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.)
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.