After spending two and a half years in the United States, Rohit Sud was excited to return home to India and surprise his parents with a flat-screen TV. Unfortunately, the television did not survive the trip on Etihad Airways. Does he have a claim?
What you are about to read is a frustrating lesson in international shipping, airline style. It’s a wake-up call to anyone who is thinking about trusting expensive electronics to baggage handlers and finding out that you might not save money by purchasing them in the U.S. and bringing them abroad.
Sud bought a 49-inch, flat-screen TV to take home to India as a surprise anniversary gift for his parents. He thought he was doing the right thing by calling Etihad customer service to confirm their baggage policy. The representative he talked to said that, in order to avoid extra charges, anything below 52 inches was acceptable to take as his fourth checked luggage as long as the total weight of all four checked bags was less than the acceptable limit of 23 kg. (about 50 lbs.) Sud claims the representative put a note in the account that he would be permitted to check the TV for the long flight to Delhi.
However, when he arrived at the airport for his flight to India, “the airline staff refused to listen to us at all,” Sud said. “They said that the customer care had not put any notes on our account and there was no such policy of LED TV exemption.
“As a result, I shelled out $320 in excess baggage fees for a $200 Toshiba TV because I couldn’t take it back to my house, which was 250 miles away from the airport.”
What Sud hadn’t realized was that even though the screen size of the television was 49 inches, the box in which the TV was packed exceeded the 52-inch maximum that would have prevented excess baggage fees from being charged.
At first, Sud was frustrated at the airline’s baggage fees, but his dream of surprising his parents was shattered even more when he and the TV arrived in India. When he opened the box, the screen was cracked beyond repair.
Sud contacted Etihad by phone and social media to complain. Then, he reached out to our advocates, who suggested that he post about his problem to our forums.
Readers of our forums made a good point. They noted that by reviewing Etihad’s baggage policy, Sud would have found out that he would have had to have signed a Limited Release Tag (LRT) in order to have transported the TV. The LRT absolves the airline from responsibility in the event the item is damaged.
In addition to shelling out $320 in excess baggage fees for a $200 TV which ended up breaking in transit, Sud also had to pay a tariff to Indian customs.
In the meantime, Sud heard back from a Etihad customer service representative, who told him:
As I believe we have acted within our policy, I am unable to refund the $320 charge. I appreciate this is not the news you were hoping for, and I am very sorry we have not been able to meet your expectations on this occasion. In closing, we hope that this experience has not permanently undermined your opinion of Etihad Airways, and hope that, in spite of your disappointment, you will choose to travel with us again in the future.
And our advocates agreed with Etihad’s assessment of the situation. When Sud accepted the Limited Release Tag on the TV he accepted full responsibility for it. A disclaimer on Etihad’s website suggests passengers not pack any fragile items, especially electronics, in their checked luggage.
Hopefully this is a lesson for all travelers. The danger of transporting a fragile item (unless packaged extremely carefully) usually far exceeds the savings of buying the item at your destination.
Unfortunately for Sud, his case wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We’re going to have to toss this into the Case Dismissed file.