(NEXSTAR) – United Airlines is investigating the circumstances surrounding a piece of lost luggage after a passenger claims it was sent to a random apartment complex—and then to a McDonald’s, and then to a shopping center—instead of her home.
Valerie Szybala had flown home to Washington D.C. on a United Airlines flight after the holidays, but her luggage was delayed. United gave her the option of having the suitcase delivered to her house the following day, and she accepted.
But her bag didn’t arrive the following day. It didn’t arrive the day after that, either. Szybala, fortunately, had left an Apple AirTag inside her luggage, which allowed her to track the location of her missing bag—and she was startled to find it at a residential apartment complex elsewhere in the city.
Szybala documented her ordeal on Twitter, claiming at one point that her bag was moved “to a McDonald’s” before being brought back to the apartment complex. The next day, the AirTag in her suitcase was pinging at a suburban shopping center in the suburbs, she said, before being brought back to the “mystery apartment complex.”
She then visited the apartment complex herself, where she claims to have found two other “emptied” pieces of luggage belonging to United Airlines passengers behind the building, near the dumpsters, according to her Twitter posts. Szybala reached out to United’s customer service team, asking why her bag’s AirTag was pinging at the apartment complex instead of at the courier’s distribution center.
“Calm down,” the representative responded, according to a screenshot of the conversation. “Your bag is at the delivery service.”
When Szybala pressed for an explanation about why her bag was at the apartment complex, and why there were two other bags near the building’s trash, she said that she was again told that the bag was “safe” at the distribution center. “I’d just like everyone to know that @united has lost track of my bag and is lying about it,” she wrote on Twitter.
Finally, on January 2, Szybala again visited the building, this time with “a little posse” that included members of the news media. She then received a text from someone identifying himself as a driver for Couriers United LLC, a third-party delivery service used by United Airlines. The courier said her bag was mistaken for another passenger’s, which is what caused the delay, and he would now bring it to her home.
She called back and told him to bring it to the apartment complex instead. “He drove back to meet me near the building,” she tweeted. “He looked a little surprised to have two news crews filming. He asked if he was in trouble or something, but at that moment I was too happy to have my bag back to ask more questions.”
As of Tuesday, Szybala still hadn’t been given an explanation for her bag’s whereabouts from United or its courier service. But she revealed that all her belongings were accounted for, and theorized that her suitcase was simply left in a courier’s car for several days while he went about his errands.
“I don’t know that [the courier] was telling the truth, I suspect he was not,” she 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 Airlines has confirmed an investigation into the incident, calling it a “service failure” in a statement obtained by NEWS10’s parent company. “We’ve been in touch with this customer to discuss this situation and confirm she has received her luggage,” a representative for the airline 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.” A representative for Couriers United LLC did not immediately return a request for additional information.
Szybala, meanwhile, said she learned several valuable lessons from the ordeal. For starters, she will “never” again allow the airline to deliver any lost bags, but will choose to pick them up in person. She’s also a proponent of luggage tracking devices, calling her Apple AirTag “a lifesaver” in this particular circumstance.
“It was $30. Totally worth it,” she wrote in the comments of the thread, before asking Apple to reward her for potentially drumming up business among airline passengers. “Can I at least get a referral code[?]” she asked the tech company.