Apple’s AirTag item tracker has become a fan-favorite accessory for a number of reasons. Whether you’re trying to find your keys that you’re positive are somewhere in the house, or an F1 racer trying to find a stolen bag, AirTags can get the job done.
Another use case for AirTags has also quickly emerged – tracking your luggage while traveling. In particular, this refers to checked luggage, which airlines are notorious for losing, then lying about losing… but I have another idea, too.
AirTag stories while traveling
Since AirTags were released in 2021, we’ve seen a few stories about how they’ve been used to track down lost luggage. In one instance, an airline employee in Florida was caught with over $15,000 of stolen luggage thanks to an AirTag. Another story saw newlyweds returning from their honeymoon track down lost luggage using an AirTag.
In fact, there was even a brief controversy when German airline Lufthansa said it was banning AirTags from checked bags, calling the item tracker a “dangerous good.” The airline ultimately walked back this statement, but without any details on why it ever made the announcement in the first place.
Now, CNN has the details on another case of Apple’s AirTag exposing airline carelessness with checked luggage. In this instance, a traveler on United Airlines was told that her checked luggage had been left behind, but was safe at a “distribution center.”
Despite this claim, however, the traveler, Valerie Szybala, watched as the AirTag in her luggage traveled throughout Washington D.C., from local malls to residential areas and more.
Essentially, Szybala had opted to allow United Airlines to deliver the bag directly to her, rather than traveling back to the airport herself to pick it up. This delivery service is seemingly handled by a third-party company with which United Airlines contracts:
What she hadn’t bargained on was the “crazy weather” and “implosion” of Southwest Airlines. Although she was flying United, her layover was via a Southwest hub. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when she arrived in D.C. to be informed by her United app that her bag hadn’t made it.
In fact, the bag did arrive in D.C. the next day, December 29. But it would not be until January 2 when she got her hands on it. She took up United’s offer to have the bag delivered direct to her home, rather than return to the airport to pick it up in person. “That’s where I made a big mistake, letting them hand it to a third party,” she says.
Szybala chronicled her luggage’s journey across Washington D.C. on Twitter, observing stops at a McDonald’s, a local mall, and a multi-day stay at an apartment complex.
Ultimately, the luggage did finally make its way back to Szybala. She credits the AirTag with helping her keep an eye on her bag – and exposing some of the false information fed to her by United Airlines. She now encourages anyone traveling to stick an AirTag in their luggage:
For Szybala, the story isn’t over. “I think United needs to answer for these practices,” she told CNN. “Is it standard practice that people can take passengers’ bags home with them? I feel like they owe me an explanation. I don’t think I’d have got it back if I didn’t have the Airtag, if I didn’t post a viral tweet or get media attention.”
Her advice to travelers? “A tracking device is super helpful if you have any sort of connection. Take a photo of the contents — I wish I’d had a list of things in my bag. And if they say they’ll deliver, don’t accept — just say you’ll pick it up, even if the airport is two hours away.”
Top comment by sean roberts
Question. How do you get your car rental before you get your bags as every airport i've ever been in the car rental booths are outside of the baggage area and once you leave that area you can't get back in to collect your bags. So other than the few vending machines that are about I still have to wait for my bags.
I’ve traveled a lot in the past year – taking over 40 flights in 2022. As someone deep in the Apple ecosystem, I knew from the start that I would put an AirTag in my luggage – whether I was checking the bag or even keeping it on my person as a carry-on.
In addition to helping keep track of missing luggage, I have another fun use case for AirTags for checked bags. Once I deplane at my final destination, I use the Find My app on my iPhone to watch my AirTag-equipped bag make its way to baggage claim.
This allows me to take my time getting to baggage claim and stop for any errands I need to do rather than rush to baggage claim, only to stand there aimlessly for 20 minutes. For instance, I oftentimes stop and grab a coffee and pick up my rental car keys while monitoring the location of my checked bag on my iPhone.
Have you made AirTags a part of your travel process? Has Apple’s item tracker proven useful? Let us know in the comments.
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