All posts in Travel Tech

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 MonetizeMore.com 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.

 

2018 Travel Technology Trends

The annual Phocuswright Conference took place last month and for travel, tourism, and hospitality industry professionals, the show serves as a bellwether for tech trends across all key travel segments. We conducted a post-show interview with Phocuswright research analyst, Alice Jong, to discuss the hot topics and opportunities for 2018 that created buzz at the show.

WATCH our video interview with Alice Jong, Phocuswright research analyst

ExpertFlyer: Give us a high-level description of what Phocuswright is and the purpose of the conference?

Alice Jong: We are a travel market research company and we focus on anything related to travel distribution and technology. The U.S. conference is our largest event where we gather the biggest ideas and the biggest opinions in the travel industry, and present them on stage to share trends and things to watch out for. We cover all the segments in travel … it’s a great opportunity for attendees to not only gain knowledge about what’s happening in the travel industry, technology and innovation, but also make connections with the biggest minds in this space.

EF: There were a number of highlights that came out of the show, one of which was the popularity of tours and activities and its impact on search and booking technology. How is this segment evolving?

AJ: It’s actually a big study that I worked on directly so I’m quite passionate about this segment. Essentially, so much of tours and activities — the things that you do once you’re in the destination — whether it’s going on a walking tour or participating in a cooking class or going scuba diving, much of that is still transacted offline. Travelers tend to book these activities very last minute in destination – with many actually walking up to the ticket booth or into the shop to purchase the experience in person. But there’s been a big shift where all of this is moving online now. So, think about how hotels and airlines are online.  You can easily compare options, whether it’s on a metasearch site or on an OTA like Expedia. That’s starting to happen for tours and activities now. Bike tours were among the first to do this in a big way, but in recent years, many more startups are getting on board, so platforms like “Get Your Guide” are surfacing and they’re aggregating all these activities that you can do and putting them online where travelers can easily research activities by category and then book them from a computer or mobile device.

Many of these activities and experiences tend to be operated by small “Mom and Pop” shops, but there are new technology platforms now that are being created that cater to these smaller players enabling them to basically digitize their inventory. So, once the supply is digitized, then the consumer can also book it digitally and it’s really gaining momentum, such that even the biggest travel players are now seeing a lot of potential in the tours and activities space.

The first time we did a study related to activities was back in around 2011, so just over six years ago and around that time the biggest players were lukewarm about tours and activities. Since then, brands like Expedia, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and Booking.com, are all looking to add tours and activities into their online platform.  As a result, it’s going to be easier for travelers to research activities they are interested in, compare what they want to do and then book it directly online. With more than 80% of the activities marketplace still offline, this category is expected to grow quickly based on the demands of travelers and their online search and booking expectations.

EF: What are some of the sites that are fulfilling this travel niche search now?

AJ: Some of the biggest or well-known brands, Expedia, has a local expert now and they’ve actually integrated that into their mobile platform, as well. Airbnb launched Experiences last year, so more focus on that local experience in the destination. TripAdvisor, after acquiring Viator, one of the largest online tours and activities booking agencies, started integrating bookable content onto TripAdvisor. So, travelers may now directly book those activities from TripAdvisor. Some of the other examples are Get Your Guide, which is one of the larger global platforms, and others with a regional spin, like Newman Tours specializing in Asia, as well as Klook, and Be My Guest. In India, you have options, like Make My Trip and Clear Trip. There is a good deal starting regionally, which indicates a lot of opportunities to grow. It’s very exciting to see where these players are going to take this and keep growing the inventory.

EF: There was some talk about the impact of artificial intelligence and voice recognition associated with travel search and sourcing. What’s on the horizon?

AJ: This technology is still quite new. We’re in our infancy with this and many of the biggest online players are exploring possibilities and options. They’re looking at chat, they’re looking at voice, and they’re looking to see how they combine a mix of A.I. chatbox with human interaction to find that right balance. Many of them are analyzing and testing what they can do with customer service inquiries. Expedia has been experimenting with Facebook Messenger and earlier this year they rolled out a Facebook Messenger booking capability for Hotels.com. Kayak has been looking at Alexa capabilities, so they’re all dabbling and they’re trying to see what the possibilities are, but so far what we are hearing from them is it’s still new and they are exploring the early stage capabilities.

Over in Asia, China’s biggest OTA, Ctrip, is using A.I. customer service chatbox to handle many of their customer inquiries. Make My Trip in India also rolled out chat-based online booking for their packaging business. So, we see different players exploring different routes but ultimately it’s like finding that right balance that makes things easier and more personalized for the customer.

We saw in our travel technology survey that in the U.S. about half of online travelers now use some kind of voice assistant in their everyday life. In terms of travel though, it’s most advantageous future usage is still developing. Companies are looking at opportunities starting with customer service for now and they’re considering how the technology will play out in terms of shopping and booking stages.

EF: Let’s talk about loyalty and loyalty programs. It was interesting to see some data on customer loyalty and membership programs. According to your analysis, membership to a loyalty program doesn’t necessarily mean a customer is all that loyal. What do you think is coming down the pike in terms of airline and hotel rewards programs? Are we ripe for reinvention in this space?

AJ: Well, for both air and hotels in general, we’re definitely seeing that loyalty programs don’t mean loyalty necessarily. And what we’ve seen in our studies is that loyalty programs aren’t deal-makers for the traveler either. Overall, they aren’t making their final booking decision based on a loyalty program. In fact, for air, we see that the majority of travelers belong to either multiple loyalty programs or none at all. So the share of travelers that belong to just one is the minority. And further to that, we also find that they’re willing to book with an airline outside of their loyalty program if it means a better price or schedule. So that’s what’s really driving those purchases. On top of that, air travelers’ loyalty greatly depends on their home base location. If you’re based in Atlanta, Delta’s probably going to be your preferred airline. So much of it is based on these variables that aren’t necessarily about loyalty. It’s about the commodity and what’s available and what’s most convenient and priced right for your budget.

It’s been fascinating to see how Airbnb has been able to build this brand affinity with its user base where people keep coming back and reusing again and again – and they don’t have an official loyalty program. With the airlines, especially in the U.S., there are a set number of carriers you can fly on. If there’s the option of a $100 flight versus a $600 flight and the schedule’s pretty close, you’re probably going to go with the $100 flight rather than trying to get 500 extra points on your frequent flyer program. So, I think for loyalty, what we’re looking for is who is going be able to find a way to differentiate their brand through some kind of deeper connection, not just by offering these perks because the loyalty program and frequent flyer miles are no longer differentiating brands.

Dream of having an entire row to yourself on an economy flight? Here’s how

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Nothing makes us happier than a frequent flyer scoring the best seat in the cabin. So, when we heard that God Save the Points Travel blogger and frequent flyer, Gilbert Ott, recently put ExpertFlyer’s Seat Alert app to the test and scored an entire row to himself, we were brimming with joy!

gilbert-ott via BusinessInsider.com

Gilbert Ott via BusinessInsider.com

Gilbert shared his experiences as a regular Seat Alert app user with BusinessInsider.com.

“A smart flyer (which you clearly are) sees the cabin as a game of musical chairs,” he said. “If the best seat in the house is available immediately — book it. If not, get the next best available seat — and set free alerts on ExpertFlyer for any and all the seats you’d prefer. By doing so, you can keep improving up until final boarding.

“Once everyone else has settled their fate, you can often stand in the boarding line with your app open seeing if final seating assignments have created any opportunities — like an entire row to yourself. It really does happen.”

Read the full post and tips here.