When airlines are unable to locate their bags, we have had individuals track them. Now for something brand-new: a passenger following the progress of an item she left on the plane to the residence of an airport worker.
Alisabeth Hayden, a resident of Washington state in the United States, was disembarking a plane in San Francisco earlier in March when she became separated from her pricey Apple AirPods. They appeared to have been stolen, which she quickly realized.
But thanks to her persistent tracking skills, she got them back nearly two weeks later.
When Hayden was taken from her earphones, she was returning from a trip to Tokyo to see her husband, who is on duty in the military.
After a nine-hour flight from Tokyo, she was a little disoriented when she got off the plane at San Francisco International Airport, so she left her denim jacket on her seat at the back of the plane.
She states, “I realized before I even got off the plane.” I asked the flight attendant if I could go get it because I was the third person to get off the plane last. He said no – I was expected by government regulation to get off the plane and stand alongside it, where the carriages are brought to. He promised to bring it to me because I was worn out, and I said yes. He did bring it to her, and she got on her next flight to Seattle. I thought, “At least I have my AirPods” as a child screamed next to me, she recalls. She reached for her jacket because she hadn’t buttoned the two breast pockets, one of which held her earphones and the other some Japanese yen.
“The pockets were open, and my AirPods were gone,” she says.
Despite the fact that the plane had already taken off for Seattle, Hayden used the “Find My” app, which tracks Apple devices, on the in-flight Wi-Fi to locate the earphones. At SFO, the AirPods were on display.
After that, she saw that they were moving.
“Being a meticulous individual, I tracked all the way from San Francisco to Seattle, taking screenshots every step of the way. She states, “I was still taking screenshots after I got home because I live an hour away from Seattle.”
By this time, the AirPods were showing up at a location on the map that was labeled “United Cargo.” This location was still within the airport, but it was on the airline’s cargo side, not where a passenger might be.
They then made their way to Terminal 2. Then, at that point, to Terminal 3. After that, they were traveling south toward San Mateo on Highway 101. They ended up in the Bay Area at what appeared to be a residential address, where they remained for three days.
Of course, gadgets are valuable to everyone, but Hayden’s AirPods are especially important to her because they are her connection to her husband, who calls her from his deployment on a terrible line and she needs them to hear him.
Hayden was attempting to reclaim them as soon as she became aware that they had vanished. From the plane, she sent messages to United and SFO. She then tried the police in Hayward, where the tracker was showing, and SFO’s own airport police.
She devised the format for United employee email messages and “blasted” every executive she could locate worldwide. I tried every avenue and method of communication, but I kept getting the same response: She responds, “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
She claims that in the interim, she marked the AirPods as “lost” in the app so that anyone who used them would receive a message confirming their ownership and providing her phone number.
Joined together, she says, were “godawful” in their correspondences with her.
They said, “I’m sorry you lost your belongings on our flight,” at first. I thought, “I didn’t lose them; an employee prevented me from getting my jacket, and now my $250 AirPods are missing.”
Who was supportive? Working at the airport is a detective from the San Mateo Police Department.
He verified that the address the earphones were pinging from corresponded to that of an airport employee working as a contractor to load food onto aircraft.
In an email later, United would clarify to Hayden that they were “not a United employee but a vendor.”
She now states: They were in the pocket when I got up, I wasn’t allowed to go back to my seat, and by the time the steward brought the jacket to me, they weren’t there. When I tracked them down, they were at an employee’s house. I can’t make any assumptions.
CNN was informed by United that the employee is employed by a United vendor and that the situation has been reported to law enforcement.
It included an explanation: ” We are collaborating with the local authorities in their investigation of this matter because United Airlines holds our vendors to the highest standards.
‘They look like they’ve been stomped on’
Hayden says the criminal investigator told her that “the data had been given to Joined Freight, and they planned to call this individual into the workplace and question him.”
“I was watching my AirPods at this man’s house for the next few days. They ought to have kicked the bucket, since I hadn’t charged them before my outing, however I continued to get a warning on that they had been ‘seen’ [by the app] – which implied somebody had associated their iPhone to the AirPods.”
The detective called her once more a few days later to inform her that the employee had been questioned. Until he was shown the tracking screenshots at his house, he had denied having the AirPods. At that point, he said that one of the airplane cleaners had given them to him. That individual denied knowing anything about the situation.
A spokesperson for San Mateo County confirmed to CNN that the matter is currently being handled by the San Francisco Airport Police Department, which intends to submit the case to the San Mateo District Attorney’s office.
Hayden finally received her AirPods back after 12 days of searching, albeit in poor condition. She says, “They appear to have been stomped on.” Why bother? They were covered in bubble wrap the size of toilet paper.
She claims that when she flagged United about their condition, she was instructed to use the website’s contact form to provide feedback. After CNN first contacted the airline about Hayden’s case a week later, Hayden was informed that she would receive 5,000 miles and $271.91 in “expenses” as an apology.
‘I shouldn’t have to explain for someone to care’
Hayden, who always carries an AirTag in her luggage, says she would love to be the last person to be accused of taking something from a plane.
I’m persistent, but what about those who give up or don’t have time? How many individuals will hear, “You left them behind, what do you expect?” She demands. The detective who assisted her, she describes as “amazing.”
She can communicate with her husband once more while she waits for her AirPods to recover.
She asserts, “Maybe they look like AirPods to regular people, but it’s my lifeline to my husband and means something different to me.”
“However, I ought not to have to explain for anyone to care,”