Maple Ridge man discovers his lost suitcase in the home of thieves in Saskatoon

A Maple Ridge man has recovered his ‘lost’ luggage after a recent flight from Toronto to Abbotsford.

However, he wouldn’t have been reunited with it, had it not been for an Apple AirTag, and the cooperation of the Saskatoon Police Service.

When Riley Phillips landed in Abbotsford after a Flair Airlines flight in February, he quickly learned his checked-in bag had not been put on his plane. So he pulled out his phone to track where his luggage actually was.

Riley would not have been reunited with his luggage if it weren’t for his AirTag. (Credit: Riley Phillips)

It turns out, it was in Saskatoon, and the luggage was on the move, heading away from the airport there and into someone’s home.

Phillips phoned Saskatoon police.

“I gave them the address. I was able to go online and find where the residence was. There was a listing for a business at this residence. With a little research, I was able to find the person’s name,” he said.

Fortunately, Saskatoon police were willing to send officers to the home, where someone answered the door and admitted to police that ‘someone’ had dropped off a suitcase that matched the description of the missing one. The officers then FaceTimed Phillips as they rifled through other items.

“They’re standing there holding up stuff. Yup, there are my jeans, a pair of pyjama pants, a pair of underwear, and a pair of boots, which I was surprised were still there. What wasn’t there was my expensive camera and other stuff,” Phillips said.

Phillips points out that the only reason why his camera was in the suitcase was because Flair insisted his carry-on was too bulky.

Brody Ratcliffe with the Saskatoon Police Service confirms members went to a home in the city’s downtown on February 11.

“Officers spoke with the owner of the home and were able to return the property to its owner,” he said.

He adds that Phillips did not want to press charges and just wanted his property back.

Phillips figures that only 10 per cent of his belongings were retrieved. The thieves, he estimates, made off with about $1,000 worth of his property. He’s left to believe thieves lurk in places where the public can easily come and go at the airport.

“I think this is what they do. They watch for unclaimed bags that aren’t taken off the carousel belt. They look around and say, ‘Nobody is going for this one.’ Then they move in. I wouldn’t have recovered anything if it wasn’t for an Air tag,” he said.

Saskatoon police say they don’t know how prevalent this type of crime is.

“We don’t keep track of thefts from the airport and can’t comment on how common these thefts are,” Ratcliffe said.

The Saskatoon Airport Authority says it doesn’t have jurisdiction over baggage handling, but rather, the individual airlines do.

“Although the Airport is not directly responsible for passenger baggage, we have preventative security measures and procedures surrounding unclaimed baggage, including security cameras. We also provide airlines with secure, locked baggage storage space for unclaimed bags. The Airport has engaged with the Saskatoon Police Service regarding this incident and is actively cooperating with the investigation into the matter,” the airport authority said.

“Although concerning, having a bag taken from the airport by someone who is not the owner is extremely rare in Canada and not something the general travelling public should be concerned about when flying.”

Flair Airlines agrees thefts from carousels are not common.

“It is our responsibility to ensure the safe handling of baggage until claimed. This was a very rare (the first of its kind reported at Flair) and unfortunate incident where a piece of luggage was stolen from the carousel before our agent could retrieve it. Mishandled baggage incidents, while infrequent, have a low probability rate of 0.3%,” it said in a written statement.

Phillips says he is keeping in contact with police and the airport to see if any surveillance video captures the theft.

In the meantime, Flair has compensated him for his loss and his luggage was shipped to his Maple Ridge home.

Phillips chuckles as he wonders what strangers are doing with the stuff that has no value.

“Most of my socks, my toothbrush. Where is that stuff? Is someone using it? Is it sitting at the side of the road?”

Still, he acknowledges how fortunate he was.

“Getting something is better than nothing, and I’m grateful to be getting some of it back.”

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