A woman uses Airtag to track a bag to a residential address

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(CNN) — Most of us know the travel nightmare of an invisible bag on the belt after a flight. Some of us – more and more thanks to the chaos of aviation this year – know the invisible impact of this. But more and more travelers know what it’s like to lose a bag and get it back—not because of the airline’s diligence, but because they know their bag’s location through a tracking device. they gathered their clothes.

Valerie Shibala has the latest story. A disinformation researcher in Washington retrieved her missing luggage six days later, following her around local malls and McDonald’s, and the airline told her the bag was safe at a distribution center.

In fact, it looks like it’s at someone’s house – Sybala says she found the other suitcases dumped in a dumpster.

The story she has to tell about how her bag was lost and found and how United Airlines handled her case is enough to make you never want to check a bag again.

Shibala made his first international trip in several years – a month abroad and returned to the US Reagan airport on December 28. He bought an Airtag – Apple’s tracking device – especially for the trip.

“I’ve heard it’s a thing,” he says of the 2022 travel trend of putting tracking devices in luggage to find bags if they go missing. “I had an evening planned, so I knew there was a good chance I’d lose the bag.”

What he didn’t agree with was the “crazy weather” and Southwest Airlines “exploding.” Although he was flying on United, his landing was through the Southwest hub. So, when he arrived in DC, it was no surprise that his United app said his bag hadn’t arrived. He couldn’t see the staff talking: “The airport was a madhouse,” he says.

Instead, Shibala relied on an app that said the airline knew where her bag was and would return it the next day.

In fact, the bag arrived in DC the next day, December 29th. But he received it only on January 2. He accepted United’s offer to deliver the bag directly to his home rather than return to the airport to pick it up in person. “This is where I made a big mistake by letting them be entrusted to a third party,” he says.

Waiting days and false guarantees

December 29 has passed, Shybala has not received his bag. Then December 30, December 31, January 1 — still no bag.

“I tried to contact them every day, but the wait time on the phone was incredible, I could never get through it, and with the chat on the app, the wait time was two to four hours,” he says.

“But I did it every day and they assured me the bag would arrive, it’s in our system, it’s safe in our service center, it’s going to be delivered tonight. But it never happened. REAL”.

In fact, Shibala already knew something was wrong because she could clearly see where the bag was thanks to the Airtag. “On Friday the 30th at 8 o’clock in the evening, he went to rest at an apartment complex a few miles away from me,” he said.

At first he thought it would be delivered the next day, but instead he says, “I saw him go to McDonald’s.”

After that? “At the nearest mall in the suburbs, twice.”

Even on Tuesday, the day she got the bag, she saw him walking around the mall.

“He comes back every time he comes to the apartment complex [afterward],” he says.

United officials said the bag was at their distribution center, despite evidence to the contrary. One even told him to “calm down,” according to a screenshot of the conversation he posted on Twitter.

Suitcases next to the trash can

So, Shybala decided to go to the residential complex where Airtag is located. Her bag was not found during her first visit on Friday evening, but she says she found two other suitcases with opened and checked luggage tags next to the drawers. One still carried the owner’s coordinates. Shibala emailed them asking if his case was dismissed but has yet to hear back.

“When I found empty suitcases next to the garbage cans, I was very worried,” she says. “United lied to me and I wrote it on Twitter.” On January 1, his photo of suitcases next to trash cans has been viewed more than 21 million times. She also called the police when she found the boxes next to the dumpsters, but says they “weren’t much help” because they couldn’t identify the exact apartment.

She wanted her bag back, although Shibala said United’s Twitter team suggested she file a refund. So he continued to tweet, he continued to record the bag’s location, including the European Wax Center and McDonald’s, and he continued to visit this apartment complex on his way “home.” On his fourth trip, which went viral, he was accompanied by a local TV crew and everything changed.

“We visited the garage again, this time with a local resident who saw my Twitter feed,” he told CNN.

“Other bags [by the dumpsters] left. The resident who came to help said that he saw someone taking them inside.

“We looked through the chests trying to find it [my case]. Then when I got out, I got a message from the courier that my bag was there and it was in the corner. He met me in front of the building and brought my bag with him.

He said the bag still had a cargo tag and an additional identification tag – still locked, contents intact.

According to Shibala, the courier – who was in an unmarked vehicle, not an official van, and was not wearing any uniform – said her bag had been mis-delivered in Virginia, then picked up again and delivered to the apartment complex. question.

“But I’ve seen my bag sitting in this apartment complex since Friday and it’s working,” she said. “My bag is still locked, it must have been in the car. But I was so happy to get my bag that I asked him if I had a bag for the weekend.”

Shibala picked up his bag an hour before speaking to CNN and said he hadn’t fully reviewed the case, but said “everything seems to be in order.”

United Airlines said in a statement to CNN: “The service provided by our baggage carrier did not meet our standards and we are investigating what caused this service failure.” They ignored the behavior of their employees, who repeatedly told Shibala that the suitcase was at United’s distribution center.

The story is not over for Shybala. “I think United should be held accountable for these practices,” he told CNN. “Is it common practice for people to carry passengers’ luggage home?” Seems like they should give me an explanation. I don’t think I would have returned it if I didn’t have the Airtag, “didn’t tweet viral or get media attention”.

Her travel tip? “A tracking device is very useful if you have any contact. Take a picture of the contents – I wish I had a list of the items in my bag. And if they say we’ll deliver, don’t agree – tell them I’ll take you to the airport, even if it’s two hours away.”

He’s not the only one using the tracking device to challenge airlines that lose passenger luggage. In April, Elliot Sharod prepared a Powerpoint presentation for Aer Lingus after the airline lost a suitcase belonging to Sharod and his new bride on their way back from a wedding in South Africa.

Apple isn’t the only company tracking luggage, of course, but CNN’s sister website Underscored named Airtags the “best travel companion” last year.

All news on the site does not represent the views of the site, but we automatically submit this news and translate it through software technology on the site rather than a human editor.

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