A Startling Number of Flyers Don’t Claim Compensation They Deserve

Aug 8, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Most flyers are aware that airlines can use, mislead and downright abuse their passengers. But a surprisingly low number of Americans know that they do, in fact, have some rights of their own when it comes to air travel.

Earlier this year, AirHelp — a company that assists travelers trying to recoup compensation from airlines — surveyed thousands of Americans and found that less than 10% understand their rights. And according to new data, it’s only getting worse.  As a result, AirHelp declared on Wednesday that August will be “Passenger Rights Awareness month.”

In just the first four months of 2018, AirHelp CEO Henrik Zillmer claims that nearly 416,000 travelers in the US are owed a collective $292 million in compensation from airlines. That’s “nearly 60% more than the same period in 2017,” he said in a statement.

“Air passengers still feel powerless against airlines, and many miss out on the compensation they’re owed by not filing a claim,” Zillmer said.

According to AirHelp’s survey, 75% of US travelers feel uninformed by airlines about their rights and, as Zillmer pointed out, less than a quarter of travelers who experience delayed or canceled flights (read: everyone) actually file claims.

In the US, airlines aren’t required to compensate you if your flight’s been delayed or canceled — most airlines just do it out of good faith (although some don’t at all). It’s a whole different case in Europe where, under the European Union’s “EC 261/2004” regulation, airlines are required to compensate you up to the tune of €600 ($696).

Most travelers who’ve arrived or departed from an airport within the EU on a delayed flight are entitled to compensation — even US citizens. And many credit cards offer trip insurance and trip delay protections that will reimburse you on top of whatever you receive through the EC 261.

“Mandatory compensation for delayed flights is a foreign concept to US travelers,” Charles Leocha, president and co-founder of Travelers United, said in a statement.

Travelers departing from an airport within the EU, or flying on a carrier based in the EU and landing in the EU, are protected by EC 261 when the flight disruption (a delay, cancelation or denied boarding) is caused by the airline. And compensation may be claimed within three years of the disrupted flight. That’s right — start reflecting on your travel experiences from the last three years. 

AirHelp estimates that travelers worldwide are leaving up to $700 on the table per incident. And for frequent international flyers, that number can easily multiply.

Travelers should be aware, however, that if a flight is delayed due to extraordinary circumstances like bad weather or air traffic control decisions, EC 261 won’t apply — and payouts are based on the length of delay, distance of the flight and don’t start until a flight has been delayed for more than three hours.

If you’re thinking about all the Benjamin Franklins you may be owed, there are a few ways you can seek remuneration. AirHelp can automate the EC 261 claims process, but they’ll keep 25% of any paid claim. There’s also an app, Service, that will automatically search your travel bookings for eligible flights — and opportunities to save on hotel reservations — but they’ll take a 30% cut, unless you’re signed up for the annual $49 membership.

Of course, if you’re willing to file a claim yourself (which we’ve written about extensively) you’ll take home the entire check.

Featured image by izusek/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.