We all know that sinking feeling when you’re at baggage reclaim, waiting for your bag to arrive – and everyone else seems to be getting theirs first. Normally, you’re predicting something that won’t happen – your bag pops out just as you think it’s lost forever. But some unlucky people’s worst fears are realized – and sometimes, that means losing precious items of huge sentimental value.
Elliot Sharod was one of the unlucky ones on April 17. He and his new wife, Helen, were flying back from their wedding in South Africa, where Sharod used to live, to their home in the UK.
It had been the trip of a lifetime – their wedding was first booked for 2020, before being rescheduled for 2021, right before Omicron hit.
Finally, they had made it. “It was everything to us – we were coming off an absolute high of it finally happening, finally being married in a place that was special to us.”
They checked three bags for their complex trip home: Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi; Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt; and Frankfurt to Dublin. The booking was with Etihad, which had run a direct Abu Dhabi to Dublin route when they’d booked; but had canceled it during the pandemic, and switched them on to an Etihad route to Germany, and then a codeshare with Aer Lingus to Dublin.
From Dublin – the starting point for their trip, since flights were much cheaper – they were due to fly again with Aer Lingus to London Heathrow.
Only, when they reached Dublin, their bags didn’t turn up.
Luckily, Sharod had a secret weapon: Airtags.
He’d bought three of the Apple products, which emit tracking alerts via Bluetooth, and hidden one in each suitcase.
“I did it because our itinerary was quite robust – we were traveling through multiple airports,” he says. “It was more for security on the way down – the wedding dress and suit weren’t in our cases, but it was for peace of mind.”
So he and Helen had watched in real time, relieved, as their cases arrived planeside at Frankfurt. Just one problem – when they checked again, the cases had moved to a gate area at Frankfurt. They’d never been loaded onto the plane.
“We were annoyed, frustrated and tired by that point, but still optimistic – we thought, hey, they’ll stick it on a flight,” he says. “We didn’t think any more of it.”
Aer Lingus staff said they’d route the bags from Frankfurt to London, to deliver them to the Sharods’ home address in Surrey, outside the capital.
And indeed, the following night, at 10 p.m., a courier arrived. The only problem: there were just two bags.
The third – Helen’s suitcase, containing wedding cards, handwritten notes from the lodge they’d stayed at, the order of service and itineraries they’d made for the guests – was, according to its Airtag, at a random address in Pimlico, in central London.
Repeated calls, emails and DMs to Aer Lingus and its designated courier service, Eagle Aviation, have drawn blanks. Sharod says that Aer Lingus has told him at different points that the case has been identified in its new location, brought to the Sharods’ house only to find them not there, and has fallen off the system completely. Meanwhile, Eagle Aviation has not responded to messages via its contact form, or answered the phone.
So after a response from Aer Lingus CEO Lynne Embleton’s office that told him their baggage team was looking into it, he decided on a new approach: recording videos addressing the airline, and posting them on social media.
He’s even put together a PowerPoint presentation video, talking the airline through the saga, and is sharing their often conflicting direct messages to him.
Sharod told CNN that it’s “the only way I can get their attention, by naming and shaming them.”
But his saga – which comes during a period of baggage chaos at UK airports, which the airlines blame on understaffing – shows that customers tracking their own luggage may be a sign of things to come.
Apple’s Airtags, which launched April 2021, cost $29, with a pack of four coming in at $99. They are small enough to hide in a suitcase – the Sharods’ is in a sock – but, once linked to an Apple device, can be traced to their location within meters.
In “lost” mode, they emit signals that are picked up by any Apple products in the vicinity and passed back to the owner, meaning that an iPhone user walking past Sharod’s bag will inadvertently help alert him to its location.
That’s how he knows that on April 21, four days after the case went missing, it made two journeys – both within a couple of blocks of its Pimlico location. Since then, it has not moved.
“Helen’s gutted,” he said. “It’s her bag, her clothes, and she has that very uneasy feeling about where her property is.” The couple now believe it has been stolen, and have also reported it to the police.
Sharod, an avgeek, isn’t the first frequent flier to use Airtags to try and reconnect with his bags. Avgeek influencer Paul Lucas tweeted the saga of his lost bag on a TAP flight from Lisbon to Madrid.
He was able to track its journey around Lisbon Airport before finally being reunited with it in Spain.
CNN’s sister website, Underscored, called Airtags the “ultimate travel companion” last month.
They have also recommended Chipolo and Tile trackers.
Neither Aer Lingus nor Eagle Aviation responded to request for comment.