Man Wins $1.74 Million Judgment After Airline Loses His Luggage

Here’s a story for anyone that’s ever had an airline lose their luggage and then had to deal with indifferent customer service, or layers of bureaucracy just trying to get an answer. A man won a $1.74 million court judgment over lost baggage: $1.63 million compensation plus $131,165 in general damages.

Orji Prince Ikem won the case in Nigeria against Emirates Airlines, and it took 13 years to reach this result. And perhaps the most surprising thing is that the claim is about carry on bags, not checked luggage, but “his hand luggage which went missing in the airline’s custody during a 2007 China trip.”

The bags contained:

  • personal effects worth $700,000
  • and $930,000 cash “in 18 bundles of $50,000 wraps each and $30,000 cash not in wrap.”

He was carrying the $930,000 to China for another businessman. However,

Emirates Airlines staff requested that he handed the luggage to them for safe keeping in the cockpit, but he refused and insisted on keeping them himself.

They insisted on keeping the luggage for him considering the huge amount of money contained therein and that on arrival destination, the two bags would be handed over to him.

After a prolonged argument and in order not to miss his flight he yielded and handed over the two hand carry-on bags to them, and they were tagged with tag numbers EK428682 and EK428683 respectively.

That was the last time he saw the bags and the money. On his arrival in Guangzhou, the airline could not account for his four pieces of luggage.

The man was carrying over $900,000 in cash. He handed it over to someone else. And he’s surprised that it wasn’t given back to him. In. China.

Emirates didn’t call any witnesses or refute the plaintiff’s claims, and so the judge ruled in favor of the passenger. When I first read about the case I thought surely the amount was too high to be possible, and perhaps the amounts were in some other currency. However the UAE uses Dirham and Nigeria uses Naira so the use of dollars isn’t referring to either of their mediums of exchange and the general damages were awarded in Nigeria’s local currency (N50 million) which I’ve converted.

It seems to me that the Montreal Convention’s limitation on liability would apply. That’s 1,288 ‘Special Drawing Rights’ or about US$1857 per passenger for baggage loss, damage or delay. Both Nigeria and the U.A.E. are signatories. Experts in this area (which I am not) please correct me on this point.

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. 13-years ago, if Mr. Orji Prince Ikem invested his missing $930,000 in Bitcoins or Tesla, he would have been wealthier.

  2. Now Mr. Prince from Nigeria just needs your kind assistance to access the money from this judgment. He’ll be emailing you shortly…

  3. Absurd.

    Anyone stupid enough to carry nearly $1million in cash and not keep in their personal possession at all times deserves to have it stolen. And should have been laughed out of court. (and then probably arrested for whatever shady act requires one to be carrying that much cash from Nigeria to China…)

  4. There is a good chance that the cash was indeed USD. That has been the currency of choice in Nigeria and you can’t really exchange Naira outside of Nigeria. If it were Naira, he would have had quite a few more bags…..

  5. Thought I would be first to the Nigerian prince comment…but there apparently are some comedians on this blog.

  6. @Bob,
    I suspect that’s why he won. If the airlines insisted on taking it from him, then they, in effect, stole it.
    That’s also probably why the normal baggage limitations didn’t apply. it was determined that the airline had literally stolen his money, not simply lost his bag.

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