No, Swiss won’t assume responsibility for $170,000 worth of samples

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By | November 6th, 2016

Swiss International Air damaged Hussan Ijaz Butt’s checked bag on a recent flight from Karachi, Pakistan, to Madrid. The circumstances of his claims are a little — no, a lot — unusual.

That’s because of two things. One is the size of his claim — over $100,000. The other is that he’s a corporate CEO.

Yes, you read that right. Specifically, Butt is the CEO of the Ibsons Group of Companies, a Pakistan-based manufacturer of sportswear.

As consumer advocates, we’re often accused of bias against businesses and overzealousness in our fight to make sure that the people we represent get fair treatment from the businesses they’re seeking help from. We’d like to think we treat all requests for our assistance fairly, so we’re writing about this case because it provides valuable lessons about what customers are entitled to from businesses and from us. Even CEOs.

Butt was flying from Karachi to Madrid on Swiss International Air to meet with potential customers. Unfortunately for him, his luggage was damaged during the flight.

He made a claim for the damaged baggage. Swiss replaced the damaged bag with another, smaller bag, which Butt claims is “unusable.” The contents of the damaged bag, merchandise samples he values at $170,000, were also destroyed. (We don’t know what he based his valuation on or the number of samples in the bag.)

Butt claims that because he could not use the samples in his sales presentations, he was left with unhappy customers and his company had to absorb a large financial loss.

He made a damage claim for the samples as well. Swiss denied this claim:

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On behalf of SWISS, I would like to apologize most sincerely for the damage to the content of your baggage. However, under the terms of our Conditions of Carriage, we cannot be held responsible for valuable, fragile or perishable items. Items such as these should always be carried in your hand baggage. In this case, I would therefore advise you to contact your private insurance company, or else the credit card company that you used to pay for your journey.

So Butt turned to us, seeking assistance in getting that loss of $170,000 reimbursed by Swiss. He informed us that he would sue Swiss if our efforts didn’t secure him reimbursement for that loss.

We can’t help Butt, and we don’t think he will prevail in court either.

As Swiss’ conditions of carriage indicate,

We are not liable for any Damage to items which cannot be surrendered as Checked Baggage in accordance with 8.3 above, including fragile or perishable goods or particularly valuable items such as … samples.

And even if Swiss were willing to accept any liability for the samples, its conditions of carriage limit its liability for damaged goods to 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (approximately $1,583 USD) under the Montreal Convention. That’s far less than the $170,000 Butt claims the samples were worth.

Butt might have avoided the loss had he shipped the samples separately via a commercial courier or in a carry-on bag. Assuming the samples were covered under a casualty insurance policy, his best chance of recovering the $170,000 is to make a claim on the policy.

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But as far as our advocates are concerned, Butt’s grievance goes in the Case Dismissed file.

Should we have helped Hussan Ijaz Butt?

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  • Alan Gore

    This is a clear case of needing to insure for excess value.

  • LDVinVA

    Absolutely! And a CEO does not realize that?

  • Kairho

    The directors of Ibsens need to assure they are insured against the insufficient value of their CEO.

  • sirwired

    I’m betting the samples were not worth anywhere near that much… Unless these were diamomd-encrusted hoodies or something, I don’t know how you put $170k of sportswear in one bag.

    I think he’s including the cost of the lost sale in his claim, which is clearly not reimburseable.

    (For those who think a carrier should pay for things like lost vacation days or cruises, this is why they don’t… They would be on the hook for nearly unlimited liability if they had to cover consequential damages.)

  • sirwired

    Nobody will cover that much value for baggage. Neither will regular shipping services. You’d need to specially contract with a courier to handle that.

  • PsyGuy

    I voted ‘yes’ but only because I would want to see what happened, which most likely would be some Swiss Air executive laughing, and the Swiss in my experience never laugh, smile in amusement yes, laugh no.

    A point to clarify is the claim based on the actual value of the samples carried in the bag, or on the rationale that the damaged samples resulted in lost business and a resulting financial loss?
    If the former, then yes, please pursue this, as I want to know what an apparel company and CEO carries in a checked bag that’s worth $170,000, the only thing I can think of is a bribe, and then why wasn’t it in the carry on?
    If the latter, then I just want to laugh. The moxie needed to use a consumer advocate over a legal team, that’s some smart leadership there (at least it would have been if you’d have taken the case).

  • PsyGuy

    Wasn’t there a Victoria Secret bra made for something like $2.4M in diamonds?

    I agree there needs to be limits to liability.

  • PsyGuy

    Oh the CEO realizes it, they actually got what they wanted in the form of negative advertising. There is no case here, the CEO just wanted to shame Swiss Air.

  • PsyGuy

    Fed-Ex and DHL would cover that under a courier contract. They are “regular” shipping services, but they would do so by contracting an outside insurance policy. They actually have procedures and protocols for these types of high value transportation arrangements.

  • Bill___A

    Things like the Montreal convention are in place to prevent airlines from having to assume unlimited liability for a fixed ticket price.

  • Dutchess

    No, this is a case of an inflated claim. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that there was a couple hundred dollars in goods in his bag but the business deal was worth the 6 figure price tag Butt is claiming.

  • The Original Joe S

    how do you know it’s inflated?

  • The Original Joe S

    I think the contents of it were valuable also.

  • The Original Joe S

    Things like the Montreal convention are in place to prevent travelers from collecting a fair recompense for lost or damaged luggage. And the horse you rode in on….. And if you got any friends in Brooklyn, THEM TOO! [Is what they say to you]

  • Fishplate

    I’m trying to envision what $170,000 worth of sportswear would look like if it could be stuffed into one 70 pound suitcase.

  • Fishplate

    If the Montreal Convention didn’t limit liability, then the airlines would have a maximum value in their contract of carriage. Either way, I doubt you’d collect $170k from them, especially without declaring the value of your luggage ahead of time.

  • The Original Joe S

    true. But, in most instances, they cheat you out of the replacement value.

  • The Original Joe S

    Maybe they are coated in corbomite.

  • Don Spilky

    Seems to me that since he was travelling on business, and these were “business related supplies” (not personal effects) he should submit the claim against their corporate insurance policy.

  • wilcoxon

    These are samples so there may be significant expenses in creating more. However, I do think $170k is likely inflated because I still can’t picture $170k worth of samples fitting into a single piece of luggage.

  • cscasi

    Perhaps so. However, I think his best course, as others have mentioned, if the value of the contents of his bag were really what he claimed, he should have used a courier service. That would have cost a bit, however it would have been cheap insurance – providing the contents of the bag were such that he could not carry it on board with him.

  • AAGK

    This guy is ridiculous. People ship Picassos across the world so it is not as if there is no way to transport valuable cargo. Art collectors don’t stick it in checked baggage with 3k liability limit. I have no sympathy for folks who don’t protect their valuables. If this CEO didn’t care enough to protect his merchandise, why on earth would the airline? If he disclosed its value, they would not even want to transport it. How this man is the CEO of anything is beyond me. I have a feeling his deal failed for other reasons.

  • Annie M

    How big was the piece of luggage to have $170,000 worth of merchandise in it? Perhaps overpacking damaged his bag.

  • Annie M

    I hope that was put in a carry on.

  • PsyGuy

    Sorry, it was 1999 and it was a $10M VS bra modeled by Heidi Klum, dubbed the “Millennium Bra”, and made with 2,000 diamonds.

  • The Original Joe S

    And two rubies?

  • Altosk

    So, this guy, Butt (heheheheheheee…sorry, I’m immature) decides to fly with his super-expensive “samples” and then checks them? Definitely not the kind of CEO I would do business with…if he cared enough for these samples, he would’ve carried them or shipped them with a trackable carrier. But $170K samples of “sportswear?” Uh, is it made of golden threads and the tears of unicorns??

  • jsn55

    Proving negligence might allow a lawsuit to be successful … but legal fees would probably exceed the value of the samples which must have been made out of precious gems.

  • jsn55

    Common sense?

  • PsyGuy

    No rubies or other precious stones.

  • The Original Joe S

    There is no common sense anymore. Stop funning me!

  • The Original Joe S

    THINK about it…… Work with me on this, OK? Two nice big red rubies…….

  • PsyGuy

    While the diamonds were of differing color and clarity there were no rubies in the bra.

  • The Original Joe S

    ¡Pobrecito muchacho!