New tool helps air passengers apply for refunds due to delayed, canceled or overbooked flights

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

airhelp logo AirHelp, a flight compensation company and air passenger rights advocate, has launched the world’s first tool for travelers to check their eligibility for compensation from flight disruptions up to three years in the past. The feature also allows travelers to visually map out their journeys directly from their mobile devices into an adventure map for social sharing. This first-of-its-kind technology will enlighten consumers to compensation they may have never known was available to them.

“Raising awareness of air passenger rights and identifying new ways to be a consumer advocate has always been our priority,” says AirHelp CEO and co-founder Henrik Zillmer. “Over nine million air passengers are entitled to compensation for disrupted flights every year, yet most of these travelers don’t know that they are eligible or understand how to pursue a valid claim. Our new tool will produce compelling content for today’s social media-driven consumers, while building a platform for automatic notifications about compensation eligibility. We’re excited to educate even more travelers about their rights in a fun, interactive manner with technology.”

LISTEN to our interview with AirHelp CEO, Henrik Zillmer

 

 

ExpertFlyer: Tell us about AirHelp and how you’re helping consumer air travelers?

Henrik Zillmer:  We’ve actually been working on AirHelp for many years. It’s been three years in the making. What we have built is a feature where you can log in with your email and we can then find the flights that you have been on in the last few years. By doing that, we can match it against all the flights that are eligible for compensation according to air passenger rights, and then tell you, “Hey, you were on a flight that was delayed three hours, and you are entitled to compensation.” The airline may not have told you, but we can tell you or we can also help you get it. It’s like having a little lawyer in your pocket that informs you if you have a right to compensation.

EF:  That’s interesting. Explain how you act on the consumer’s behalf to secure the refund or compensation?

HZ: We send an email if we find a flight that’s eligible. In general, we also just keep you informed about your rights. It can be that you’re entitled to other things, such as food or accommodation or transportation, and that’s also something we inform users about. But if you are entitled to cash, and here we’re not talking about a voucher or miles on your account, but if you’re entitled to cash, then we go and fill out a claim on your behalf, send it to the airline, and talk to the airline, and then get them to pay the compensation. If they don’t pay out, then we even go to court, taking legal action if they don’t want to follow the law. That’s our specialty. We’ve done that more than 50,000 times. We’re quite experienced in suing the airlines and making sure they follow the law.

EF: In terms of cost to the user, what’s the fee associated with the service?

HZ: The new feature is completely free, and you can use it whenever you want and it can tell you if you’re entitled to compensation. It’s like a lookup service. If you want us to go and claim the money on your behalf, then we charge a 25% success fee. So it’s a no win, no fee pricing model. If we don’t get anything, you haven’t paid anything. Very simple.

EF: In addition to offering this valuable tool, your company is also involved in consumer travel advocacy. Talk a little bit about that.

HZ: This whole idea of AirHelp actually came five years ago, where there was a law in Europe that said you were entitled to a lot of different things if the airline delayed you. But it was only about 1% of travelers who actually knew that they had rights. So we saw it as an opportunity to go out and make sure that all air passengers are informed about their rights and make sure that the law actually works.

Since then, we have been fighting to make sure airlines are following the law, but also to make sure that the Department of Transportation and also the European Commission of Transportation are aware of how airlines are treating their passengers, and also make sure that there are laws in place that are consumer-friendly and not only favoring the airlines. We’ve been touring around on different travel conferences, talking about air passenger rights, and we’ve also set up an organization that’s called Air Passenger Rights. We’re trying to promote consumer-friendly air passenger rights all over the world.

EF: Let’s say you’re a frequent business traveler, maybe taking three to four airline trips per month. Potentially, on average, how much do you think that person might recoup per year based on delays and all of those issues?

HZ: It is all about probability, and it’s not all delayed or canceled flights that are entitled to compensation. For example, if it’s a weather delay, then it’s not the fault of the airline, and therefore you’re not entitled to anything. That’s just tough luck. But if it’s a technical problem or it’s a cabin crew shortage or maybe air traffic control, then it is the airline’s fault, and then we can get compensation.

Statistically speaking, it’s only one flight out of 100 that is entitled to compensation. If you’re a business traveler, maybe you clock in 100 flights a year. Well, then, you have one every year. But it works three years back, so you can actually go back in time and still claim. If you use our service today,  you’ve been flying a lot the last two years, then, of course, the likelihood is much higher.

EF: Just so people understand, what are the conditions under which you are entitled to some sort of reimbursement?

HZ: The conditions vary from state to state or country to country, from region to region. There are many different laws, and that is why it is also very difficult for the air passenger or the customer to understand what their rights are. This is why AirHelp exists because consumers are not lawyers — not all of them. Finding out what the law says in my particular case, in my country, that’s difficult. That’s where we come in – we do all that legwork associated with rules and regulations, so consumers don’t have to. Suffice to say, the “magic” mark that generally applies to all is three hours. The flight needs to be delayed more than three hours before the laws kick in.

EF: You have another interesting feature that’s a little more on the fun side, right? Talk about that.

HZ: In addition to, of course, offering our help getting you compensation, we have also developed a feature where we then display all the flights that you have been on in the last three years on a big travel map. Here, you can then see where you’ve been, which countries, which airports, what’s your favorite airline, how much time you spend in the sky. That’s a little scary. Also, how much time you waited in security or watched safety demonstrations on board, or how much money you’ve spent on air tickets. It’s all the information that you as a business traveler probably never thought about, but here in less than 10 minutes, we show you everything. That gives you a little bit of intelligence about your flying habits. So very fun to see and very fun to share with your friends and compare travel habits.

EF: Is there anything else we should know that I haven’t asked before we let you go?

HZ: I think you should try it out. As I said, it works three years back, so you get all the past flights. Maybe there is some hidden money in your inbox. You never know.

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