Last Friday I flew from Mexico City to Madrid to spend the New Year Celebration with my parents. I had loaded my iPad with plenty of games and videos to keep me busy during the 10 hours flight. Unfortunately, the plane couldn’t land at Barajas airport because of bad weather and we were rerouted to Valencia. Therefore, with no power left on my iPad, I had to switch devices and start using my iPhone to keep me entertained until we finally made it to Madrid, four hours late. It was a great opportunity to play Karateka, a great game that I first enjoyed on my Apple II as a teenager. The landing was rough and everything I had laying on the seat next to mine fell to the floor. I picked up my iPad as well as my headphones, but failed to realize that my iPhone had also fallen to the floor.
I left the plane, and moved to immigration. When I was searching for my passport, I realized I had left my iPhone on the plane. Since I wasn’t allowed to get back to the plane, I immediately moved to the Aeromexico counter. I explained the situation and they notified the airplane crew. After a few minutes they told me that they hadn’t found the phone, but that the cleaning crew would return it to me if they found it. As soon as I got home, I used Find my iPhone to lock it remotely and get a notification as soon as it was found.
The next day, Aeromexico informed me that the phone had not been found and that the plane had returned to Mexico.
The phone was in airplane mode when I lost it, which meant Find my iPhone would not work until that mode was switched off and after a day, the phone had likely run out of power. I kept checking Find my iPhone twice a day, but the phone kept appearing as turned off. My hopes of recovering my iPhone were quickly fading.
On Tuesday, four days after losing my phone, I was working on my MacBook Pro, while watching a movie on my iPad mini. Suddently, the following alert appeared on both devices.
As you can see, Messages was asking me if I wanted to add a new phone number to my iChat identity. I had the phone number of the person who had found my phone! Not only did I have his phone number, I had his full name (probably obtained from the SIM he inserted). I immediately used Find my iPhone on my iPad to try to obtain the location of this person, but the phone had already been turned off. I tried to call him, but nobody answered the phone.
At that point, I didn’t know if the person who was in possession of my iPhone was a passenger, a member of the crew or an employee of some company in charge of cleaning the plane, but I decided to go back to the airport and present the information I had collected. From there on, the events unfolded very quickly. The Aeromexico person that listened to my story knew the person who had my phone. He was a contractor working for the cleaning company. The manager said he would take care. The next day, they sent me my iPhone home. The only thing missing was my micro-SIM, which I assume was thrown away. I am very pleased with the way Aeromexico handled the situation.
I think this is an interesting story because I was able to recover my phone without using Find my iPhone. I fact, I never got an e-mail notification that my iPhone had been located from the iCloud service, nor was my phone locked remotely, probably because the person who “recovered” my phone removed its SIM. However, Messages notified me as soon as a new SIM was inserted. In this case, Messages clearly saved the day.