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After Norwegian Air rejected my compensation claim for a delayed flight, I enlisted AirHelp, a company that assists travelers trying to recoup compensation from airlines. Several months and a small-claims court date later, I finally received my check.
Last August, I flew from New York JFK to London Gatwick and back with Norwegian. The flights were special for two reasons: They were being operated by a former Singapore Airlines A380, leased to cover for Norwegian’s grounded Boeing 787s, and they were each delayed by well over three hours. My outbound flight departed a whopping 4 hours and 47 minutes late, and the return was 3 hours and 54 minutes late.
The potential silver lining was EU Regulation 261/2004. This rule promises passengers certain rights, including 600 euros (~$656) in compensation when a long-haul flight out of the EU is delayed more than four hours, or 300 euros (~$328) when the flight is delayed between three to four hours. That is, assuming the delay wasn’t caused by extraordinary circumstances, such as bad weather and air traffic control strikes. In this case, the delays were due to a shortage of gates at JFK that could accommodate the superjumbo during the flight’s scheduled time, meaning that the airline was at fault as it could have rescheduled the flight or used another aircraft.
Filing my claim through AirHelp was much more straightforward than when I initially filed it on my own. All I needed to do was provide some basic information about myself and my flight and upload a copy of my original booking. There was no upfront fee, but a service fee (25%) and potential legal-action fee (additional 25%) if my case was approved.
From there, I would just need to wait. AirHelp’s website said that that the majority of claims take three to four months to process.
AirHelp’s first plan of action was to contact the airline. My first case, which was for my flight from New York to London, got dropped after two months due to alleged bad weather. However, for my other case, three months went by and the only updates I received were generic bi-weekly emails with the subject line “No news really is good news,” to let me know that AirHelp was still waiting to hear back from the airline.
With no word from the airline by the end of month three, AirHelp gave my case the green light to go through legal proceedings. I was then sent some documents from AirHelp’s legal partners that I needed to sign, acknowledging that I would like them to pursue my case and that I agreed to pay their fees if my case was won. It was made very clear that their services would cost me nothing out of pocket if my case lost.
Once I returned all of the signed documents, AirHelp told me the legal process could take “some time” so it was back to waiting. For the next five months, I continued to receive those generic emails from AirHelp saying that they were still working on my case, but this time they were sent monthly, as opposed to bi-weekly.
This week, I finally got the good news that my case won and that I could collect my compensation. At the end of the day, I walked away with $164 since the delay was just under four hours and I had to pay half of my winnings back to AirHelp and their legal team. Payout methods vary by country, but my options were either a PayPal transfer or physical check (both for an additional fee) or a bank transfer (no additional fee).
Although it’s a bummer that I couldn’t get compensation for my outbound flight with the longer delay and that I ended up paying back half of my earnings, I am glad that I filed my claim through a third party. I would’ve never pursued legal action against the airline on my own so getting partial compensation was better than nothing. Although I used AirHelp for my case, there are many other third-party services that try to wrest compensation out of airlines for you, such as EUclaim, Flightright and refund.me.
What’s great about EC 261 is that it protects disrupted flights for up to three years. So, if you’re kicking yourself for not filing a claim for a delayed flight, it might not be too late to do so. Canada is in the process of rolling out a new passenger bill of rights and will, too, require airlines to compensate passengers for longer delays starting in December 2019. Let’s hope the US follows suit!
For more on my delayed flight experience, see:
- Double Beds on a Low-Cost Carrier: Singapore’s First Class Suites (Flying as Norwegian Premium) on Hi Fly’s A380
- Norwegian Will Not Accept Compensation Claims for Delayed A380 Flights
- How I’m Using AirHelp to Get a Delay Compensation From Norwegian
Featured image by twinsterphoto / Getty Images.
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