As Elisabeth Hayden sat down on a flight home to Seattle following a nine-hour flight from Tokyo to San Francisco, she reached into her jacket pocket to grab her AirPods to drown out the sound of a screaming baby.
Unfortunately, her AirPods weren't there, and she assumed that she had lost them on her previous flight. Hayden told CNN that she used the in-flight Wi-Fi to track her missing AirPods. She watched as the AirPods moved around San Francisco International Airport. Eventually, the tracker showed that her AirPods were moving on the highway and eventually ended up at a residential address.
Hayden said that she suspected they were stolen from her jacket by an employee. On her previous flight, she left her coat behind but was told she had to wait for a flight attendant to retrieve it.
Hayden tried contacting United Airlines while on the plane, but they could not help.
"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,'" she said.
Hayden also contacted law enforcement and was connected with a detective who was able to offer some assistance. He was able to match the address she provided with that of a food services contractor at the airport. A few days later, the detective reached out and said they had interviewed the suspect. He eventually admitted that he had the AirPods but claimed they were given to him by another employee at the airport.
Officials with the San Francisco Airport Police Department have submitted the case to the San Mateo District Attorney's office, which will decide whether to file charges.
After 12 days, Hayden finally got the AirPods back, but they were damaged.
"They look like they've been stomped on," she says. "They were wrapped in a toilet paper-sized piece of bubble wrap. Why bother?"
United Airlines offered Hayden $271.91 to purchase a new pair of AirPods plus 5,000 miles.