The potential for lost luggage is one of the most anxiety-provoking elements of any flight, especially one taken during the holiday rush.
Unfortunately for Valerie Szybala, that’s exactly what she’s dealing with after her domestic trip back home to Washington from Chicago in 2023.
In a viral Twitter thread, which she began with that has amassed more than 20 million views since New Year’s Day, she documented the “crazy journey” her bag took when it was finally returned to her – and it all Thanks to Apple AirTags.
While the small disk-shaped device is attacked Because of concerns that people will use them for criminal or malicious purposesthey are designed to hang on keys, wallets, and other items to help find lost items.
United told her the bag wasn’t on the flight to Washington, and knowing it was safe with the AirTag attached, Ms. Szybala accepted the offer to deliver it by courier.
Its apparent journey since then is one she can hardly believe.
Concerned about what had become of her luggage, Ms. Szybala investigated the apartment complex where AirTag believed her luggage was stored.
On Jan. 1, three days after the bag was said to have left the airport, she tweeted that it had “been in a residential area for over a day”.
“Behind the bin, I found other empty United Airlines bags,” she added.
Ms. Szybala shared a screenshot of her conversation with the airline’s support representative, who assured her that the bag was still being delivered as normal.
“Sorry, I don’t know why it shows up there,” they said of the AirTag claiming it was elsewhere, even advising Ms Szybala to “calm down”.
How do air tags work?
AirTags are loaded with what Apple calls the U1 chip, which is basically capable of “pinging” any other Apple device in the wild, triangulating the precise location of the AirTag itself.
With so many iPhones on the market, the chip means AirTags don’t rely on more familiar location technologies like GPS.
To see the AirTag’s location, users open the “Find My” app on their iPhone — newer phones can get precise sat-nav-style directions on the screen.
Misplaced AirTags can enter “lost mode,” which allows users to enter a custom message that will be displayed on someone’s phone — such as contact information — when they hold the phone close to the lost AirTag.
This all sounds very convenient, and if used as intended, for example in the case of lost luggage, it could prove to be very valuable.
But some have expressed concern about the gadget’s potential to track people rather than objects, and in theory a criminal or stalker could put it in someone’s bag or even in their car.
Apple insists it has made AirTags “anti-stalker” because the Find My app will alert people if it detects one of the gadgets that doesn’t belong to them and is assigned to someone else over time.
But the company is the focus of a San Francisco class-action lawsuit filed by two women alleging the devices made it easier for former partners to find them.
Later in the day, there was a “major update” about Ms Szybala’s luggage.
Sharing a photo of her bag’s location on a map, she said: “For the first time since Friday my AirTag (and hopefully my luggage) is on the move… at McDonald’s?
“The plot thickens.”
The McDonald’s in question appears to be located on Rhode Island Avenue, near the mall that bears its name.
It eventually left the fast food restaurant and returned to the apartment complex.
hit the road again
The second day of the New Year brought hope that the luggage would find its way to Ms Szybala’s house.
“My AirTag is moving! It’s in the suburbs about 16 miles away in the city,” she tweeted.
“Hopefully that means it’s being delivered?”
Unfortunately, her hopeful fingers crossed emoji was misplaced as the bag ended up back at the apartment.
Ms. Szybala recruited a “small team” — including a local news crew — to go with her to the building after Bao returned to her apartment on the latest occasion.
She was then followed by a text message purporting to be from a courier, telling her the package would be delivered the same day and encouraging her to “call or text me with any questions”.
“It was sketchy and it didn’t quite match what my AirTag tracking said, but I immediately called the number,” Ms Szybala revealed.
“The guy who picked up the car was just around the corner, so he drove back and waited for me near the building.
“He looked a bit surprised there were two news crews filming. He asked if he was in trouble or something, but I was too happy at that moment to get my bag back and couldn’t ask any more questions.”
Ms. Szybala encourages her followers, fearful of her daily sleuthing, to use tracking devices on their luggage in case something like this befalls them.
A United spokesperson told Sky News: “We have been in contact with the customer to discuss the situation and have confirmed that she has received her bag.
“The service provided by our baggage delivery provider did not meet our standards and we are investigating the reasons for this failure.”