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Cambridge woman alleges airline 'donated' lost luggage (update)

Rees said Monday night that her luggage has since been returned to her after trying to retrieve it for four months
nakita-rees
Screenshot of Nakita Rees from TikTok

A Cambridge woman is warning others to ensure they have some sort of indication that their luggage belongs to them after saying Air Canada 'donated' her lost luggage. 

Nakita Rees has filmed a series of videos on TikTok to help spread the message of what happened to her luggage.

@nakitarees2 #greenscreen a little update into the “what happened to my luggage” series 🤣 @Air Canada you have an explanation for this!? #lostluggage #lostluggagereport #lostluggageissues #appleairtag @apple ♬ original sound - nakitarees

She said she had put Apple AirTags in her bag to help track it down if it ever went missing. 

"We returned from our honeymoon from Greece to Montreal then Montreal to Toronto on Sept. 10th at midnight. We received my luggage but not my husband's." 

She said after not receiving her husband's luggage, they could still see through the tracking of the AirTag that the luggage was in Montreal. 

"We looked around the baggage carousel and couldn't find it, filed our report at Pearson that it was lost and missing. The guy said 'in our system it says your luggage has been loaded so go look again and if it's not there, come back." 

Rees said she took a look and went back to show the Air Canada employee that the luggage wasn't in Toronto. After filing the report, Rees said she received a baggage fee refund from Air Canada of about $2,200. She said that's a fraction of the value of what was inside the luggage. 

Rees said on Oct. 21, her husband saw that his baggage was on the move in a car from Montreal. 

"He screenshotted the AirTag and he messaged me saying that it was on its way," she said, "we noticed that it went to a public storage facility in Etobicoke. I got a little more stern with Air Canada asking where the luggage was going and why I wasn't contacted about my baggage being moved. They told me there wasn't any updates and they were still searching for the luggage." 

Rees said that she received an email from the airline that same month saying "after an extensive search, we were unable to find your luggage and you will receive an e-transfer through this email. If we find your luggage down the road, you will be contacted."

She said that the e-transfer seemed a little fishy after reading on Air Canada's website that a refund would come back to the credit card used for the booking. 

Rees kept checking the AirTag tracking to see if the luggage had moved. She said it continued to sit in the storage facility for the next three months. In January, Rees and her husband went to the storage facility. 

"We went to the facility after returning from a trip to Miami and let us walk around the facility to see if the tracker would pick up the AirTag. We went back to Pearson Airport and I was very rudely dismissed by an Air Canada representative."

She said they went back to report the lost luggage once again and told them their story. She said they were quickly dismissed. She asked if the representative could guide them in the right direction.

"He put us in touch with a manager, we told him the story. He called someone who was in charge of baggage and asked if they used the specific storage facility. They said no." 

Rees and her husband decided a week later to take another look at their phone for an update on the whereabouts of their luggage. Rees said Jan. 14 it updated and actually pinpointed the exact storage unit of the building it was in.

 "We went back and let us walk around again in hopes that it would say the luggage was near. With the luggage AirTags, you can press a 'fine me' button and it actually guides you to where you need to go and it makes noise. Nothing happened. Eventually, he got a notification that said the luggage was near him. We went back in, walked around slowly along a hallway of units where it said it was near him, and we started to snoop a little bit. We can't see in the units, but you can peer through the door and we came across a unit with luggage floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, like hundreds," she said. 

Rees said they went to the Toronto Police Service to file a report trying to get answers. She said Toronto Police opened up the unit through a warrant and they found over 500 bags. Rees was advised by the police that the storage unit was owned by an unknown charity and that police couldn't seize the contents of the unit. 

A spokesperson with Toronto Police Service confirmed to CityNews 570 that they investigated a theft report made by four people, but couldn't confirm if Rees was one of the complainants. 

"The Toronto Police Service investigated a theft report made by 4 people in regards to lost luggage being located by air tags at a storage facility in Etobicoke.

Through Investigation, it was determined that a Charity Organization that is contracted by the airline carrier had lawfully obtained the luggage from the airline after the luggage was not claimed. The luggage was transported to a storage facility in Etobicoke.

Please reach out to the involved airlines for comments on their policies surrounding lost luggage claims, and compensation arrangements for lost luggage." 

Rees said that there was nowhere in their terms and conditions that if you accept compensation, ownership is transferred to Air Canada and that they can do whatever they want. None of that is anywhere. I'm not sure where the ownership change went over," she said.

Gabor Lukacs is a Canadian Air Passenger Rights advocate and he said he's been helping travellers for nearly 15 years and he said he has never seen anything like this before. 

"What I'm hearing definitely takes the cake," he said, "what is so stunning about it is that it crosses the line from civil to criminal in a rather obvious way. It's one thing to lose someone's luggage, it's completely different to pretend to be donating it and handing it over to a third-party that is going to be financially benefitting from it. The optics are really, really bad." 

Lukacs said the whole situation doesn't add up to him.

"In terms of where the passenger goes from here, first we should find out what the police have to say including what the name of the charity is. The passenger should be getting back her baggage. She can prove it's hers. They have to hand it over to her. I find it somewhat perplexing that the police would not seize the item."

He adds that if the charity is anything close to a genuine one, they should be fully cooperating. 

"They should be working with passengers whose baggage ended up in their storage. There's no evidence to suggest that the charity is a party to the crime, although, it does look very suspicious. The litmus test for how innocent the charity may be will depend how cooperative they will be handing back property of the passengers." 

Lukacs said this isn't the first time that he has seen agents of an airline or the airport staff are refusing the baggage over to passengers who have been able to locate it using an AirTag. 

"In terms of the passengers rights is that in this case likely the airline cannot rely on the usual $2,300 liability limit. They will have an unlimited liability to the  passenger under the Montreal convention because what happened in my mind clearly meets the description of reckless or willfulness conduct," he said.

Lukacs said the passenger should be compensated for the full value of the lost luggage, despite any previous compensation that was already provided.

"The fact that this information was not conveyed to them would render any settlement void because it's a material information that was withheld. In this case, the money was just sent to the passenger without any terms and Air Canada could be on the hook for a very significant amount if the passenger isn't reunited with their luggage very quickly." 

CityNews 570 reached out to Air Canada for comment. 

"Hello, we’re not able to offer an interview, but we can confirm our goal is to always have baggage arrive with customers, and that we are working to resolve this matter."

Rees disputed that claim suggesting that she hadn't heard from Air Canada since Jan. 18. 

She confirmed to CityNews 570 that she has since retrieved the lost luggage after taking her story to social media. 

Since the luggage was reunited with Rees, Air Canada provided the following statement.

"Hello, the bag in question has been identified and was returned to the customer today. We are sorry for the delay, and previously we provided the legally specified maximum compensation of approximately $2,300 in October. We remain engaged with the customer on any outstanding concerns. 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. While our baggage delivery rate is typically in the high 90th percentile, it does occur occasionally that bags are delayed and, in some instances, such as this, bags are not returned because tags become disconnected during the journey. 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." 

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