Calgary family tracks lost luggage on meandering adventure

For more than a month, Calgarians Mycroft and Irina Schwartz have been tracking their lost suitcase — from the Cancun airport to different resorts along the Mayan Riviera to most recently a Fort McMurray hotel — after it failed to arrive with them and their daughter when they flew WestJet to Puerto Vallarta in December.

The location updates are possible because they used Apple AirTags — small devices that are attached to keys or slipped into wallets, backpacks and other items so they can be found when lost.

In this case, the Calgarians’ missing suitcase seems to be getting around. 

“It got to see some interesting sights, I imagine,” said Mycroft Schwartz. “So there was a humorous aspect to this for sure.”

But Schwartz says the humour has worn off after repeated phone calls, online forms and emails to WestJet failed to produced any results.

“Even though we have information for them that might be useful to locate our suitcase and quite possibly for other people that were in the same boat … our information wasn’t something they seemed to be able to use,” said Schwartz.

the family smiles in front of a sign that reads 'barcelo'
The family has been tracking their luggage using AirTags. (Submitted by Mycroft Schwartz)

In an email, a spokeswoman for WestJet said most of the luggage that was lost over the holidays has now been delivered to the appropriate guests, but staff are still trying to resolve any outstanding claims.

“The guest has advised her claim agent of where the AirTag is showing the bag to be located and the agent is investigating all leads as to the bag’s location,” the Calgary-based airline said.

But WestJet says AirTags are relatively new and they are still trying to learn the technology. 

And the airline said sometimes its bag tags detach from the bag itself, making it challenging to identify and associate to a guest. So they recommend travellers always include their full name and contact details within their luggage, which this couple did.

Tour of North America

Schwartz says that when they left Dec. 30 on their direct WestJet flight from Calgary to Puerto Vallarta, they got the feeling something was wrong.

While sitting on the tarmac, the couple checked the location of their three suitcases and noticed one of them was off on its own.

“I thought it was still in the airport. Maybe they were still loading in a few more bags. But I couldn’t confirm this because we had to switch to airplane mode to take off.”

Schwartz says that when they got to Mexico, only two of their suitcases landed with them.

A couple of hours later, he tracked his missing suitcase to Cancun’s airport — more than 2,000 kilometres east of Puerto Vallarta — and reported it missing through WestJet’s online portal.

From there, he kept regular tabs on his medium-sized, wheeled suitcase. He says he also periodically called WestJet.

“All our communications, we’ve been very clear with where we have detected the AirTag and presumably the luggage is with it.”

A map with a little blue suitcase
Mycroft and Irina Schwartz have been tracking their luggage using Apple AirTags. They say the luggage has been tracked to a Fort McMurray hotel. (Submitted by Mycroft Schwartz )

According to Schwartz’s app, the suitcase stayed in Cancun for a week. It then went to Playa Del Carmen, a resort town in the Mayan Riviera, where it appeared to have visited some hotels. It then returned to Cancun briefly before heading to the Calgary International Airport.

Schwartz says that brought a bit of hope until he noticed it was back in Cancun’s airport the next day.

It then went to Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun, for nearly two weeks.

His suitcase then returned to Cancun for a day before heading back to Canada, this time to Fort McMurray.

“I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I went as far as calling the hotel in Fort McMurray,” said Irina Schwartz. “But apparently it moved (again).”

Mycroft Schwartz says that since filing an official lost baggage claim, he’s had more success convincing staff to try to locate it based on the pinged locations.

But as far as he knows, no one from WestJet has gone to the Fort McMurray hotel.

Company takes on cases

Jacob Charbonneau is co-founder and director of Flight Claim, which takes on passengers’ cases and fights their battle with the airline for 25 per cent of the awarded compensation. He says more and more cases involve this type of technology.

Charbonneau says even though you may know where your bag is, there is no guarantee the airline will retrieve it.

“We saw that a couple of times. One of the customers knew that the luggage was on the tarmac, but they weren’t able to get the airline to go and get it,” he said.

But in some cases, he says, travellers have been able to track down their own lost luggage in their home terminal using AirTags.

Schwartz says he still doesn’t know what happened to his missing suitcase.

As for compensation, WestJet approved the maximum amount for lost luggage: roughly $2,300.

Schwartz was told the airline will continue to search for his bag for a period of 90 days from his travel date before closing the claim.

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