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

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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