Woman’s AirTag tracks suitcase at apartment complex and McDonald’s as United insists it’s safe in ‘wild’ messages

A woman has gone viral online for documenting her missing luggage’s wild adventure, from an apartment complex to a McDonald’s, after United Airlines lost her suitcase.

Valerie Szybala took to Twitter on Sunday (1 January) to share how United Airlines lost her luggage. She used AirTags to track down her suitcase’s bizarre location outside a residential complex, and discovered that her luggage wasn’t the only one tossed outside by the dumpster and emptied.

Despite telling United’s customer support that her luggage was missing, she was told to “calm down” and that her bag was “safe” at the delivery services distribution center.

Unsurprisingly, that was not the case.

“I’d just like everyone to know that @united has lost track of my bag and is lying about it,” she began the viral Twitter thread, which now has 112k likes and 13.4m views.

“My Apple AirTag shows that it has been sitting in a residential apartment complex for over a day. Out back by the dumpsters, I have found other emptied United Airlines bags,” she wrote. Along with the tweet, Szybala included a picture of other suitcases strewn about the concrete complex.

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She continued by sharing screenshots of her conversation from a United customer service support chat. In the messages, Szybala wrote: “The Apple AirTag tracker that I have in my luggage indicates that it has been sitting in this residential apartment complex for several days.”

Szybala informed the customer service representative that there were “empty United customer bags out by the dumpsters” and asked why her luggage was taken to this location.

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After not receiving a response, Szybala asked if the representative was still there, to which they replied: “Calm down you [sic] bag is at the delivery service. We will deliver the bag to you, don’t worry.”

Perhaps it was the response from the United customer service representative that enraged Twitter users the most, as many people pointed out the audacity in telling Szybala to “calm down”.

“The ‘calm down’ would have had me seeing red,” replied one Twitter user.

“This is wild,” said someone else, before mentioning how they saw “rows and rows and rows” of luggage at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. “A total mess”.

Another person said: “That condescending ‘calm down’ would have had me acting an absolute fool in the DMs.”

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One hour later, Valerie Szybala informed her followers that her AirTag appeared to be on the move and stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant. “MAJOR UPDATE: for the first time since Friday my AirTag (and hopefully luggage) appears to be on the move…it’s at a McDonalds? The plot thickens,” she said, before adding in a separate tweet, “ANOTHER MAJOR UPDATE: My luggage AirTag has left McDonalds and returned to the apartment complex where it is being held hostage!”

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On Monday morning, her AirTag appeared to be moving once again only to return to the apartment with the dumpster. By Monday afternoon, Szybala’s luggage was finally returned.

Taking to the popular Twitter thread, Szybala explained how she tracked down her luggage by “creeping around the building’s garage” and hoping to get a signal from her AirTag. She then received a “sketchy” text message from DCA Couriers United, which said: “I’m delivering the luggage missing from your flight with AA/UA. I want to apologise for the inconvenience that you’ve had with your bag. Imma deliver it to you today.”

The courier explained that “the bag was given to me under a different passenger and I delivered your [sic] in a different address and had to go back to that place and pick it up.”

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Because the message didn’t match what Szybala’s AirTag tracking had shown, she decided to call the number. When the man who sent the message picked up the phone, he told Szybala that he was just around the corner and drove back to meet her near the apartment complex.

Despite her luggage now being home safe and sound, Szybala was left with many confused questions and not a lot of answers.

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

The two empty bags Szybala had seen by the dumpster were also gone by later on Monday. However, a building resident told Szybala that the suitcases weren’t picked up by trash collection, but rather brought back inside by someone in the building, which “adds to the sketchy factor for sure,” she said.

The past three days were a wild journey for Szybala’s once-missing luggage, so she concluded her viral Twitter thread by sharing some of the lessons she learned ever since United Airlines lost her bag.

Among the three lessons learned was that using a tracking device in your luggage “can be a lifesaver,” travellers should take photos or inventory of their belongings in case they need to file a reimbursement claim, and to “never choose delivery” over the pickup option if their bag arrives on a later flight.

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United Airlines has yet to publicly comment on the case of the missing luggage, beyond Szybala’s initial interaction with United’s customer support chat.

In the wake of a winter storm that cancelled thousands of flights during the busy holiday season, the number of delayed or lost bags skyrocketed in 2022 alone. Last July, more than six bags out of every 1,000 checked in by passengers were at least temporarily lost, according to data from the US Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, 1,842 complaints about lost luggage were logged that month, more than eight times the complaints received in July 2021.

The Independent has contacted United Airlines and Valerie Szybala for comment.