Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Virgin iPad story

6th December, 2014 - Next stop California!

I was visiting my cousin after almost a decade, and California for the first time in my life!

With a pretty busy week leading up to my vacation I thought the 4 hour flight would be a good time space to catch up on some reading.

With a fluorescent hue permeating every corner of the aircraft, Virgin America possibly has the best domestic airline onboard experience. It was almost like entering a nice club. Now having traveled quite a bit on different airlines from different parts of the world I can tell you that I am not the biggest fan of North American commercial aviation hospitality, however Virgin America was truly a breath of fresh air. 

Forty minutes into a boring book, I fell asleep tucking my iPad into the seat pocket in front of me. I woke up hours later when we touched down on SFO! Quickly packing my stuff I raced out to meet my cousins. Having gained 2 hours in time, traveling to the western coast I had some time and energy (accumulated from that power sleep inflight) in the evening and spent it to catch up with my cousin and my uncle and aunt. Living alone in a distant country can be boring and it is times like these that we all look forward to.

Disaster struck me late at night when I tried to find my iPad so that I could read myself to sleep. The iPad was just not there in my bag. Tracing back my actions logically I realized that I had left my iPad in the seat pocket in my flight. 

It was obviously beyond business hours, so I left a tweet for #VirginAmerica. Interestingly they tweeted back (and also follow me now) within a few minutes and pointed me to instructions on what to do next.

Having activated the lost mode on my iPad, I spent the night using my iPhone to type out detailed emails that I would send out the next morning, so that it hits the reader at the Virgin office during business hours, thus amplifying possibilities of getting a response (this trick always works for me).

Funnily a company called HighView tried leveraging my misery by tweeting about how their product would have ensured that I never lost my iPad (they have deleted their tweet now but their favorite star on my tweet remains!)

7th December:
I send out all the emails and also call up the numbers and fill up lost and found forms on Virgin America's portal. I also checked with the SFO Airport Baggage department. And now the excruciating wait began.

There were 3 possibilities:
1. Before the plane left SFO, the cleaning crew inspect seats and if they found out my iPad they could either nick it or turn it in to the authorities.

2. If they missed it and the iPad remained in the seat pocket while the plane flew out of SFO, the passenger occupying that seat could either nick it or be the good samaritan and turn it over to the onboard personnel.

3. Repeat point 1 and 2. It could happen again at some other airport.

Honestly the chances of getting the iPad back were abysmally low!

I kept calling Virgin America intermittently over the next two weeks. It was almost like calling up SuperLotto and checking if my Lottery/Complaint number had hit a chord. And it never did.

Deeply upset, I decided to write an email to The Richard Branson! I briefly detailed the situation and mentioned that although I was full aware that losing the iPad was my mistake; I was upset that Virgin America never ever contacted/updated me about the incident. I got back a semi-personal, semi-auto reply from him, assuring me that he will make sure that my concern reaches the right people. (I have archived this email!)

24th January, 2015:
I got an email from the Apple Law&Enforcement Office!

Someone had found my iPad and reported the Serial number to Apple, who found my contact address from their database and contacted me. 
The fact that someone (if that person is reading this, I genuinely want to thank you) made the effort of tracking my iPad to me by contacting Apple was amazing on so many levels!

Fifty days later, I was not really expecting this! Needless to say I called up San Diego Airport Lost and Found and boy was the rest of the ride smooth!

1. The nice person at the Lost and Found office asked me factual questions about my iPad
2. I had to fill up some more forms and since I could not pick it up from San Diego I could request them to ship it to me (and they bill the shipping charges on my FedEx account)
3. I got my iPad in a few days time, just like I had left it. Fully functional and without a scratch or dent :)

1. Always back up data (thanks to DropBox, iCloud and OneDrive I never worried about the data)

2. While activating a remote alert on an iDevice helps, it would only work if the device has battery charge and cellular/WiFi data connectivity. This might not be a problem with iPhones (provided they have the charge when recovered) but for a WiFi only iPad or a Mac it is a problem. They are completely locked by a password, without breaking which you cannot connect it to a WiFi. You might be however able to connect it to an Open WiFi (without a Captive Portal), in which case the alert message gets displayed.

3. Virgin Airlines rocks \m/

I am not sure if my email to Richard Branson did the trick or if the Virgin America crew themselves would have helped me out in due time, but I must say I was completely blown away by the fact that you can still get back a premium gadget, you have left behind at a place as public as a commercial airplane! (THIS STUNT HAS BEEN PERFORMED BY ABSENT-MINDED-PROFESSIONALS, PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME)

It rekindles my faith in Humanity. Oh and did I say Virgin America rocks?

Sent from my iPad ;)