All posts in Hot Topics

Airline delays are at an all time low — Or are the airlines just better at managing expectations?

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

flight board

NPR social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, interviews Silke Forbes, associate professor, Tufts University, about a recent research project she led with colleagues to understand how she arrived 30 minutes early on a flight from Cleveland to Washington that she took years earlier, but had taken less time.

“Airlines are arriving earlier relative to their schedules so there are fewer delays and we’re all happy about that, but if you look at how long it actually takes to complete the flight, it’s taking longer than it used to,” said Forbes.

“So, we’re spending more time in the air at the same time we’re being told that we are arriving early.”

Listen to the NPR broadcast here to learn the psychology behind airlines’ move to stretch flight time schedules.

ExpertFlyer’s Air Travel Trend Summary for 2018

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Here at ExpertFlyer not only are we privileged with insider knowledge of important airline industry information that affects how consumers travel by air, we also have great friends in the field who graciously share their valuable expertise with us. For 2018, we want to share some of the important trends that our president, Chris Lopinto, has highlighted for the year.

first class

Airline Cabin Classes

  • Expect an increase in “luxury amenities” for Business & First Class seats, especially on international long-haul routes and some domestic flights.
  • On the other end of the scale, more “Economy Minus” fares, and the restrictive rules that go along with them on domestic rules will also increase. And, of course, the continuing devaluing of frequent flier miles and programs, even for top-tier elites (This is happening where the basic economy fares are being applied to more flights and routes).
  • A new trend in airline cabins is the “densification” of economy classes across the board. This is the process of creating additional rows and in some cases more seats per row on larger planes, much to our discomfort.


General Airline Service

  • Airlines will continue the pricing model of “pay for what you want.”
  • Airlines will provide more routes to smaller cities (Iceland Air, a European Low-Cost Carrier is adding new flights to smaller US cities and others should be expected to follow).
  • Travelers can expect that upgrades will be more readily available for purchase rather than an elite “perk” for their most loyal customers.
  • Expansion of business models (such as Airbnb getting into the “travel business,”) which allows companies to engage with clients for a longer period of time.

mobile tech for travel


  • Continue emphasis on mobile tech and app usage for end to end ease when booking and managing flights.
  • Onboard tech enhancements will continue for airline differentiation and on-board airline entertainment such as TV monitors on headrests will give way to closed-circuit apps to access and enjoy entertainment content from personal mobile devices
  • The increased use of VR technology by travel agents and hotels will become more prominent to give customers a “preview” of what they can expect from specific destinations.


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.

Extreme telecommuting and 3 ways to approach the boss about going mobile

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Statistics suggest that the global remote workforce will reach 1 billion in less than 20 years, yet some large corporation, like IBM, Yahoo, and Bank of America, are pulling back on telecommuting policies, stating that a lack of face-time and collaboration inhibits creativity, productivity, and teamwork.

We checked in with extreme telecommuter and CEO, Kean Graham, to get his perspective on managing a global mobile workforce and why this trend is unlikely to do an about-face.

What’s your impression and forecast for the virtual workforce — will companies seek to abolish or nurture this trend?

Digital nomadism is still very new and far from optimized. It is easier to become a digital nomad with each new year thanks to a greater digital nomad community, better technology, and better management frameworks that support remote work. Large corporations have predictably had issues with remote work because these companies tend to be resistant to change, tend to promote political players which are able to get the upper-hand within the office and traditional employees tend to be skeptical towards others who work remotely. These are just some reasons why remote work hasn’t worked successfully in these large bureaucratic companies so far. As digital nomadism grows and matures, remote work will be more digestible for even the largest and most bureaucratic companies. Continue reading →

Could pilotless air travel be the way of the future?

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

pilotless air travel

Tech news outlet, TNW, ponders the advancement of pilotless flight in a recent post, but many questions concerning the practicality, safety and travelers’ trepidations may keep pilots snugly in their cockpit.

Perhaps we should see how the evolution of driverless cars develops as a potential bellwether for air travel. The Atlantic reports on another new monetization layer to this innovation that features free transportation — with a catch. According to the post, passengers may summon a car and travel for nothing—that is, so long as they are willing to make a stop or two en route at sponsoring locations.

“Autonomous cars will be part of an ecosystem of intelligent agents and personal-data vendors. The information they are able to base your route on—and how they present an itinerary to you—will not be limited to where you say you want to go, but on all the data they have about you. Note that companies with immense personal-data collections, including AmazonBaiduGoogle, and Uber, are in the race to develop autonomous cars.”

According to a report by Business Insider, a study conducted by UBS found that 54% of the 8,000 people surveyed by the firm said they would be unlikely to take a pilotless flight. According to UBS, the four groups least likely to board a pilotless plane were students and unemployed people, nervous flyers or those concerned with aviation safety, those who book travel over the phone, and women.