AirTag removed in airport

I regularly fly all over the world for business. Last year I bought an AirTag to place in my luggage and it has proved useful on a number of occasions, mainly for peace of mind when doing fast transfers.

I was recently in Puerto Rico and flew out of San Juan international airport for my return journey.

My AirTag says it is still in the airport but hasn’t been seen for 17 days. I am back in the UK and my bag arrived safely with me. I wondered whether the AirTag battery was getting low but I was surprised to find that it is missing. The bag showed no signs of tampering (though it was unlocked) and nothing else is missing. I very much doubt that it fell out accidentally.

Has anybody else experienced this? Are AirTags banned by certain airports or airlines?

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It wouldn’t surprise me.

There are some international aviation safety recommendations that (mostly due to outdated regulations that didn’t consider things like AirTags) classify them as “dangerous” because of the presence of a lithium battery and a radio transmitter.

These recommendations don’t carry the force of law, but individual countries and airlines do use them as a part of formulating laws, regulations and policies.

Although AirTags are not prohibited in the US by the FAA, it may well be that Puerto Rico does have such a ban. Or your airline might.

See also Intego: Are airlines banning Apple AirTags? Here’s the complete story

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I was taking a walk when I got a notification I left my umbrella behind. However, my umbrella was in my hand. It turns out that the AirTag fell off. I went back to search for it, but couldn’t find it at its reported location. The next day, my AirTag had moved about 100 feet further down the road. I went back and found it.

I take it when my AirTag fell off, my iPhone reported its last confirmed location which was 100 feet from where it actually fell off. It then picked up the location of a passing car with an iPhone, and that iPhone updated the location of the AirTag.

It could be that someone at airport security opened your suitcase for a quick visual inspection and the AirTag fell out. Random searches of suitcases at airports is a thing. When they opened the suitcase, no one noticed the AIrTag had fallen out, until a few days later when it was probably tossed.

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AirTags are so small that it seems unlikely a search thorough enough to confiscate one wouldn’t have been evident. The simpler explanation is that it fell out by accident, but it does depend on where you had it stashed and how/if it was attached.


To be precise, I suspect your AirTag is reporting a “last known” location.If it’s intact, and still identified as yours, it would display a “low battery” graphic adjacent to its record in your “items” list, and in my own experience it does so for at least a few MONTHs before becoming exhausted (at least with the Panasonic CR2032s used by Apple. It’s possible that it fell out or was removed from your bag, was picked up by someone and pocketed, and that the person who did so then was alerted that it was moving with him or her. He could then have reset it, paired it with something that belonging to HIM and now has more personal security.

I have a story and related AirTag question. The last time we traveled (in the US, going through TSA security at a major airport, the agents insisted that we remove anything with metal in or on it from our service dog and that we have her pass through the metal detector alone. As she did so (and at first we were amazed that she even was willing to do that, because they wouldn’t allow one of us to send her through and the other to position on the other side to receive her), the “next-door” metal detector alarmed, terrified our dog, and she sprinted off down the terminal hallway (LONG hallway) wearing no ID whatsoever.

Fortunately, her escape was witnessed by a very kind flight attendant, who managed to catch her and bring her back to us. That didn’t really trigger any more compassionate behavior by the TSA people, but we still managed somehow to get her through.

Later on the same trip, her AirTag fell off her collar because the stalk of its receptacle broke. It was paired to my spouse’s phone, and she was not accustomed to checking on her devices. We didn’t notice that one trinket was missing from her heavily adorned collar for a month, but when we did, FindMyt told us it was resting near a bush in a park 1,000 miles away in Las Vegas where our great granddaughter’s first birthday party had been held. It’s no longer there, or perhaps IT’S battery bled to death without us noticing it. Typically, it won’t alert passersby unless it’s reported as “Lost” by its owners or unless it becomes “attached” to someone, intentionally or unintentionally (peripherally related story available on request)

A related airport question is whether there’s enough metal in one for it to trigger the metal detectors all by itself. And, getting pretty far afield here, does any reader know of collars, vests, or leashes that themselves contain no metal clips, so that we could get her through the detector more safely on our next trip?

And, as regards the thoroughness of airport security checks, they’re all over the map. I’ve seen expensive water bottles taken from passengers because they were a bit too large, and at the other extreme is a YouTube video shot by a couple who were moving from Florida to Canada and had to ship their two dogs by air, in cargo. They used FAA-approved travel kennels, but just before turning their pups over to security they taped GoPro cameras into each kennel. When they retrieved their dogs, the cameras were still taped securely in the kennels. Of course the batteries were exhausted, but they had impressive movies of the dogs’ tenor while in the baggage holds and NO evidence of any look into the kennels by the security folks. And these were placid little pups, not aggressive Pit Bulls!

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Thanks for everybody’s feedback on this topic. There is no way that the AirTag just fell out of the bag. It was inside and taped in place. It was showing a low battery symbol and says that ‘some features aren’t available’. I did wonder whether it was still in the bag because of this but after a thorough search, it has definitely gone. Incidentally, it still says it is in San Juan airport, last seen on January 11th. My belief is that it showed up as a suspicious item during a bag scan and it was quietly removed. I have now replaced it. It will be interesting to see if it happens again.

I don’t think this is possible. As I understand it, the manual-reset procedure (remove and re-insert the battery five times) will only break its pairing if the original owner has removed it from his iCloud account.

If the original owner hasn’t removed it, the reset procedure won’t break the pairing.

Out of curiosity, have you set it to “Lost” mode. If so, and someone else finds it, then maybe they can contact you and return it.

Puerto Rico is part of the United States.


I would be interested to hear from anyone who has used an Airtag to deal with a lost-luggage situation. That is, checked bags haven’t showed up on the carousel.
I hope it never happens to me but it seems that the customer could inform the lost-luggage person that the bag was still at the origin airport (or sent to another country) rather than lost somewhere in the destination airport. In that case the customer could arrange to have the bag sent to their hotel and get on with their trip instead of waiting hours at the airport to see if the bag turns up.
My two relevant experiences (before Find-my and Airtags were born)…

  1. I left my iPad in the seat pocket when changing international flights in Malaysia. I eventually spoke to the lost luggage office that was located inside the baggage claim area (i.e. within a customs-controlled area). I had to go to an airport workers office, hand over my passport and receive an authorisation letter to show to the guards at the arrival gate. So I went in against the tide of arriving passengers and located the lost-luggage counter. The queue was horrendous. More than an hour later I had my iPad and nervously went through customs without my passport.
    Lessons: Always check the seat pocket when you leave the aircraft. Take your devices off flight mode when you land. Be prepared to wait a long time to get served at the lost luggage counter!
  2. My neighbour was on an Australian domestic flight and the connecting flight was cancelled. She was told to report to a sister airline. The counter staff member was very flustered but my neighbour got the domestic flight home. Her checked bag did not arrive. Months later she was told her bag had turned up in Rome! It seems the staff member had chucked a wobbly (is that an Australian expression?) and sent people’s bags all over the world!
    Lessons: You are at the whim of the airlines. Use an Airtag to track your checked bags.
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Yes, but does that prevent Puerto Rico from having some ban on AirTags? @Shamino said the FAA does not ban AirTags, but Puerto Rico might. If you considered this, then I don’t understand your point.

It wasn’t a true lost-luggage situation, but here’s my story. I arrived from USA in Toronto for a transfer to Ottawa. The signs were contradictory, alternatively telling me to proceed and my luggage would go to Ottawa or to collect my luggage, clear customs, recheck it, and pick it up in Ottawa. The AirTag showed that my bag was in the Toronto airport but a long way from the baggage carousel (that was delivering other passengers’ bags) and near the gate for my connecting flight. I did not wait for my luggage, cleared customs, and collected my bag in Ottawa.

I have a luggage story that supports this statement, but it has nothing to do with Apple, so it will wait for another time.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I flew a few times a year with my bicycle in its own travel case or box. Three times, the bike did not arrive with me. In all 3 cases, the airline offered to ship the bike to my home or temporary domicile, even though it was likely on the next flight. I opted to wait in 2 of those instances, while I had it sent the third time. (in one of those cases, I waited because I intended to re-assemble the bike at the airport and ride it to my hotel, 10 miles away).

About ten years ago, my parents’ luggage did not arrive with them on their return from London but was shipped promptly to them when it arrived.

So, once you have informed the airline that your luggage was misplaced, standing around and waiting for it is only for your own convenience and anxiety relief.

Yes.* The FAA sets governmental regulations for the United States, including Puerto Rico. The airlines can impose their own rules on their customers within certain limits (they couldn’t for example overrule an FAA regulation)

*Of course it’s more complicated. The FAA (and airlines) regulate what’s allowed on planes. The TSA regulates what’s allowed through security and in secure areas (though they don’t have arrest authority, so they rely on local police to actually arrest people). The local authorities (government / airport authority) regulate what’s allowed in the non-secure areas of the airports.


I have not - mine always have shown up. But there was this story recently: Woman tracks lost luggage on an "adventure" around D.C.

You may not necessarily be able to prove that, depending on the last time the AirTag connected to the Find My network. If it’s lost somewhere in a location where nobody nearby has an iPhone, it may not show up in the Find My network. Once it starts moving, though, you can track its location.

The last time that my bag didn’t make a connecting flight (2015) the airline knew exactly where the bag was, and told me that I’d get it the next day. And, I did. Long before AirTag. Also, I just flew on Saturday and JetBlue emailed when the bag left the origin and then when it arrived at the destination baggage carousel (which I already knew because I was tracking the AirTag.)

Oh, c’mon with the story! Adam, can you grant a waiver of protocol?

Always check the baggage label on your bag once it is checked in - especially that it has all the intermediate & final stops.

I made that mistake once ~35 years ago - not made it since :)

Air tags are a nice add on to trust and verifying the label.


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Air travel restrictions are pre-empted by the the Federal government so the states (and territories) have no say in what you can carry in your baggage. However, they CAN prohibit bringing certain items so if, say, PR bans the bringing in of Air Tags then they can confiscate them. Of course this was on an outbound flight, so why would the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico care?

Later on the same trip, her AirTag fell off her collar because the
stalk of its receptacle broke.

You may want to find a better way to attach the air tag to the collar, since apparently dogs eating air tags is a thing and dangerous:

For future flights or as an emergency spare, you can buy or make a light weight and pocketable collar and leash (I like the convenient one-piece ‘show lead’ style) with webbing and plastic buckles.

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I suppose the swallowing risk also applies to toddlers - Airtags are similar to button batteries that, in Australia, now have to be sold in “childproof” packs.
But this is getting a little off-topic.

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I set it to Lost mode a few days ago, to see what happens. Nothing so far!