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A United Passenger Learned the Airline Was Lying to Her by Tracking Her Own Bag

A lost bag's sweeping saga unfolded on Twitter earlier this week.

Travel woes plagued passengers over the holiday season, when a wild winter storm led to mass flight cancellations nationwide. Southwest Airlines, in particular, ended up in the hot seat, as drastic schedule cuts left many customers stranded and without their luggage. However, United Airlines is now facing controversy of its own after reportedly lying to a customer who used an Apple AirTag to track her lost bag. Read on to discover how the passenger found her bag, and why she's accusing United of misleading her.

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The traveler's bag didn't make it onto the plane with her.

luggage on carousel at airport
WeStudio / Shutterstock

United Airlines passenger Valerie Syzbala went viral on Twitter when documenting her experience tracking down her lost luggage. According to Mashable, Syzbala was traveling from Chicago to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., but when she landed, a notification from the airline's app informed her that her bag hadn't made the trip alongside her.

Thankfully, Syzbala had the forethought to put an Apple AirTag in her checked bag—a nifty tracking device that can help you locate missing items. But she didn't initially realize how invaluable this decision would be.

She posted screenshots of her conversation with United's customer service.

Test after setup AirTag on the iPhone Find my app for car keys - display showing map of object - helps people keep track of belongings

Syzbala took United up on their offer to deliver her bag, and she was informed that it would arrive on Dec. 29. However, the bag didn't turn up on that day, and her Apple AirTag showed that it had landed somewhere else entirely.

"I'd just like everyone to know that @united has lost track of my bag and is lying about it," Syzbala wrote on Twitter on Jan. 1. "My apple AirTag shows that it has been sitting in a residential apartment complex for over a day."

Syzbala took it upon herself to visit the apartment complex, where she found emptied United Airlines bags (but not her own) "out back by the dumpsters." She then reached out to United's customer support, where a representative told her to "calm down." They stated that her bag was at a delivery services distribution center, and when Syzbala pressed them on why her AirTag was showing otherwise, they apologized and said they didn't know.

On Twitter, Syzbala explained that her bag went back and forth from the apartment complex, per her AirTag and the Apple Find My app.

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After more trials and tribulations, Syzbala did get her bag back.

someone logging onto twitter app

The saga continued to unfold on Twitter, with several passengers chiming in to say they'd also lost luggage when flying United. The carrier told Syzbala to use the Where's My Suitcase platform to track her baggage, but she found it was never updated, Mashable reported.

It wasn't until she went back to the apartment complex for a fourth time—after watching her AirTag-equipped bag travel back and forth from McDonald's—that she received a text from someone working with "DCA Couriers United."

"I'm delivering the luggage missing from your flight with AA/UA," the text reads, per a screenshot posted on Twitter. The employee apologized and said that Syzbala's bag was mistakenly listed under a different name and delivered to a different passenger. He explained that he then had to go pick up her bag from the wrong location, but Syzbala pointed out that this story still didn't line up with what her AirTag was saying.

The employee was able to meet her at the apartment complex, and Syzbala said she was "too happy" to have her bag returned, so she didn't ask the deliverer (whom she notes was startled by news crews at the site) any clarifying questions.

"I don't know that this guy was telling the truth, I suspect he was not," Syzbala tweeted. "Nothing I've been told by this guy or @United explains why my bag spent 3 days in an apartment complex garage, with occasional shopping excursions. I'd still like some answers."

United said their third-party vendor's service wasn't up to par.

side of united airlines plane
EQRoy / Shutterstock

In a statement provided to Best Life, United confirmed that they reached out to Syzbala directly. "We've been in touch with this customer to discuss this situation and confirm she has received her luggage," a spokesperson wrote. "The service our baggage delivery vendor provided does not meet our standards and we are investigating what happened to lead to this service failure."

After her story gained so much traction, Syzbala offered her own advice to fellow travelers. First, she recommended investing in an AirTag, which was invaluable in getting her bag returned to her. Taking photos of your belongings can also be helpful if you end up needing to be reimbursed, she said. Lastly, she highlighted her mistake in choosing to have her luggage delivered.

"If your bag arrives on a later flight than you and they offer to hold at the import for pickup or deliver it, NEVER CHOOSE DELIVERY," she wrote. "The 3rd part delivery service is where this got sketchy imho."

Syzbala also told Mashable that she hopes her story may highlight the need for a policy update. "Obviously this is not going to change everything United does, but certainly getting all of this attention—the negative press—is kind of the only thing that might prompt them to evaluate some of these practices," she said.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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