DC woman tracked lost luggage’s odyssey using AirTag

A woman in D.C. has finally gotten a bag that was lost on a United Airlines flight home last week — after she spent five days tracking the bag using AirTags that showed it was at an apartment complex just 2 miles away from her house.

Valerie Szybala told WTOP her bag was separated from her on a United flight from Chicago. When she landed at Reagan National Airport last Wednesday, she opted for the airline to deliver her bag.

“I should never have allowed them to deliver it,” said Szybala.

The airline contracted the job to a third party delivery service. “I really think that’s where the failure happens,” she added.

Luckily, she had placed an AirTag in her bag.

She started tracking the bag on Friday, when the bag was supposed to be delivered.

“It started behaving oddly, it didn’t look like it was going on delivery runs anymore. It looked like it was at a shopping complex, and then settled in for the night at a residential apartment complex,” said Szybala.

The AirTag allows its location to be pinged as long as there is an Apple device near it.

“I was lucky enough that the delivery driver who I believe had my bag in his trunk this whole time seemed to have an Apple device because I could follow the movements of my bag very closely when it decided to go on shopping excursions or to McDonald’s,” said Szybala, who even visited the apartment complex to try to pick up the bag.

Once there, she found other luggage.

“I found other passengers’ empty suitcases dumped out back by the dumpsters behind this building,” said Szybala. “I got worried.”

After pressuring United Airlines and taking to Twitter, her bag showed up Monday. She said the delivery driver claimed the bag initially went to the wrong address in Virginia.

“But because I was tracking it with my AirTag, I know that’s not what happened,” she told WTOP.

She said after going viral with her story on Twitter, she has heard from many others who have dealt with a similar issue.

“Anyone else dealing with this — you know, we all want accountability in this case, and others like it,” said Szybala.

She said United is investigating what happened but will not release its findings. WTOP has contacted the airline for comment.

“I think United needs to tell everyone what went wrong and tell them what they’ve done. Tell me also what they’ve done to fix it.”

In the meantime, Szybala is using the experience to help others avoid the delivery disaster that she experienced.

She suggests using AirTags or similar devices. “It’s worth it,” she said.

She also suggests locking your bag, and keeping records of the contents of your bag through a list or pictures, for compensation purposes.

She also recommended returning to the airport to pick up lost bags, rather than having them delivered.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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