Condor found my missing phone, but won’t ship it back to me


Susan Weedall accidentally left her phone at the gate in the Frankfurt airport. Fortunately, airport security found it and paged her. Happy ending right? Sadly, no.

The smartphone may just be the best travel tool ever invented. It can do everything from taking photos of our travel adventures, to helping us book a room, to even translating for us. The downside? We’re too dependent on our devices. So when we lose one it’s very upsetting, especially when we’re abroad.

As it happens, Weedall was already on the plane when she was paged, so she didn’t hear the announcements. But she was glad to learn that her phone had been found once she landed back in the U.S.

And Condor, the airline on whose plane she left the phone, said it would ship it to her for 30 euros (about $35). She found that acceptable.

But there was a problem: her phone’s lithium battery.

DHL, the service that Condor used to ship her phone, returned the package, citing concerns about shipping lithium batteries. Condor informed Weedall that DHL had previously returned two laptops it had attempted to return to their owners for the same reason.

Weeks of correspondence followed in which Weedall reached out to both DHL and the airline trying to find an alternate shipping method. Not only did her device contain all of her photos from her European vacation, but she also used it as a work phone.

She did everything we advise travel consumers to do. She kept a careful record of her communications with the airline. She was professional and polite in her correspondence. She reached out to company executives. (Contacts for both Condor and DHL are available at our advocacy website.)

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She even researched DHL’s response to recent regulations that went into effect concerning the shipment of devices with lithium batteries, and methods by which the phone could be safely shipped.

“On my own, I did research via DHL Express and learned about the international lithium ion battery shipping regulations that went into effect in 2017,” Weedall wrote us. “I learned that my phone fell under the exceptions rule and that it could be shipped containing the battery in a rigid container via DHL Express with no additional labeling.”

According to Weedall, the method that Condor had originally tried to use was a less expensive service from DHL called DHL Paket.

To Condor’s credit, the correspondence reveals that they also put a great deal of effort into working on a solution. In correspondence with our advocate they said they’d offered to arrange to have the phone picked up by Fedex at their offices in Frankfurt, but she didn’t respond. Weedall disputes this claim.

Several alternative methods of shipment were explored, each requiring Weedall to pay extra fees and fill out lots of forms. But as of this writing, a mutually acceptable solution hasn’t been found, and Weedall still doesn’t have her phone.

The takeaway here? If you take your smartphone on vacation, back it up regularly, and have a plan in place should you lose it.

Update (10/8): The phone has been returned to its owner, according to an update on our forums.


Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

  • Bill___A

    I’m sure that there was a valiant effort, but this is a frustrating to conclusion an issue that should have a solution.

  • El Dorado Hills

    Why don’t they just remove the battery and ship the phone. She could buy a new battery here. Unless this is a phone where the battery can not easily be removed. We don’t know.

  • The Original Joe S

    All the phones seems to have non-removable batteries now.

  • Blamona

    Can’t remove the battery and ship? That would save all her pics. But aren’t pics in the cloud?

  • KennyG

    Actually, if you look at Android phones, as opposed to iPhones [the LW doesnt mention which it is she left behind], many Android phones [not all by any means] have removable batteries, as it is a selling point for a large segment of the user population to be able to easily replace the battery, or do a “battery pull” to do a full power-on-clear of all the electronic components. When a cell phone seems to be acting “badly”, lousy call quality all of a sudden for example, many cell phone carriers actually recommend a “battery pull” to correct the problem..

  • The Original Joe S

    I read that the new Androids are non-removable. Probably easier to solder ’em in in the ChiCom Slave Labor Sweatshops than to make a tray for the battery’s removal. They probably figure that you’ll upgrade before the battery degrades.

    Throw-away society……………..

  • llandyw

    While on a work trip, leaving from ATL, I got on the train to get to the concourses, and found a phone had been left on the seat.

    Since not everyone is honest, I picked up the phone. When I got to the gate, I tried to get information enough to find the owner. Unfortunately it was locked without any emergency contacts set up.

    SO, I tried calling 911 (only number it would dial). This was mainly to try and get the phone’s number. It ended up in airport security, and they didn’t get the number. I’m guessing the caller ID was turned off.

    Luckily I was quite early for the flight. After almost an hour, a call comes in on the phone. It came up as Mom. So I answered it. Said “Hi mom”. Anyway, they had already passed through security, so couldn’t come back. They got ahold of someone on their side, and we worked out, through airport security, to get the phone back to her.

    SO, as a note to people traveling, or just everyday, put the emergency numbers into your phone. It will save time and aggravation should it be lost.

  • pauletteb

    If it’s an iPhone, the photos should be in the cloud. My boss’s wife accidentally pt her iPhone through the wash but was able to retrieve all their granddaughter’s photos that way.

  • Alan Gore

    That was above and beyond. Travel needs more people like that.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    When someone travels with their cell phones, doesn’t that phone has a lithium battery in it? So what’s the difference traveling with one or being sent one?

  • bgh

    We need more people like you!

  • Annie M

    If the battery catches on fire, you can easily pull it out of a handbag or the pocket you are carrying it in and throw it under water to put it out. If it being shipped by DHL on a plane in cargo, you can’t do that. Same reason you aren’t supposed to pack items with lithium batteries in checked luggage. Too much risk of fire.

  • Maxwell Smart

    it was probably one of those exceptionally dodgy apple phones for which that battery can’t be removed.

  • Maxwell Smart

    mostly apples ones. Apple must be the worlds dodgiest company, who charge stupid amounts for their phones which cost nothing to make in China & worst of all they don’t pay tax where phones are sold. Dodgy dodgy dodgy.

  • y_p_w

    Not any more. Most have captive batteries these days for a thinner/lighter package using glue and/or special connectors. I’ve heard Apple has special fasteners where they will actually do a battery swap when they used to just replace the entire unit as a “battery replacement”. Various Android devices with “captive” batteries could be replaceable, but not easily.

  • KennyG

    Although I appreciate your educating me on Apple products and their batteries, if you reread my comment, you will notice I specifically left out Apple products from my reply comment about removable batteries and specifically spoke about Android phones. [The LW could have had either, it was not mentioned in the article]. Most all LG phones, many Samsung and Moto phones all have removable batteries, as do many other Android phones. On LG, which I am most familiar with, replacing or removing the battery is actually quite simple, no special clips or fasteners, just push on a release lever and the battery compartment becomes immediately available. Just one of the many reasons, I personally use Android, not Apple phones.

  • llandyw

    Thanks for the kind words. Personally I believe we all should be looking out for each other, and I live by that. So, to me, it was just what should be done. Except for the story above, I may have never have mentioned it. It had to have occurred about 10 months ago, I think.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    I didn’t know that water is so readily available on an airplane, and if it is on fire, anybody would handle it bare hands taking it out of their poket etc. Thanks for the explanation

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Or have DHL ever heard of dry ice? Ice pack the thing and send it. We have so many smart ppl. running our businesses.

  • joycexyz

    Yes, my new Android (Samsung) has a nonremovable battery. And I think you’re right on target about upgrading before the battery dies.

  • Lindabator

    but was she willing to pay? that is th question

  • y_p_w

    Many of the newer top of the line phones have captive batteries though – even LG’s.

    My mom has an LG with a removable battery. Yeah – that’s easy enough to pull the battery if nothing else works, but their latest models with stuff like glass to the edge really need to be glued together. My wife’s Samsung Note 2 had an easily replaceable battery (I could pry off the cover with my fingernail) and I could buy an OEM replacement battery. I think the latest version can theoretically be taken apart, but it’s not something that’s marketed as suitable for most users to do themselves. It has to be pried open with special tools.

    https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Samsung+Galaxy+Note+8.0+Battery+Replacement/30138

    The Galaxy S8 is chore though. A pro usually would use a heat gun, but for the amateur there are microwaveable heat packs. It also needs a suction cup, care around certain components, and other special tools.

    https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Samsung+Galaxy+Note+8.0+Battery+Replacement/30138

    By making a “captive battery” that they don’t expect that the user will open, the parts can be packed in really tight without stuff like metal shields that I’ve seen in other devices. That Samsung Note 2 was designed with a ton of plastic just designed to hold the battery and block the user from contacting sensitive components.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Water is readily available on airplanes. Ever notice all those bottles of water on the carts? There are also fire extinguishers. One wouldn’t have to physically handle the burning phone with their bare hands. Just pour a bottle of water on it. Or on the purse. Or, better yet, if something has caught fire inside an aircraft, blast the thing with one of the many fire extinguishers that all of the Flight Attendants will have access to.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’m happy to see that she got her phone back. And it’s a great reminder to me to always know exactly where my phone is. I too would be distraught if I lost my phone. While my important stuff is backed up to the cloud, all those pictures on it are not.

  • The Original Joe S

    I agree with you on this. They used to make good computers, but now they are simply money-grabbers.

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