Ontario couple told their luggage was lost and donated to charity, but they knew where it was the whole time
'Put identification multiple times in your bag if you need to,' Nakita Rees advises
Nakita Rees and Tom Wilson of Cambridge, Ont., say they fought with Air Canada for four months to get back a piece of luggage — after the couple was told it was lost and then donated — before it was finally returned to them on Monday.
Rees and Wilson were on their honeymoon and returned to Canada from Greece on Sept. 10. Their flight landed in Montreal and they had to recheck their bags before continuing to Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
When the couple landed in Toronto, the Apple AirTag tracker in Wilson's luggage showed it was still in Montreal.
After filling out the paperwork for misplaced luggage, the couple went home, certain the bag would be returned within a day or two, Rees said.
She said the AirTag, which allowed them to track the bag using an app on their iPhone, gave them "complete peace of mind," and when they saw the bag start to move four weeks later from Montreal to Etobicoke in suburban Toronto, "we were actually really excited."
"I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I really did. I was like, it's all good. We're going to get it. I can see it moving," Rees told Craig Norris, host of CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition.
Rees said Wilson's luggage then sat in Etobicoke for more than three months and they didn't receive an update from Air Canada.
In the meantime, Air Canada gave them financial compensation for the luggage, but Rees said they were frustrated with the airline's lack of communication and action, considering Rees and Wilson knew the location of their bag.
Earlier this month, Wilson went to the Etobicoke Public Storage facility where the AirTag said the bag was sitting.
Rees said Wilson walked around the storage facility and found a storage unit where he believed the bag was located. There was a gap in the door and he was able to use a flashlight to see inside. Rees said he told her the unit was filled from floor to ceiling with luggage.
Rees said they called police and officers launched an investigation, but officers were unable to get them their bag because it belonged to a third-party handler that Air Canada sends unclaimed luggage to before it's donated to charity.
Lost baggage tag 'compounded' situation
Air Canada said it provided Rees and Wilson with approximately $2,300 in October, the legally specified maximum amount of compensation for "lost" luggage. The airline also said it located the bag and returned it to the couple on Monday.
"This customer travelled late in the summer at a time when all air carriers in Canada were still recovering from the COVID-related, systemic disruption of the entire air transport industry. One consequence was an elevated rate of baggage delays," Air Canada said in an emailed statement to CBC News.
"In this particular case, the situation was compounded by the disconnection of the baggage tag at some point on the journey. Despite our best efforts, it was not possible for us to identify the bag's owner. It was designated as unclaimed, and we moved to compensate the customer."
The airline said International Air Transport Association policy is that customers are eligible for compensation 21 days after luggage goes missing.
"Bags whose ownership cannot be determined can be disposed of after 90 days, which we do through a third-party company, which does make donations to charity," the airline said.
Air Canada admits Wilson's bag was "transferred prematurely in error, and we have followed this up internally."
Put identification inside luggage
Air Canada said its baggage delivery rate is "typically in the high 90th percentile" but luggage can get lost.
"This story is an opportunity to remind your audience, as we always recommend, to put personal contact information inside their baggage, for example a business card," the statement said.
"We also strongly advise customers not to pack valuable or essential items in their checked baggage, but instead carry them on the aircraft or make other shipping arrangements."
Rees agrees people need to put their information inside the bag somehow and also highly recommends getting some kind of luggage tracker.
"Put identification multiple times in your bag if you need to, get something to track it and if you still don't get it back yet, you know where it is, push for it," she said.
LISTEN | Cambridge couple spent four months fighting to get luggage back, even though they say they knew where it was:
With files from Kate Bueckert, Ali Chiasson, Melissa Galevski