There’s an International Manhunt Underway for Whomever Stole a Race Driver’s AirPods

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A pair of AirPods are at the center of an international mystery after race driver Louis Delétraz left his headphones on a United Airlines flight. Delétraz, who said he left the Airpods under a seat in row 16 on a flight to Geneva, Switzerland, tracked the headphones as they traveled across the globe. But when they made a pitstop in a residential building, Delétraz realized a conspiracy was afoot. Now, United told Gizmodo it’s launched an investigation.

“Days after I lost them, I saw a notification on my iPhone that the AirPods were flying around the world,” Delétraz said on a phone call. “I put them in lost mode, so youget notification as soon as they ping somewhere. It was pretty funny.”

On Monday, Delétraz tagged United in a post about the problem on X/Twitter. “My lovely AirPods fell under the seat and since then have been flying daily between USA and Europe, with stops in Paris and currently in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” Delétraz wrote. “As much as I’m sure they enjoy your business class, I miss them and would love if you could retrieve them.”

The official United X account responded, asking Delétraz if he’d filed a “lost on board” report, and offering to help. But a day later, the headphones were still in the air. “Update : This morning Zurich and now in Canada @united HELP,” Delétraz posted.

By this point, the post had been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, with fans and X users chiming in with theories and suggestions. “Is anyone else questioning the cleanliness of this plane? Like at some point one would think someone needs to run a vacuum through there and find these AirPods,” one user wrote. “Your airpods are having one hell of a world tour,” said another.

On Wednesday, the tenor shifted. The AirPods were no longer flying. Delétraz posted a screenshot from his iPhone’s “Find My” app, showing they had somehow made their way to an apartment building on North Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. “Looks like someone found them and stole them,” Delétraz said. He wrote that he’d seen the AirPods traveling back and forth on the highway, demonstrating that the AirPods weren’t just stuck in an AirPlane flying across the country.

“Of course, I’ll survive if I don’t get them back, and they weren’t really ‘stolen.’ I lost them and someone picked them up,” Delétraz said. “But I could see that they were leaving the airport, it was turning into quite a story.”

Suddenly, the headphones were back at the airport. Delétraz even figured out exactly what flight they were on—or so he thought.

“It’s not over!!! Seems like a cabin crew stole the AirPods. It left the residential area to go back to Chicago O’hare Airport,” he tweeted. “It is at gate M14, and the plane just departed to Panama on flight UA7173. It’s a Copa Airlines plane operated by United. AirPods held hostage still.”

But on day four of the saga, the AirPods were still in Illinois. “Unsure if they went to Panama or not, but they are back at the thief’s home at Chicago.,” Delétraz wrote. At this point, it seemed the post attracted enough attention that United’s corporate office got involved.

Delétraz wrote that United had called him to let him know they were on the case, which a United spokesperson confirmed in an email to Gizmodo.

“Our team is working directly with the customer to understand the details of this situation,” a United spokesperson said. “That’s all we have to share.”

By Friday, it seemed like a lost cause. “It was fun while it lasted,” Delétraz tweeted. “I hope it’s in the hands of someone who maybe couldn’t afford it and is now making good use of it. Bye bye Airpods, have a great life in Chicago.”

But hours later, there was news. “United called me and said they’d found the AirPods and they’ve got them in hand,” Delétraz told Gizmodo. “They didn’t tell me how they got them or exactly what’s going on, but I guess the whole thing is over.”

United didn’t immediately respond to questions about the update, but Delétraz stressed he doesn’t want anyone to face consequences. “

“United was super kind, but the last thing I want is for someone to get in trouble, because it’s my fault,” Delétraz said. “No one stole them from me, and if someone found the headphones I’ll be happy to reward them. But it’s been a fun week for my AirPods.”

Gizmodo is monitoring the situation. We’ll update this story as details emerge.

Update 03/01/2024, 3:55 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with details about the AirPods’ recovery.



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