AirTag again exposes lies told by airlines about lost luggage

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in AirTag

A Canadian man recounts how only an AirTag got him his luggage back after United Airlines lost it and persisted in lying about where it was.




Sometimes AirTags have given us funny stories about lost luggage going on a better holiday than its owners. Sometimes it's a much darker stalking story.

But now, yet again, an AirTag has rescued luggage that wasn't where it should be and wasn't even where the airline insisted it was.

According to the Daily Hive, Canadian Winston Sih says that on August 14, 2023, his United Airlines flight from Chicago to Toronto was cancelled and he was diverted via Washington, DC. So was his luggage, but that's the last point where the airline got it right.

"I was told United would transfer my suitcase to the correct flight," Sih told the publication.

Screenshot and message by Winston Sih showing his luggage at the airport
Screenshot and message by Winston Sih showing his luggage at the airport



It wasn't. On asking the airline why his luggage wasn't anywhere to be found at Toronto Pearson International Airport, United Airlines promised to deliver it to his home. But thanks to his AirTag, Sih could see that the luggage was at still at Washington Dulles.

No, no, said United Airlines when he pointed this out, the luggage is actually in Toronto. Eventually, UA did put the bag on a flight to Toronto, but "that's where it started to wrong," says Sih, because now there was also Air Canada involved.

Still, his luggage got to the airport -- where it then went around and around the baggage carousel at the airport until it was taken off "presumably by staff." It was taken off the carousel, but left in the baggage hall unattended for 24 hours.

No, no, said United Airlines: the luggage is still in Washington.

"But what I... told them was that my iPhone was telling me that my AirTag was showing [the luggage] live in Toronto," said Sih. "It would update every few minutes when it would ping off someone's phone."

Representatives from both United Airlines and Air Canada promised to attend to the luggage and get it to him as soon as possible. "Unfortunately," says Sih, "no one did."

He watched the AirTag saying his luggage was still right there at Toronto airport and after a day of that, he decided to go get it himself.

"I bounced back and forth between United Airlines and Air Canada staff," he says. "They don't have clear baggage offices after security/customs, which would be a good idea."

Eventually an Air Canada representative allowed him to be escorted into the secure luggage area. He used his iPhone 14 to track down the AirTag and recovered his luggage.

"It was like finding a needle in a haystack, but way easier with technology," he said. "I would say, AirTags are a must if you're travelling. I have them on my backpack, keys, and multiple suitcases."

This isn't the first time that airlines have been caught lying about where luggage is. Once someone's luggage was sent to a donation pile.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,044member
    “Lying” suggests the airlines knew where the luggage was and intentionally said it was in a different location. It’s much more likely here that the airlines’ tracking system, which depends on a bar code being correctly scanned, was reporting incorrect information to staff, and they were reflecting that information to the customer. Yes, the customer was telling them he had different information, but all they have to go on is their own system, which to be fair, moves a huge amount of luggage around correctly every day. 

    So this isn’t about anyone lying, it’s about a customer convincing airline staff that he has different, more accurate info, and that, based on his info, they need to pull a person off of whatever task they’re normally doing, send them to the general area where the customer sees his luggage pinging, find it, and return it correctly to their system for final delivery. It’s not that they shouldn’t be expected to do that, but it’s at least realistic to understand what that means in the context of a system that’s still moving millions of other bags to their destination. 
    Graeme000MplsPwatto_cobraFileMakerFellerOferbestkeptsecretmaltz
  • Reply 2 of 7
    cincyteecincytee Posts: 410member
    AppleZulu said:
    “Lying” suggests the airlines knew where the luggage was and intentionally said it was in a different location. It’s much more likely here that the airlines’ tracking system, which depends on a bar code being correctly scanned, was reporting incorrect information to staff, and they were reflecting that information to the customer. Yes, the customer was telling them he had different information, but all they have to go on is their own system, which to be fair, moves a huge amount of luggage around correctly every day. 

    So this isn’t about anyone lying, it’s about a customer convincing airline staff that he has different, more accurate info, and that, based on his info, they need to pull a person off of whatever task they’re normally doing, send them to the general area where the customer sees his luggage pinging, find it, and return it correctly to their system for final delivery. It’s not that they shouldn’t be expected to do that, but it’s at least realistic to understand what that means in the context of a system that’s still moving millions of other bags to their destination. 

    Airlines do correctly deliver an enormous volume of luggage every day, and people forget what a logistical triumph that is. The problem is that, when presented proof that the system has failed in a specific instance, the typical airline response is that the customer is wrong. The airline here did lie that it knew where the bag was and when and how it would be returned. You're right that it wasn't lying in the usual criminal sense, but it was a known falsehood: A quick check by airline staff in the airports involved would have confirmed that.
    dope_ahminedarkvaderM68000appleinsideruserwatto_cobraOferbestkeptsecret
  • Reply 3 of 7
    AppleZulu said:
    “Lying” suggests the airlines knew where the luggage was and intentionally said it was in a different location. It’s much more likely here that the airlines’ tracking system, which depends on a bar code being correctly scanned, was reporting incorrect information to staff, and they were reflecting that information to the customer. Yes, the customer was telling them he had different information, but all they have to go on is their own system, which to be fair, moves a huge amount of luggage around correctly every day. 

    So this isn’t about anyone lying, it’s about a customer convincing airline staff that he has different, more accurate info, and that, based on his info, they need to pull a person off of whatever task they’re normally doing, send them to the general area where the customer sees his luggage pinging, find it, and return it correctly to their system for final delivery. It’s not that they shouldn’t be expected to do that, but it’s at least realistic to understand what that means in the context of a system that’s still moving millions of other bags to their destination. 
    Yeah but who wants to read an article titled "Traveler finds bag faster with AirTag"? AI is dependent on Ads and that requires clicks, hyperbole gets clicks. 
  • Reply 4 of 7
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,422member
    AppleZulu said:
    “Lying” suggests the airlines knew where the luggage was and intentionally said it was in a different location. It’s much more likely here that the airlines’ tracking system, which depends on a bar code being correctly scanned, was reporting incorrect information to staff, and they were reflecting that information to the customer. Yes, the customer was telling them he had different information, but all they have to go on is their own system, which to be fair, moves a huge amount of luggage around correctly every day. 

    So this isn’t about anyone lying, it’s about a customer convincing airline staff that he has different, more accurate info, and that, based on his info, they need to pull a person off of whatever task they’re normally doing, send them to the general area where the customer sees his luggage pinging, find it, and return it correctly to their system for final delivery. It’s not that they shouldn’t be expected to do that, but it’s at least realistic to understand what that means in the context of a system that’s still moving millions of other bags to their destination. 

    This is a reasonable and non-pessimistic first take on these sort of incidents. Before accusing someone of lying we should first rule out incompetence, ineptitude, cluelessness, or making statements or reaching unsubstantiated conclusions based on inadequate, incorrect, and/or incomplete information, i.e., generalized stupidity. Additionally, a universal wildcard reason that pops up every now and then is "bad shit happens," like your bag is stolen, gets run over on the tarmac by a baggage handling cart, or is ripped apart by the baggage handling system. 

    Sure, some people do lie, some of them with great frequency, without remorse, and with great impunity. Based on the one-sided narratives of many of these lost luggage sleuths, and the one presented above, I'd place my bet on incompetence and cluelessness being at the root of this particular problem. Hopefully the airlines will eventually see a need to upgrade their systems to provide better individual bag tracking that's on par with what AirTags provide. 

    I suppose Apple could make it possible for you to temporarily share your AirTag with the airlines for a specific time window, one that you get to control, so they can access the inherent capabilities of the AirTag system too. But I doubt they have the financial means to take on the additional burden when they are already stretched to their limits, and beyond. Plus, as AppleZulu said, they handle an enormous number of bags and I'd bet their failure rate (lost bags/number of bags) is actually quite small. Nobody is posting to Facebook or Twitter-X about their successful baggage handling experience because good news is never newsworthy.
    MplsPwatto_cobraOferentropysbestkeptsecret
  • Reply 5 of 7
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,044member
    cincytee said:
    AppleZulu said:
    “Lying” suggests the airlines knew where the luggage was and intentionally said it was in a different location. It’s much more likely here that the airlines’ tracking system, which depends on a bar code being correctly scanned, was reporting incorrect information to staff, and they were reflecting that information to the customer. Yes, the customer was telling them he had different information, but all they have to go on is their own system, which to be fair, moves a huge amount of luggage around correctly every day. 

    So this isn’t about anyone lying, it’s about a customer convincing airline staff that he has different, more accurate info, and that, based on his info, they need to pull a person off of whatever task they’re normally doing, send them to the general area where the customer sees his luggage pinging, find it, and return it correctly to their system for final delivery. It’s not that they shouldn’t be expected to do that, but it’s at least realistic to understand what that means in the context of a system that’s still moving millions of other bags to their destination. 

    Airlines do correctly deliver an enormous volume of luggage every day, and people forget what a logistical triumph that is. The problem is that, when presented proof that the system has failed in a specific instance, the typical airline response is that the customer is wrong. The airline here did lie that it knew where the bag was and when and how it would be returned. You're right that it wasn't lying in the usual criminal sense, but it was a known falsehood: A quick check by airline staff in the airports involved would have confirmed that.
    Part of the point I was trying to make was that "a quick check by airline staff" is much easier said than done. One of the fundamental flaws of the current airline system is that they cut costs by eliminating most redundancies and surplus capacity from their operations. This is why small backups due to weather or mechanical problems can quickly cascade into system-wide interruptions. So chances are not great that there would be people available to stop whatever they're doing to go have a look around whenever a customer calls and says their Air Tag has located a bag at some location that's different from where the baggage tracking system reports the bag to be. A logistics system can be simultaneously very good at moving a million bags (or whatever) every day, and also very bad at seeking out the comparatively small number that get misdirected. It's likely that a significant percentage of misdirected bags get that way because of damage to or elimination of the airlines' barcoded baggage tags, which means there's a significant chance that an employee sent to look around may be reduced to trying to identify a bag by a customer's handwritten tag, or worse, the customer's phoned-in description of the bag, because the AirTag was inside the bag and all other identifying info was torn off with the handle in some mishap. All that potentially equals more time than "a quick check." It's likely that the normal method of finding lost bags involves periodic sweeps of baggage claim areas for loose bags, and then sending them to a location based on the best available information in the system and/or printed on the bag's tags. Then at that point, someone at any given airport location can start sorting out the mess all at once, instead of ad-hoc every time a customer calls.

    None of this is to say that this sort of problem isn't immensely frustrating. Just that it may not be fair to say that the airline staff is lying when they use the internal information available to them for reporting where a customer's bag is.
    edited August 2023 watto_cobraFileMakerFellerOferbestkeptsecretforgot usernamemaltz
  • Reply 6 of 7
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,370member
    I disagree profoundly with previous commenters who blindly defend the airlines on this.  Anyone with an intelligent mind should be defending AI and William Gallagher for APPROPRIATE wording when it comes to "lies" in the headline and "caught lying" in the article.  Anything that is not a truth is a lie -- intentional or not.  

    If an airline worker merely checks a computer and reads inaccurate info to a customer who has accurate info in the form of an AirTag, that inaccurate info is in fact a lie, especially when the airline worker reading the inaccurate info doesn't lift a finger to re-confirm it!  

    Not a single person at the airline lifted even a pinky finger to confirm the accuracy of the information reported to the luggage owner until the luggage owner visited the airport in person.  Only when the baggage owner visited the airport did airline people start to do what they ought to have done from the get-go -- take a short walk and look with their own eyes. "It's not my job" and sheer laziness resulted in this story becoming headline news.  

    "Easier said than done"??? Poppycock!

    The top brass at these airlines should resign their positions for not managing their businesses better than this.  Keeping planes in the air is on the same level of importance as keeping the property of passengers safe and in the possession of the passenger when not flying.  The fact that more isn't being done to remedy a problem that has existed for DECADES is an absolute outrage, and the fact commenters are merely squabbling here about whether the use of the word "lies" is appropriate is also an outrage.  The fact more people aren't outraged is precision why NOTHING EVER CHANGES.  That too is an outrage.

    It's because for-profit corporations refuse to self-manage that silly government often steps in with over-reaching regulation, and the end result tends to be bad for everyone.  Corporations should just note the problems and take action so the government can keep its regulatory nose out of it.

    We have all the technology required today to prevent this.  Bags should be photographed automatically by the airline as they are checked in.  Bags shouldn't just be paper-tagged by the airline, but also electronically tagged with tech similar to an 
    Airbag so the airline can manage bags, not the customer.  If paper and electronic tagging fail, you have a photo to fall back on, in addition to whatever extra info the baggage owner supplies.  Stop making excuses why this is "easier said than done" and just do it!

    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 7
     jdw said:
    I disagree profoundly with previous commenters who blindly defend the airlines on this.  Anyone with an intelligent mind should be defending AI and William Gallagher for APPROPRIATE wording when it comes to "lies" in the headline and "caught lying" in the article.  Anything that is not a truth is a lie -- intentional or not.  

    I wouldn't say anyone here was blindly defending the airlines on this. It's more like giving them the benefit of doubt.

    Of course, it's more complicated than that. The "promises" made by middle-level managers to "definitely look into the matter" is generally a bunch of BS. You could say that they are lying. 
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