Mom tracks lost bag to O’Hare with an AirTag. United couldn’t help, so she flew to collect it

Sandra Shuster played phone tag with United for nearly two weeks when her daughter’s AirTag showed a suitcase was stuck at O’Hare. Then she jumped on a plane.

SHARE Mom tracks lost bag to O’Hare with an AirTag. United couldn’t help, so she flew to collect it
Sandra Shuster and her daughter Ruby. Sandra tracked her daughter’s luggage to O’Hare Airport using an AirTag. United Airlines couldn’t help, so she flew there herself.

Sandra Shuster and her daughter, Ruby. Sandra tracked her daughter’s luggage to O’Hare Airport using an AirTag. United Airlines couldn’t help, so she flew there herself.

Provided

When United Airlines lost her daughter’s check-in luggage on a layover at O’Hare Airport, Sandra Shuster struggled for nearly two weeks to recover the bag she knew was still at the airport.

The Apple AirTag tracker in the bag told her it was at O’Hare — but the airline was no help.

“After 10 days, I’m like, ‘You know what, I’m never gonna get this bag back unless I go and get it,’” Sandra Shuster said.

So she took a day off from work and took a plane from Denver to O’Hare, she said.

“When I got there, it took like 30 seconds” to get the bag from United’s baggage claim office.

United has apologized to Shuster and reimbursed her for the frequent flier miles she used to make the trip to retrieve her 15-year-old daughter Ruby’s bag, which contained $2,000 in lacrosse equipment.

An Apple AirTag showed that Sandra Shuster’s daughter’s luggage was still at O’Hare Airport.

An Apple AirTag showed that Sandra Shuster’s daughter’s suitcase was still at O’Hare Airport. The airline said the bag was lost.

Provided

United hasn’t explained why its employees failed for days to locate a bag that Shuster assured them was still at O’Hare.

The problem started with an employee putting the wrong tag on the suitcase. The error sent Shuster in circles as she repeatedly called United’s customer service, who told her they couldn’t help.

“Going to Chicago on a plane was easier than replacing the gym equipment,” Shuster said. “My lesson is this: One, always remember the AirTag, but also check your claim ticket.”

The ordeal began July 16 when Shuster and her daughter passed through O’Hare on their way home to Denver from a lacrosse tournament in Baltimore.

When they arrived in Denver just after midnight, Shuster realized her luggage wasn’t there. United told her the bag would be sent to Denver the next morning, but it never arrived. After more calls, United finally told her the bag was still in Baltimore.

But Shuster knew it wasn’t.

Ruby Shuster plays goal at a tournament in San Jose, California, in equipment borrowed after her luggage was lost at O’Hare Airport.

Ruby Shuster plays goal at a tournament in San Jose, California, using equipment borrowed after the bag with her gear was stuck at O’Hare Airport.

Laralyn Barhydt via Sandra Shuster

Her daughter’s phone showed that the AirTag in the bag had arrived at O’Hare’s baggage claim the night of the flight and hadn’t moved since, she said.

Shuster told United’s customer service where the bag likely was, based on the tracking device, but an employee suggested that the tag may have been separated from the luggage, possibly by a thief.

“I said I would bet my annual salary that the bag is there,” Shuster said.

The tracker on her bag had moved just 20 feet since it came off the plane and landed at baggage claim, she explained.

The employee said he couldn’t call the Chicago baggage claim office, but that he’d put notes in the system, Shuster said. The employee suggested she file a claim on the lost bag, explaining that she could be reimbursed for the value of the lost items.

The employee said that lost bags are often eventually found, so she would have a “win-win” by getting reimbursed and later recovering her bag.

Travelers at O’Hare Airport in May.

Travelers at O’Hare Airport in May.

Getty file photo

“And I’m like, No, it’s not,” she said. Her daughter plays goal in lacrosse, and new equipment would need to be restrung and broken in, which takes a long time.

Losing her patience, Shuster took to social media and messaged United directly. The airline responded. That’s when she realized she had been given the wrong claim ticket.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, you guys gave me the wrong ticket.’ But I just couldn’t get them to go look for the luggage,” she said.

So she decided to fly to Chicago to find the bag herself.

At United’s luggage office at O’Hare, the process took half a minute, she said.

“There were a couple of people in front of me in line,” she said. “I gave [an employee] the ticket. She said, ‘What does it look like? And I explained it. She came right out 30 seconds later” with the bag.

Shuster said she was disappointed that United’s staff was so siloed that they couldn’t find her bag sooner.

A spokesperson for United said they’ve given Shuster and Ruby each a $200 travel credit.

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