I want Etihad to reimburse me for my big screen TV!

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.”

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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.

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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.

Should Etihad Airways have been held responsible for the damage to Sud's TV?

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Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • Flyonpa

    Would the TV even work in India? US is on NTSC Standard India is on PAL Standard.

    To pay hundreds of $’s to move a $200 TV, OP did not think this one thru. Also a TV moving thru a Airline Baggage / Connection has a small chance of arriving successfully.

  • Rebecca

    Anyone who has ever seen luggage being handled, even an occasional traveler, would have to know you can’t check a TV as baggage. The likelihood it won’t break is about zero.

  • AAGK

    When he learned of the $320 for a $200 TV, along with the tariff and waiver, he should have thrown it out at the airport.

  • AAGK

    Apparently he also would’ve needed a converter that costs another $200 and is difficult to find in India so he would need that shipped as well.

  • AJPeabody

    Maybe he could take it to the lost and found and retrieve it on his return.

  • Rick Cricow

    NTSC and PAL are from the older analog days. What standard do the new digital tv’s use?

  • MF

    Perhaps Etihad should refund half the excess baggage fee as a gesture of goodwill, considering the condition of the TV on arrival ?

  • PsyGuy

    Yet another case of an LW trying to save a few bucks by doing something the wrong way. He should have just shipped it to begin with.

  • PsyGuy

    Those are old analog standards,.

  • PsyGuy

    Probably unless they already had a electric converter.

  • PsyGuy

    HDMI would work, but they would either need satellite, or a digital antenna. The only think this set would be good for is watching DVDs.

  • PsyGuy

    Depending how much time he had he might have been able to arrange to ship it.

  • PsyGuy

    Maybe, if it was still there.

  • Bill___A

    Airline baggage is not supposed to consist of a big screen TV. Although the airline was not saying “No we won’t take it” they were giving several indications that it was not a good idea. I did some looking on the internet and can find 49″ LED TV’s for about US$550 or so in India. There are some things that you should just buy at your destination, and TV’s are one of them.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t think they should refund anything. This has caused them more than enough grief, through no fault of the airline at all.

  • Bill___A

    Most of the TV’s work on 100-250 volts, 50 or 60 hz. Not all, however, you have to check. The issue here is not one of compatibility. The issue is don’t ship a tv as airline baggage. When they ship TV’s to India, they put them in containers that are loaded in ships, and those containers have nothing in them but TV’s so they all pack in nicely. A TV bouncing around with a bunch of suitcases is not going to make the trip.

  • AAGK

    I just shipped a piano via UPS perfectly packed, etc, and they still broke it. Definitely not worth the trouble for this TV.

  • PsyGuy

    I’ve never owned or seen a dual current flat screen. They are either one of the other.
    Otherwise I agree with you, but I have seen flat screens shipped as air freight, but that’s very different from shipping it as baggage.

  • sirwired

    Yeah, I don’t see where the airline messed up at all. Not a bit.

    And I’m confused why he didn’t just abandon the thing at the luggage counter as a $200 lesson learned, since with the $320 in luggage fees, plus customs duties plus the risk of loss, it just didn’t make sense any more.

    People do bring home electronics all the time, but not items so large and fragile.

  • sirwired

    He shipped what is essentially a thin plate-glass window via checked baggage, put only in packaging meant to be handled with proverbial kid gloves, and not airline baggage conveyors. The fact this didn’t end well was just about a foregone conclusion.

  • sirwired

    Computer monitors are often “Universal Voltage” because the upgrade doesn’t cost much, you don’t have to “localize” a monitor, and lots of monitors get used in 220-only environments, even in the US. A TV needs a tuner that works with the correct bands, loaded with the correct apps, a remote control with the right language printed on it, and localized retail packaging. With all that, might as well not bother spending the extra buck or two equipping it with a universal power supply. (When you are shipping a TV that retails for $200, a buck or two is a big deal.)

    Maybe there are TV brands with universal PSUs, but Toshiba isn’t one of them.

  • Michael

    Flying into Mexico City I see 32inch class tvs at baggage every time. The size was probably the biggest mistake. But the volume of sssumptions and naive thinking is and indicator to me that there was either a lot of inexperience or presumptiveness going in.

    With or without a waiver, I believe all baggage fees should be refundable if the work was not performed properly. The liability waiver should only be for the value of the tv.

  • wilcoxon

    If you are transporting an item like this, why wouldn’t you ship it via reputable service and pay the small fee for added insurance to completely cover the value? It would have saved hassles, saved fees (it certainly should have cost less than $320 to ship it), etc.

  • Michael__K

    Actually, the Montreal Conventions trump Etihad’s contract of carriage.

    Per the US DOT’s interpretation of the Montreal Convention, the typical airline liability waivers for certain items (such as electronics) are not lawful and do not apply for international travel.

    If the airline accepts the baggage then it is liable for damage up to the statutory limits (unless it can satisfy its burden of proof under Article 18 and prove that there was an “inherent defect” in the cargo or “defective packing.”)

  • Michael__K

    Pretty sure this was the manufacturer’s original packaging which is designed specifically to withstand domestic air and ground shipping….

    Since this was international, the Montreal Conventions apply and Etihad’s waiver is null and void according to the US DOT. They accepted the package as it was and are liable up to the statutory limits unless they can prove that one of the exceptions under Article 18 applies (act of war, inherently defective cargo or packing…)

  • Michael__K

    When Etihad learned what was in the package, they shouldn’t have accepted the baggage if they didn’t want the liability.

    The Montreal Conventions take precedence over Etihad’s contract and disclaimers and they are liable up to the statutory limits.



  • Michael__K

    According to the Montreal Convention and according to official US DOT guidance (74 Fed. Reg. 14837 April 1, 2009) the airline messed up. Their liability waiver does not apply to international traveler and they defied the DOT’s guidance to update their contract accordingly….


  • sirwired

    Packaging for large TV’s is NOT designed for general purpose carriers. It’s designed specifically to be containerized, then palletized, then either shipped via a specialty service or picked up by a consumer in a retail store.

    So, I’m going with “inherently defective packing”.

  • sirwired

    Perhaps you should read that Federal Register notice a little more completely… you kind of left out the part stating: ” except to the extent that the damage ‘‘resulted from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage.’’

    A TV being checked as baggage in its normal retail packaging is not something that is going to withstand the rigors of the checked baggage process.

    Shipping a camera securely nestled in some clothing? Sure, I could buy that the airline would be responsible. But not checking a TV protected by nothing more than the box it was packed in.

  • AAGK

    So what? He didn’t know they would break it when he checked it so at best, he paid $320 plus a tariff to transport a $200 TV. He could probably get a TV at that level in India. Either way, I would not find those shipping costs practical for this particular item.

  • Michael__K

    UPS is a specialty service? Because that’s who Amazon uses to ship large screen TV’s in my area…. I don’t think Etihad is going to win that argument.

  • Michael__K

    You are not thinking through the concept of “sunk costs.”

  • Michael__K

    1) That wasn’t Etihad’s defense here. They defied the DOT’s guidance and falsely told the customer they are simply not liable for electronics. Which is in and of itself an unfair and deceptive practice subject to sanctions from the DOT.

    2) Unless the customer changed the manufacturer’s packaging, then it would be the same packaging that domestic shippers like UPS use to deliver these units everyday. The airline would have the burden of proof to demonstrate that an exception under Article 18 of the Montreal Convention applied, and I’m pretty sure they have no such evidence and they collected no such evidence.

  • sirwired

    1) I’m not seeing anywhere in the article where the airline said they were “simply not liable for electronics.” The website the article was linked to also makes no such statement. The website DOES say that you need to sign a release for “fragile, perishable, and inadequately packed baggage”. I’d call a TV in the retail store-grade box both fragile and “inadequately packed” for airline use.

    2) UPS does deliver TV’s in the sense that if a box happens to have a TV in it, it won’t be refused. If it were to break in transit, I suspect they’d also blame the packaging. (On their website they state you should double-box TV’s and other fragile electronics.)

    Certainly TV boxes contain precisely zero protection for the screen itself other than the box, and the air-space it provides. And, in any case, “adequate packaging” is necessarily going to mean very different things for an airline vs. a package carrier.

  • sirwired

    UPS may accept the shipment, but not accept liability. I expect as the price of TV’s has gone down, it now makes sense for a shipper, such as Amazon, to just accept breakage rates as a cost of doing business, since engaging a special service would obviously not be cost-competitive.

  • sirwired

    Hmmm… perhaps you should read their contract before pronouncing them in violation for not updating it.

    “8.3.7 If, despite being prohibited, any items referred to in Articles 8.3.1, 8.3.2, 8.3.3, 8.3.4 and 8.3.5 are included in your Baggage, we shall not be responsible for any loss or damage to such items during carriage that is not international carriage to which a Convention would apply”

  • sirwired

    From the convention text: “However, the carrier is not liable if and to the extent that the damage resulted from the inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage.” (The phrase “defective packing” doesn’t even appear in the baggage section; it’s in the cargo section of the document.)

    It’s interesting that from the cargo section you quoted “inherent defect”, then skipped over “quality or vice”, and then included “defective packing”, which appears . Almost as if you deliberately were skipping over the word quality…

    It can certainly be convincingly argued that a large TV packaged in a simple cardboard box is not of high enough quality to be checked as baggage and covered under the convention.

  • Michael__K

    Per the article and the forums, Etihad does not accept electronic and ‘fragile’ items without a liability release waiver and then used this to claim they are not liable for damage to the customer’s baggage even though they accepted it under the Montreal Convention.

    The packages normally include several types of protection, including hard form-fitting styrofoam around the frame to prevent movement, and bubble wrap and air bags or styrofoam peanuts for cushioning against shocks.

    I’m pretty sure UPS is aware that there are lots of electronics in the packages they routinely deliver every day And if breakage in transit were common and if UPS was really blaming the packaging then something would have to change pretty quickly….

  • Michael__K

    They still tricked the customer and the advocates into believing that they can introduce a separate liability waiver to make the customer fully responsible for damage…

  • sirwired

    Nothing, not the DOT, not the Montreal Convention, prohibits requiring a waiver for inadequately packaged baggage.

    I don’t know where you are seeing that they’ll inherently require a waiver for electronic items. It’s not in the article, it’s not on the forums, it’s not on Eithad’s website.

  • Michael__K

    Interesting — I see that UPS’s terms place a CAP on their liability (unless you purchase more). But they don’t have any language to reject liability specifically for electronics or anything else.

    If it’s packaged consistently with UPS’s published standards and those of the International Safe Transit Association (“ISTA”) [“Procedure 3A, Procedure
    for Testing Packaged Products, published
    “] then they accept liability…

    I’m betting that manufacturers’ packaging generally meets those standards and therefore thwart any effort by Etihad to claim an Article 18 exception.

  • Michael__K

    The waiver was not for inadequately packaged baggage. It is required for any electronics.

    Where did Etihad provide feedback (good or bad) on the packaging?

  • Michael__K

    So when and where did Etihad claim a defect, quality of vice of the baggage? What is their evidence?

    Unless the customer re-packaged the TV themselves (and why would they do that?) then it was packaged with more than just “a simple cardboard box”….

  • sirwired

    Could you please point to this waiver for “any electronics”? Because I ain’t seeing one even existing. All I see is waivers for fragile, inadequately packaged, and perishable items.

  • Michael__K
  • Michael__K

    Also, what’s the point of a waiver? The customer can’t waive their rights under the Montreal Convention. If the airline thinks they have a legitimate reason why they are not liable under the Montreal Convention then they have no reason to demand a waiver.

    Seems the purpose of the waiver is to make the customer BELIEVE the waiver means something…

  • sirwired

    Okay, I’m at that link; all I see is a quote that states: “The website instructs passengers not to pack any fragile items such as computers and other electronics in their checked bags.” It does not state that waivers are required for “any electronics”.

  • Michael__K

    Passengers should not include the following items in their checked baggage:
    Fragile and perishable items
    Computers and personal electronic devices
    Stored data
    Any medication or medical equipment
    Valuable documents such as business documents, passports, certificates, identification documents, negotiable papers etc.

  • sirwired

    That sounds like general travel advice to me, same as you’d give any traveler. “Should not” is a suggestion, not a requirement.

    And it certainly does not speak to the circumstances under which a waiver will be required.

  • AAGK

    I do not need to think about sunk costs bc I never would have purchased $200 TV to check on an airplane to India, nor paid to have the airline break it. If I did, I would have used my Amex so I could be reimbursed by purchase protection. Most likely I would have given it to someone at the airport.

  • AAGK

    Not everyone finds the Montreal Convention and the thought of sending a million letters for months about it to the airline, etc,

  • Michael__K

    That’s why the airlines get away with mis-representing their liabilities.

  • Michael__K

    Where can I get this 49″ TV for $200?

  • Michael__K

    If it was only “should not” it would be a suggestion… But then they require a ‘waiver.’ A waiver which is unenforceable and designed to deceive the customer and hide the fact that the Montreal Convention governs no matter what the waiver says…

  • sirwired

    It’s not unenforceable. Why would it be? It’s an acknowledgement that the airline believes it to be unsuitable for transport as checked baggage. The standard form usually has a checkbox as to why, and I imagine they checked “inadequate packaging” or similar, and the Montreal convention certainly does not prohibit it. I doubt the waiver said “because it’s electronic”.

  • sirwired

    What misrepresentation?

  • RightNow9435

    That was my first thought…..just leave it there, or somewhere at the airport….much cheaper in the long run, even if it wouldn’t have broken.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    My question, which I didn’t see answered below, is whether an equivalent TV is for sale in India, is the price that much more, and could you even just order it online for delivery to his parent’s house directly? If not, I understand the desire to bring a cool gift. But if you can just buy it when you get there, why transport such an unwieldy item?

  • Michael__K

    That the passenger can waive away their rights under the Montreal Convention.

  • Michael__K

    Then your disagreement is with the author of this article and the advocate team….. Because they assert it’s because it’s a TV, and they believed the LRT automatically absolves Etihad (no mention of “defective packaging”)….

    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.

  • sirwired

    If the passenger acknowledges the packaging is inadequate for use as luggage, then Montreal no longer applies, because of the provision waiving liability for packaging quality.

    And I have no disagreement with the article, since it doesn’t actually say “because it’s a TV”. It merely says “to have transported the TV”. If the TV had been in packaging suitable for baggage (foam-lined roto-molded cases are the norm), I expect no such waiver would have been required.

    And yes, the waiver does absolve them from liability if the waiver mentions the packaging, and doesn’t say something like “because it’s a TV”.

    Airlines aren’t required to accept anything and everything for transport. If they want to require a waiver acknowledging inadequate packaging for shipping large, fragile electronics in their retail packaging as a condition of transport, they can do so.

  • Michael__K

    If the passenger acknowledges the packaging is inadequate for use as luggage, then Montreal no longer applies, because of the provision waiving liability for packaging quality.

    That’s simply wrong. The Montreal Convention always applies and the carrier’s defense is to PROVE the packaging was defective as per the Convention. As the DOT wrote in its own guidance:

    once a carrier accepts checked baggage, whatever is contained in the checked baggage is protected, subject to the terms of the Convention

    A signed piece of paper isn’t proof the package was in fact defective. Can the carrier explain what was specifically defective and how it reached this determination?

    since it doesn’t actually say “because it’s a TV

    So then how would Sud have known he would have had to have sign a Release to transport the TV? Without knowing anything about the packaging? (I asked in the forums and the advocates do not know how the OP’s TV was packaged).

  • sirwired

    I don’t know why you keep insisting on using the word “defective” when the convention clearly states that “quality” also applies.

    And if you sign a piece of paper before checking the luggage acknowledging that the packaging is inadequate, I don’t see why the airline would be required to “prove” something after-the-fact that was already agreed beforehand to be true; THAT’s the point of the waiver.

    And that’s not in contradiction with the DOT guidance at all; the convention says the airline’s not liable for packaging not up to snuff. All that DOT guidance says is that item TYPE waivers aren’t valid. (i.e., if you pack your coin collection int your suitcase and it’s stolen, the airline can’t avoid liability on international flights.)

    “So then how would Sud have known he would have had to have sign a Release to transport the TV?”

    Are you asking how would he have known he needed one before arriving at the airport? I never said he did. Yep, he was between a rock and a hard place, not having the time to drive or ship the TV back to his house, but a situation being difficult doesn’t make the airline liable for it.

    I am 100% positive he did not purchase a custom-fabricated shipping case that would have cost nearly as much as the TV itself in order to transport it; surely that would have been mentioned in his list of costs.

  • Michael__K

    ” I don’t see why the airline would be required to “prove” something after-the-fact that was already agreed beforehand to be true”
    On what basis was this “established?” Precisely how did the carrier determine that the package was defective, bad quality, non-ISTA compliant, etc? If they don’t just knee-jerk make every passenger with valuable electronics sign the waiver?

    “Are you asking how would he have known he needed one before arriving at the airport? I never said he did”
    Exactly. And the author of this article said he did. And yet you resist admitting that you disagree with the author.

    “I am 100% positive he did not purchase a custom-fabricated shipping case”
    He wouldn’t need to purchase it separately because TV’s are normally sold in packaging that is suitable for shipping (e.g. UPS/ISTA compliant)….

  • sirwired

    Signing a piece of paper agreeing something is true sounds like “establishing” to me. Airlines are free to set their own standards for when they’ll require a waiver. (And, even then, the waiver only protects the airline against damage claims, not claims for, say, the bag disappearing.)

    Those huge and heavy fancy hard-sided cases for packing fragile items as luggage exist for a reason; it’s not because those passengers/shippers enjoy spending hundreds of dollars on the things.

    Shipping via a parcel carrier (or even as air cargo) is not an identical process to checking as luggage. Parcels (and air cargo) are processed very differently from luggage. (The sortation systems required for parcel shipping are far too bulky to fit in an airport) It makes sense they’ll have different requirements for what qualifies as “quality” packaging.

  • Michael__K

    By your reasoning they can force every passenger who checks any bag to sign this paper and never be liable under the Convention ever. Which makes no sense and defies the plain language of the Convention and also the DOT’s guidance on the Convention.

    If the carrier denies that they force every passenger to sign this paper (or every passenger who checks valuable electronics) then the signed paper itself isn’t their defense — they need to be able to show how they determined that this package in particular was deficient.

  • sirwired

    And if something like that were to take place (e.g. forcing a waiver on a passenger securely nestling his/her camera in the middle of a bunch of cushy clothing), we could have that discussion. But I don’t think a TV in the cardboard box it was sold in is a very marginal case for having the passenger sign a waiver saying it’s not up the the standards of transport as luggage.

  • Michael__K

    The author believes that’s what taking place… The OP is admonished for not reading the website and not knowing they would need to sign a release to transport a TV (without regard or knowledge as to the packaging).

    I doubt a camera in the middle of a suitcase is tested for and meets UPS/ITSA standards. Of course the carrier would have no idea it’s there.

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