Woman tracks down AirPods apparently stolen after flight

Published: Mar. 26, 2023 at 5:18 AM CDT
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) - A Washington state woman tracked down her AirPods using a mobile app after they appeared to have been stolen from her jacket following her flight.

Alisabeth Hayden took a connecting flight through the San Francisco International Airport in early March after visiting her husband, who serves in the military on the island of Guam. She says she was getting off her plane when she suddenly remembered she left her jacket, which had her Apple AirPods inside, on her seat.

Airline staff assured Hayden someone would get the jacket for her, and she went to catch her last flight to Seattle.

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

“‘OK, 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,” she said.

Thanks to the “Find My” app on her phone, Hayden realized her AirPods had been stolen out of her jacket. While still in the air, she was able to track the headphones and take screenshots as they made their way around the airport.

Hayden says she immediately began reaching out to various United Airlines employees and police departments, trying to get her stolen property back. The AirPods are Hayden’s link to her husband, who calls her from his deployment on such a bad line she needs them to hear him.

After nearly two weeks of little to no assistance, Hayden was able to get the AirPods back thanks to a detective working at the San Francisco airport. She says when they were sent back to her, they arrived damaged.

The headphones were allegedly taken by a contractor who loaded food onto the plane.

A statement from United says the company holds its vendors “to the highest standards,” and it is working with authorities in their investigation.

The statement is little comfort to Hayden.

“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.

In apology to Hayden, United has agreed to pay for a new pair of AirPods and to give her 5,000 airline miles.

Hayden says her tenacity served her well in regard to the incident, and she hopes this 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?’” she said.

The theft is now being handled by the San Francisco Airport Police Department, which plans to submit the case to the San Mateo District Attorney’s Office.