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.

Air Travel Fairness aims for greater airline fare/fee transparency to ensure true consumer cost comparison

In light of the DOT’s recent decision not to pursue regulations that would result in greater airline pricing transparency for consumers, ExpertFlyer went One-on-One with Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of the Air Travel Fairness Coalition, to learn what his organization is doing to protect consumer travelers.

“Airlines are making record profits and we don’t begrudge that. In fact, we’re happy they are successful, but let’s get it all out in the open (fares and fees) so everybody knows what they’re getting into.”

WATCH our interview with Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director, Air Travel Fairness Coalition

ExpertFlyer: What is the Air Travel Fairness Coalition?

Kurt Ebenhoch: Air Travel Fairness is a coalition of consumer and business advocacy groups that are working together to protect the rights of consumers to easily compare airfares and schedules among airlines. Currently, we’re seeing an increasing effort by the airlines to block consumers from seeing the full set of varying fares and schedules, and flights, available to them from some of their favorite resources, including travel apps and websites. As a result, we’re working to try and protect that right because comparison shopping is the way that we all assess whether or not we’re getting a good deal.

EF: The Department of Transportation recently decided not to pursue some regulation that would have meant greater pricing transparency across the airline industry. What does this mean for consumers? 

KE: There are two issues here. One is how early in the transaction the consumer has the complete picture of what the cost of their trip will be. Over time, the airlines have added new fees, new charges for different things, and trying to figure out that bottom line of what one’s total cost is has gotten a lot tougher. So this was something that was going to require a summary of the total cost earlier in the process. And it had been studied over many, many years. There was lots of consumer input.

Then the second provision was one where the carriers would have to report to the government how much money they’re making on all these different ancillary fees and charges. And what really concerns us is, we’re seeing a pattern here from the DOT, where it feels to us like, airline profits are their most important objective and we think that consumers should really be their most important priority. They need to put consumers pocketbooks ahead of airline profits.

These different things that they’re doing, whether it’s what I mentioned before with making it hard for consumers to compare fares and schedules, or with what’s happened with the DOT, are all examples of behind the scenes price increases or deception that make it more difficult for consumers to find out the bottom line cost of their trip. And they’re doing it for no other reason than to extract more money from the consumer.

Our point of view is if the airlines want to charge a certain fare, this is a free market economy, they should charge that fare, but let’s get it all out in the open so everybody knows what they’re getting into. Rather than deception, and hide and seek with these varied charges and fees.

EF: So what’s the next step for your coalition?

KE: Well, right now we’re very much trying to get what’s called a Request for Information reinstated. Sometimes when it comes to policy making, one of the early steps is for a government agency, such as the Department of Transportation, which is charged with protecting American consumers, to initiate a request for information where they get different facts and data from different parties in the travel environment. From that information, they’re able to make a more informed choice about the impact these practices are having on consumers.

The Air Fairness Coalition had a Request for Information in place. It generated more than 58,000 comments, including 50,000 from individual travelers who just wrote to the DOT expressing their concern related to this. It initially had a deadline of December 31 of 2016. That deadline was extended by the Obama administration to March 31, 2017, at the request of the airlines and then on March 10th, inexplicably, the Trump administration suspended the RFI altogether. We have been working with members of Congress and with the DOT to get that RFI reinstated. What’s curious to us is that the airline industry is working very, very hard to try and stop the reinstatement of that. And we’re not talking about legislation or a new rule, we’re just talking about getting the facts out on the table and letting things go from there.

But even in that case, they’re working aggressively to stop that from happening. We think it’s important for everyone involved, all the decision makers, the policymakers, to really see what’s going on and what impact these practices are having. Consumers should be able to decide which website they go to, which app they use, which travel resource they use. It’s not for the airlines to decide that. And now that the top four carriers have more than 80% of the market, we’re starting to see some oligopolistic practices.

 

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.

 

Did you know…5 unexpected ways to earn bonus points?

frugal travel guy logoFrugal Travel Guy blogger, Anya Kartashova, recounts five unexpected methods she used to earn air and hotel travel bonus points in 2017.  Here are a few of her bonus building gems:

  • Enroll your American Express card in their Pay Over Time feature and earn an easy 10,000 Membership Rewards points.
  • Look for award point opportunities with Chase. This fall, they ran a promo for Sapphire-branded credit cards, like Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you could earn an extra point for every transaction paid via a digital-wallet app, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, Chase Pay and Samsung Pay.
  • Marriott Rewards NFL Promo — Marriott Rewards has partnered with the National Football League and asks football fans trivia questions on Twitter almost every Sunday during the NFL season. Questions range from “How wide is an NFL football field?” to “How many players can each NFL team have on the field?” Every correct answer equals to 1,000 Marriott Rewards points!

    Read more at: 5 Unexpected Ways I’ve Earned Bonus Points This Year | Frugal Travel Guy