The airline said her bag was lost, but her tracker said otherwise. So I flew to get it

The airline said her bag was lost, but her tracker said otherwise.  So I flew to get it

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Airline passenger stories Track lost bags It is becoming more popular than ever, as are the number of bags Airlines offended It keeps spinning, and travelers invest in tracking devices.

But a passenger back to the airport as the tracker turns up, to collect it himself when all official methods fail? This is new.

Sandra Schuster, of Denver, took matters into her own hands when her lost bag showed up at Chicago O’Hare — but her airline, United, did nothing about it.

Schuster and her 15-year-old daughter, Ruby, who plays lacrosse, were on their way back from Baltimore via Chicago on July 17, when their checked bag went missing.

The couple — who were in Baltimore for a tournament — traveled with carry-on bags for their clothes, but only checked one bag containing Ruby’s lacrosse kit. When they arrived in Denver after midnight, the bag was not on the belt. United’s representatives in Denver gave them the case number and told them the suitcase should arrive at 8.30am from Chicago in a few hours. When that didn’t happen, Shuster called the lost baggage toll-free number I had.

They said, “Your bag will come later today on one of two flights.” I said, “Okay, great,” but it never came. So I called later that afternoon and they said, “Your bag is still in Baltimore,” Chester says.

There was just one problem: She already knew he wasn’t in Baltimore. Three months ago, Schuster bought an AirTag – Apple tracking devices – to find out where her daughter’s bag was. “This is unique equipment, and we have to check it out. Airlines are getting worse, lost baggage rates are getting higher, and I wanted to know where it was—so I bought the card,” she explains.

An AirTag was showing up at baggage reclaim in O’Hare.

“I told them I could see him at the Terminal 1 baggage reclaim center in Chicago, and they said ‘we don’t have a record of that. I asked them to call Chicago, and they said ‘No, we’re not allowed.’ They said they put notes in the system and the baggage team will take care of it.”

When the bag had not yet arrived, and Schuster called a third time, she was told “we have no idea where it is.”

They also told Shuster she had the wrong claim number – she thought impossible, because she still had the sticker that came with her boarding pass. The other half was on the bag.

Actually, they were right — sort of. The claim number was indeed the same card that was attached in her bag – but the check-in agent attached the wrong card. This was for another passenger who was traveling from Baltimore to Chicago only. This meant that the bag was removed from the plane at O’Hare and sent directly to the recovery belt, rather than being loaded onto the Denver flight.

Refuse “double win”

Schuster's daughter Ruby is playing lacrosse, and the bag is full of her gear.  - Laralyn Barhydt

Schuster’s daughter Ruby is playing lacrosse, and the bag is full of her gear. – Laralyn Barhydt

Robbie plays goaltender lacrosse, which means there’s a pool totaling about $2,000 in that bag. Replacing it wasn’t just a matter of finances, Shuster says—a new stick would have to be reinstalled and then broken in, which takes about a month in total. Meanwhile they were flying to San Francisco for another tournament in two days. Ruby borrowed some equipment for that trip.

Upon their return from California, they stopped by the lost baggage office in Denver with their reference number, and confirmed that the AirTag was still tracking in Chicago.

“The guy said, ‘Mam, just because she’s in Chicago doesn’t mean she’s with your bag,'” says Shuster.

After she suggested someone had stolen the bag and thrown away the AirTag, she said, the US representative told her that most people immediately filed claims to replace items, get $1,000 to $2,000 in compensation, and then have their bag arrive within weeks. few.

But Chester was convinced it was still there. “It moved maybe 50 feet, and the AirTag was embedded in the bag — I suspected someone stole it,” she says. “He was suggesting it could be a double win but I didn’t try to game the system – it was much harder to replace what was in that bag.”

Moreover, her daughter tried out for the lacrosse team the following week.

So when I asked a friend in Chicago if there was any way he could swing by the airport, and realized he was on vacation himself, Schuster took matters into her own hands and booked a flight with air miles.

Day off and trip to Chicago

The bag was in Chicago, exactly where AirTag said it was.  - Nam Y. Huh / AP

The bag was in Chicago, exactly where AirTag said it was. – Nam Y. Huh / AP

By this time, she had contacted United on Twitter, but had been told they could not locate him. She also said she called United three times, only to be told first that they weren’t allowed to call the baggage counter in Chicago, then that a supervisor had authorized a call but no one in Chicago answered – and finally, again, that simply calling Chicago wasn’t allowed with it.

Before booking her flights — two hours each way, plus 30,000 air miles and about $30 in taxes — she told United’s Twitter account that she was planning the Chicago trip.

They initially replied: “We’ve been told by the baggage team at ORD you’ll be arriving” – half an hour before they messaged again to say: “We recommend you stay in Denver while we continue to work through our processes to get your bag back to you.”

Found in 30 seconds

Employees in Chicago produced the bag "30 seconds," Schuster says.  - Sandra Schuster

Employees in Chicago produced the bag in “30 seconds,” Schuster says. – Sandra Schuster

By this point, Schuster had little faith in United’s operations. “So I hopped on the plane, flew to Chicago, got the luggage bags, and it took them 30 seconds to give me my bag,” she says.

“In the meantime, I had already sent United the pictures of the bag and the claim ticket and its location. It’s amazing that they couldn’t figure out how to do it better in this day and age.”

Employees were grabbing it at O’Hare at the baggage office by the belts in Terminal 1—the 50 feet that AirTag showed the bag had moved.

Labeled with another passenger’s details, the bag was sent to the belt, ready for pickup at O’Hare – and when it went unclaimed, staff moved it to their back office.

Although several United employees have told Shuster that they have updated notes on her case, recorded where the AirTag was sent, and even though their Twitter team has said they have notified Chicago of her arrival, the staff on the ground know nothing of her case.

“They said, ‘We can’t believe this happened,'” she said.

“I understand outsourcing, but there are real shortcomings here. And if someone knows where the bag is…” says Shuster, puzzled that no one realized the passenger was actually saving them time and effort.

“We’ve never heard of that before.”

While United employees said the bag was in Baltimore, AirTag showed its correct location: Chicago.  - Sandra Schuster

While United employees said the bag was in Baltimore, AirTag showed its correct location: Chicago. – Sandra Schuster

Since then, Schuster—who took a day off work to retrieve a bag, left on a 6 a.m. flight and got home by 4 p.m. after a delayed return flight—has been working to redeem her miles.

Upon arrival I spoke to the baggage team in Denver. “They said, wow, we’ve never heard of that before,” she says.

They suggested she call United. As a frequent traveler, she called the priority line – and was told to file a claim online. Three days later, she heard nothing — but less than 24 hours after CNN contacted United, the airline credited her with the 30,000 miles in her account (though not the taxes she spent), along with an apology “for the inconvenience you experienced on your last flight.” With United.

United said in a statement: “Unfortunately, this bag was incorrectly tagged at the start of the flight which contributed to the longer delay – we have apologized to Ms. Schuster, reimbursed the miles used and given her an extra travel credit to use on a future flight.” Our teams are working to reconnect our customers with their belongings as quickly as possible and we regret that we were not able to get this suitcase to Denver sooner.”

Schuster has not yet been informed of the travel credit at the time of writing.

‘Airlines need to do better’

So what lessons have been learned? Schuster says she’ll always check the claim tag placed on her bag, rather than assuming the check-in staff got it right. You will also keep an eye on it down the conveyor belt.

Ruby is happy, and Schuster says she feels “great” herself — she’s always been known to be persistent.

But her main emotion is bewilderment.

“What was hard to comprehend was that it would have taken one call to Chicago to locate him, and no one seemed to be able to do that. Why couldn’t the guy in Denver baggage claim call Chicago? It would have taken a minute. It was a huge hassle for him.” Me to take the day off work and use my miles (to fly there).

And there was no apology at any point – except for a message on Twitter saying, “We know this was frustrating and making you anxious.”

“United seems very isolated. They have no way that these people can talk to each other and find out quickly.

“You can’t tell me in this day and age, with all the technology available, that they can’t figure this stuff out. The airlines have to do better.”

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