Help! My laptop is being held hostage in Russia and I can’t get it back

Look up the term “Catch-22” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Lele Lew. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that there’s a picture of Lew’s laptop computer.

Lew recently flew from Tokyo to Athens on Aeroflot with a stopover in Moscow. On the second leg of his flight, he left his laptop in the seatback pocket.

“As the flight arrived late at night, I realized this early the next morning and called the airport to tell them my laptop was in the seatback pocket of 22B on the plane that flew in under flight number SU 2112,” he says.

And that’s where Lew’s problems began. Although the $2,000 notebook computer was recovered, it was technically not recoverable, despite our efforts. But it’s a story worth sharing with you, if for no other reason than as a reminder to always check your seat before you exit the aircraft.

Lew phoned Aeroflot more than a dozen times in Athens and Moscow, trying to find his lost laptop.

“Most of the calls went unanswered or hung up on me, but I spoke to an Aeroflot employee in Athens who claimed that there was no laptop found and that a representative even checked on the plane before that plane left Athens airport later that day. I tweeted at Aeroflot and was instructed to send an email to [email protected], and did so,” he says.

The next day he drove to the Athens airport and checked again. No luck.

“After leaving the airport, I finally received a response to my email from the prior day saying that they found my laptop and it’s at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport’s lost and found,” he says. “When I called and spoke to the lost and found department [at Sheremetyevo], she didn’t know how my laptop ended up back in Moscow, but said that I would need to go there with identification to pick it up.”

Easier said than done.

“As an American citizen, I can’t travel to Russia without a visa and can’t get a visa without being sponsored by a person or company,” he says. “Aeroflot will not sponsor me to apply for a Russian visa. I’ve tried to resolve this with Aeroflot and have offered to cover the expense of shipping my laptop back, but they’re unwilling to release the laptop — effectively holding my laptop hostage.”

How absurd.

That’s when he contacted our team of advocates and asked them to help. We reached out to Aeroflot on his behalf.

Here’s the company’s answer:

Please be kindly informed that we are aware of this issue and we are closely engaged in it.

Each flight we are trying to provide our passengers an excellent service and comfort. This is our priority. That’s why when we knew about this situation we did our best in order to assist and solve the problem.

The laptop was found and now is kept at Sheremetyevo Lost & Found Division. We clarified one more time this situation with our colleagues: according to our internal rules we can’t send out the laptop directly to the passenger or to Athens office for safety reasons.

If the passenger couldn’t pick it up by himself (even during the transit), the only way out is to issue a proxy in the name of DHL so that our colleagues could hand them the laptop. After that DHL will deliver the laptop to the passenger according to the International transport regulations.

So Aeroflot hasn’t completely closed the door to reuniting Lew with his laptop. But it’s not making it easy. I’m not even sure what a “proxy in the name of DHL” is, but we’ve passed this answer along to Lew and are hopeful that this will allow him to retrieve his electronics. So far, DHL has said shipping the laptop to him is “not possible.”

Unfortunately, our advocates can’t do any more. This is a matter between Aeroflot, DHL and Lew. But we can say this: There has to be a better way of connecting customers with their lost and found items. This is a lot of unnecessary red tape, and Aeroflot doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to return Lew’s mission-critical computer.

Not much more to say except this: Don’t leave your laptop on the plane. You might never see it again.

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