Woman tracks her AirPods stolen at SFO to airport worker's home mid-flight

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Woman tracks AirPods left on plane to SFO worker's home
We've had people tracking their bags when airlines can't find them. Now, a passenger tracked an item she left on a plane to an airport employee's home

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- They say good things come to those who wait, but for Alisabeth Hayden, she prefers to tackle her problems directly.

In early March, the Washington state resident was connecting through SFO after visiting her husband who serves in the military on the island of Guam.

Hayden says she was getting off her plane when she suddenly remembered she had left her jacket, which had her Apple AirPods inside, on her seat.

After approaching airline staff, they assured her someone would get the jacket for her and then she went on her way to catch her last flight to Seattle.

It was during that part of her journey that Hayden decided she was going to try and get some sleep.

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"Okay, I'll just put in my AirPods and I'll be fine. I can sleep for a couple of hours to Seattle. Well, that was when I realized they were gone," Hayden said.

Thanks to the 'Find My' app on her phone, Hayden realized her AirPods had been stolen out of her jacket.

While she was in the air, she was able to track them and take screenshots as they made their way around the airport.

First to different terminals, then the United cargo building and ultimately down the southbound Highway 101.

Of course, everyone's gadgets are precious, but Hayden's AirPods hold particular significance -- they're her link to her husband, who calls her from his deployment on such a bad line that she needs them to hear him.

Hayden says she immediately began reaching out to various United employees and police departments trying to get her stolen property back.

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In the meantime, she says, she marked the AirPods as "lost" on the app, so that anyone who used them would hear a message telling them that they were hers, and giving them her phone number.

After nearly two weeks of getting little to no assistance, Hayden says she was able to get them back thanks to a detective working at SFO.

The AirPods, having been taken by a contractor who loaded food onto the aircraft.

ABC7 News reached out to United who sent us a statement which reads:

"United Airlines holds our vendors to the highest standards and we are working with local authorities in their investigation of this matter."

Words of little comfort to Hayden.

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"As far as I'm concerned, if United has trusted that employee on the airplane to do a job for them, then they're responsible," she said.

Hayden's AirPods were eventually sent back to her, but she says they arrived damaged.

United, she says, were "godawful" in their communications with her.

"First they were like, 'I'm sorry you lost your belongings on our flight.' I was like, 'I didn't lose them, I was denied the ability to get my jacket by an employee... and now my $250 AirPods are missing.'"

For her trouble, United has agreed to pay for a new pair and give her 5,000 airline miles as an apology.

"That hasn't happened yet. And I can't say whether it will or it won't," Hayden said.

But for now, Hayden says her tenacity has served her well.

And she hopes it can be a lesson for others, to never give up hope.

"When you look at things and you look at something that's right and you look at something wrong and then you ask yourself, is this something that's happening to other people as well?" Hayden said.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report.