The Losing Bag of Valerie Szybala: A Disinformation Researcher’s Journey in Washington D.C. Was She notified of the Implosion of Southwest Airlines?
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Passengers are getting increasingly proactive when it comes to lost luggage, with many using GPS trackers to locate their missing bags — such as professional poker player Steve O’Dwyer, who went on an epic campaign, including a live TV broadcast , to retrieve his bag from London Heathrow.
Valerie Szybala is the latest with a story to tell. The disinformation researcher from Washington D.C. received her lost luggage after nearly six days, during which she tracked it as it went on walkabouts to local malls and McDonald’s while the airline told her that the bag was safely at its distribution center.
Szybala said that the person in the car wasn’t a van or official uniform and that he told her that she had lost her bag and that it was delivered to an apartment complex in the Virginia suburbs.
What she hadn’t bargained on was the “crazy weather” and “implosion” of Southwest Airlines. She flew United and had a layover via Southwest. She was notified by the United app that her bag hadn’t made it while she was in D.C. Not that she could see any staff to talk to: “The airport was a madhouse,” she says.
Szybala was going back to D.C. on December 28 after she had just returned from her first international trip in several years. She bought an Airtag for her trip.
The bag arrived the day after December 29 in D.C. It would not be until January 2 that she would get her hands on it. She chose to have the bag delivered to her home instead of returning to the airport to pick it up. “That’s where I made a big mistake, letting them hand it to a third party,” she says.
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She says that the hold time on the phone was incredible and that the wait time in the app was two to four hours.
I did it every day and they told me that the bag was safe in the service center and would be delivered tonight. But that wasn’t true.
In fact, Szybala already knew there was something wrong, because she could see exactly where the bag was, thanks to the Airtag. “As of Friday 30 at 8 p.m. it had gone to rest in an apartment complex a couple of miles away from me,” she says.
“But I watched my bag stay in this apartment complex and go on errands since Friday,” she said. My bag was locked and must have been in a vehicle. I was so excited to have my bag that I wouldn’t ask him if he had it all weekend.
Szybala had recovered her bag only an hour before speaking with CNN, and hadn’t gone through the case fully, but said that “everything looks in order.”
For Szybala, the story isn’t over. “I think United needs to answer for these practices,” she told CNN. “Is it standard practice that people can take passengers’ bags home with them? They should explain to me. I would not have got it back if I hadn’t had the Airtag, or if I hadn’t posted on a public social networking website.
Her advice to travelers? “A tracking device is super helpful if you have any sort of connection. I wish I had a list of things in my bag. And if they say they’ll deliver, don’t accept — just say you’ll pick it up, even if the airport is two hours away.”
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