end up stolen by employees or people living nearby that know about it and then throw out the bags in that alley.

  12. Yiannis Guest

    Looks pretty sketchy to me United! You got caught with your pants down.
    Guess this is the type of service the worlds best airline is going to provide?

  13. Never In Doubt Guest

    Hanlon’s Razor:

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

  14. S_LEE Member

    I've always thought it would be really easy to steal someone else's bags from baggage claim. No one checks if your ID matches with the baggage tag. All the airports need to make an additional screening process before clearing baggage claim to prevent thefts.

    1. John Guest

      Is there typically anything of value in a checked bag? Anything of value would typically be in the carryon, right?

    2. Donna Diamond

      John - As a female, I can tell you that my clothes and shoes alone are valuable, worth much more than any airline would reimburse. Furthermore, the cost to replace my suitcase alone would probably exceed their limit. Been there and trust me, you never break even on one of these deals, not even close.

    3. tda1986 Member

      I'd much rather risk luggage theft than have to deal with this. Can you imagine the long lines of generally incompetent travelers trying to go through yet another checkpoint with airline employees comparing IDs and/or claim tickets for each item? And what if someone checked luggage that was carry-on size? A thief can just rip off the check tag and leave, since no one would know it was checked. So for many reasons, no, airports...

      I'd much rather risk luggage theft than have to deal with this. Can you imagine the long lines of generally incompetent travelers trying to go through yet another checkpoint with airline employees comparing IDs and/or claim tickets for each item? And what if someone checked luggage that was carry-on size? A thief can just rip off the check tag and leave, since no one would know it was checked. So for many reasons, no, airports should not make an additional screening process before clearing baggage claim.

    4. Mark Schweitzer Guest

      Many airports, particularly in big cities, used to do this but have stopped as it was expensive, inefficient and ineffective as well as inconvenient.

    5. JA Guest

      Some airports I’ve been to outside the US do so- ask to see your claim ticket before you leave the baggage claim area. Didn’t seem particularly thorough but is somewhat of a deterrent I would think

    6. Scudder Diamond

      I remember bag tags being checked against claim tickets well into the 80s.

    7. vbscript2 Guest

      This continued waaayyyy past the 80s. LaGuardia was doing it as recently as just before the pandemic, as I recall. (I haven't been there since Covid started, so not sure if they still are or not.)

    8. Greg Guest

      Easy to steal, and easy to get caught with so many cameras.

      See the case of the department of energy senior official spotted doing it twice on camera

      https://www.thedailybeast.com/joe-bidens-non-binary-nuclear-waste-guru-sam-brinton-out-of-a-job-after-accused-of-luggage-stealing

  15. Al Guest

    Is there an airtags alternative for Android users?

    1. pstm91 Diamond

      There are tons of luggage tracking devices. I used one for years called LugLoc, which was great.
      It's funny to me now that Apple makes one, of a sudden it seems like it's their idea (just like every IOS update and new features, that Androids have had years). I do like the Airtags though because of how small they are and they are really easy to use (no app needed).

    2. DS Guest

      What makes AirTags unique is the network. Tile works the same way but the network requires everyone to install the Tile app. If there’s no one with the app near your Tile tag then it won’t be found. The AirTag network is literally every iPhone in the world, which makes it incredibly valuable.

    3. shza Member

      I used to use LugLoc too, but it was significantly worse than Airtag, both in funcitonality and in the fact that it required a subscription (fee) on top of buying the (cassette-sized) device. Airtags are much cheaper, smaller, and more reliable (as they should be, given that 10-15 years have passed).

    4. John123 Guest

      I use Samsung SmartTags+, which comes with virtual reality (the SmartTag regular are otherwise similar to Apple tags), it is much better and accurate than the apple equivalent as you can visualize where it is on your camera. You need one of the premium Galaxy phones though (s21 ultra or s22 ultra i believe).

    5. KM Guest

      Look at Tile. The big drawback for Tile vs Air Tags is that Tile, being a third party service, relies on users having the Tile app for your tracker to ping with it's location. Air Tags use Apple's Find Me service, which is on by default for all iPhones. This gives Air Tags a much bigger network of devices to communicate their locations to compared to Tile trackers. That doesn't make Tile trackers not useful,...

      Look at Tile. The big drawback for Tile vs Air Tags is that Tile, being a third party service, relies on users having the Tile app for your tracker to ping with it's location. Air Tags use Apple's Find Me service, which is on by default for all iPhones. This gives Air Tags a much bigger network of devices to communicate their locations to compared to Tile trackers. That doesn't make Tile trackers not useful, but there's a chance that in a situation like in the story there wouldn't have been as many/any location updates when the bag was roaming the DMV. I used my Tile tracker to keep tabs on my checked bag when I flew from IND to SJD over Christmas as it failed to make it on to my plane when I connected at DFW.

    6. Unhoeflich Diamond

      Samsung has a version that works with Galaxy phones. I tested it on a trip last year and was pleased with the results.

    7. Javan Guest

      I avoid checking bags at all costs. It's never been my thing, so I tend to pack as light as possible. But I'm fully aware that it's not feasible for most people.

      From that entire text conversation, though, you can clearly tell it's from an outsourced (foreign) agency.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Never In Doubt Guest

Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

4
Bagoly Guest

Oh, for the days when courier companies had vehicles and employees, who were identifiable by wearing a uniform. Now the companies want to minimise capital employed, social security payments, etc, so they outsource to individuals.

2
Donna Diamond

John - As a female, I can tell you that my clothes and shoes alone are valuable, worth much more than any airline would reimburse. Furthermore, the cost to replace my suitcase alone would probably exceed their limit. Been there and trust me, you never break even on one of these deals, not even close.

2
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