After a long flight, Alisabeth Hayden exited the plane in San Francisco and realized she left her jacket (containing her expensive AirPods) on the plane.
But when she asked to go back on to get her jacket – the flight crew refused to let her – and insisted they’d bring it to her if she waited by the stroller area.
They did end up bringing her the jacket… except the AirPods were missing – and just wait until you see where they ended up.
These days, a thief needs to be really stupid, or incredibly brilliant to steal something traceable like a pair of AirPods and actually get away with it.
Thankfully, the airport worker who stole the AirPods fell into the first category.
Upon realizing her AirPods were stolen, Hayden (who lived in Seattle) began tracking their location.
“I’m a diligent person, and I tracked the whole way from San Francisco to Seattle, taking screenshots the entire time. I live an hour from Seattle, and once I got home, I was still taking screenshots,” she says.
The AirPods by now were showing up at a place on the map called “United Cargo” – still within the airport, but the cargo side of the airline, so not where a passenger would be likely to be.
Then they moved to Terminal 2. Then to Terminal 3. Then they were on Highway 101, heading south towards San Mateo. They ended up at what appeared to be a residential address in the Bay Area, and stayed put there for three days.”
Realizing what happened, Hayden figured out the email format for United Airline employees and began emailing leadership and everyone she could letting them know her AirPods were stolen by an employee, and she had the exact location of where they were.
United Airlines seemed unmoved, and answered her with generic comments like “I’m sorry you lost your AirPods”.
But Hayden didn’t give up, and a detective from the San Mateo police force who worked at the airport discovered the address Hayden had belonged to an employee of the airport – a contractor who loads food onto the planes.
The detective questioned the thief who at first denied having the AirPods…
…. until he saw the tracked screenshots of the stolen AirPods at his house.
He was forced to admit he had them – and claimed an airline cleaner gave him the AirPods.
Hayden got her AirPods back – finally – but they were in horrible condition.
“After 12 days of chasing, Hayden finally got her AirPods back – although not in peak condition. “They look like they’ve been stomped on,” she says. “They were wrapped in a toilet paper-sized piece of bubble wrap, Why bother?”
When she flagged United about their condition, she says, she was told to leave feedback through the contact form on its website.
A week later, and after CNN first contacted the airline about her case, Hayden was told she would receive $271.91 in “expenses” (to buy a new pair) plus 5,000 miles as an apology.”
What a story!
If United Airlines took her seriously to begin with – much of this fiasco could have been avoided.
But instead, Hayden was given the runaround – even after her AirPods were recovered and damaged.
We’re glad United is at least paying for new AirPods and giving her miles – but it’s still incredibly frustrating she had to even go through this ordeal.
Traceable devices and tags are changing the flying game and helping customers locate their stuff when airlines won’t.
What would you do if you discovered an airport employee stole your property?
How do you think Untied Airlines should have handled the situation?
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