Flight club29 June 2018
For many passengers, the thought of applying for flight compensation can be daunting, particularly if there is uncertainty as to whether the claim is valid. Henrik Zillmer, CEO and founder of AirHelp, seeks to remedy this problem by providing legal services to airline passengers who have experienced a flight cancellation, delay or overbooking.
On what grounds can airline passengers apply for compensation, and what are your top tips for passengers who have experienced a severe delay, cancellation or overbooking?
Henrik Zillmer: Passengers are protected under EU law if their flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked, and if the delay is not caused by an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ – such as an airport staff strike, a security risk, extreme weather conditions, or political or civil unrest – and could be entitled to up to £510 in compensation if the flight is delayed by more than three hours; it is cancelled without notification 14 days in advance (the airline might halve the compensation if you accept rerouting and arrive at your destination within two to four hours of your original scheduled arrival time); or you’re denied boarding due to an overbooked flight.
It is worth noting that all flights from one EU airport to another are protected under the law, while flights from outside of the EU destined for an EU airport are only protected if you’re flying with an EU carrier. Passengers travelling from any EU airport to destinations outside of the EU are also protected by the law.
We urge passengers to read up on their rights ahead of booking their flights so they’re aware of what they’re legally entitled to in case they experience an affected journey.
Compensation can vary depending on the details of the delay. For instance, a rebooking must meet a specific criteria based on when the customer was informed of the delay, as well as the arrival time of the affected flight at their destination, in order to be eligible for compensation. In light of this, we advise passengers to keep hold of their boarding passes and travel documents. We also advise disrupted passengers to take note of their departure and arrival time, as well as ask the airline for more details on why their flight was delayed/ cancelled. This information is important down the line if you decide to file a claim, and will help speed up the process significantly.
Can you provide a specific example of how you help airline passengers with their compensation claims?
Say, for example, a passenger arrives at the airport only to find their flight has been delayed or cancelled. The passenger can use their mobile phone to download our AirHelp mobile app or to visit our website to check their eligibility for free and make a claim in a matter of minutes.
All the passenger will need to do is provide the necessary documentation, which can be done simply by scanning your boarding pass using our boarding pass scanner, available on the mobile app or via the website. AirHelp will then handle the claim providing regular updates on its status to the passenger.
If you are unfortunately not entitled to compensation by the airline, as it is deemed an ‘extraordinary circumstance’, AirHelp won’t charge the passenger for its services.
Since the business was founded in 2013, AirHelp has helped more than five million travellers process airline compensation claims worth more than £250 million in total reimbursement. It’s important for travellers to be aware of their rights before heading to the airport in order to get the compensation they deserve following a flight delay or cancellation.
How can airlines conduct better practice and improve measurements to compensate claims in a more timely manner?
Every year, more than eight million passengers are entitled to flight disruption compensation, yet only 1% of passengers will get the compensation they rightly deserve.
In recent months, we’ve seen cases where the airlines have been refusing to pay out compensation to its passengers by wrongly asserting they are not liable for the disruptions caused. While there are incidences where flight delays and cancellations are inevitable, it doesn’t go to say that the airlines are excused from taking accountability for their errors. Under EU law (EC261), unless the delay was due to an extraordinary circumstance, passengers are entitled to compensation.
We want to see measures taken by airlines to conduct better practice when it comes to customer claim handling, which is why we developed the AirHelp Score to assess airlines based on their services, including compensation claim handling. We hope that the airlines will listen and respond to their ratings, looking and investing into ways that they can adopt better practices in the business. This includes improving their response time on claims, or further training for employees.
The AirHelp Score has not been developed in a bid to wage war on airlines. On the contrary, we want to give the industry a tool to help better understand their customers’ pain points, using the insights to improve customer claim handling and ensure their customers receive the best possible experience.
What do you make of UK airlines’ and airports’ low place in the AirHelp Score 2017 ranking, especially with regard to the latest issues of flight cancellations by Ryanair and the collapse of Monarch airlines?
As the 2017 AirHelp Score unveiled, UK airlines Monarch and Ryanair were among some of the worst airlines in the ranking. Interestingly, we have since seen Monarch go into administration in October and Ryanair fall into flight cancellation chaos over the past few months, affecting more than two million passengers and causing UK flight prices to dramatically increase.
This goes to prove that the AirHelp Score is in fact an important tool for passengers to use to access the airlines they are flying with, and to avoid any future issues and disruptions caused to their journeys.
We also believe that this validates our findings in the eyes of the airlines and airports who might want to assess their ranking to determine the areas where they need to make improvements to their current service.
What is deemed an ‘extraordinary circumstance’, and how do some airlines use this to get out of compensation payouts to passengers?
An ‘extraordinary circumstance’ includes a series of scenarios where the delay or cancellation of a flight could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Examples such as an airport staff strike, a security risk, extreme weather conditions, or political or civil unrest, would be deemed an extraordinary circumstance.
When filing a claim with an airline, passengers tend to receive lengthy legal terms that can either falsely deny a customer compensation by wrongly accusing an ‘extraordinary circumstance’, or simply deter a passenger from proceeding with the claim. If a passenger experiences this issue, we encourage them to get in touch with a third-party compensation company like ours that can provide the counsel and expertise needed to process the claim.
What technological advancements do you have in the pipeline to improve the service of the airlines and paying flight delay compensation?
AirHelp has just launched the company’s newest AI-powered lawyer focused on increasing the efficiency of determining court success viability.
Named Lara, she has been built to complement AirHelp’s original AI-powered lawyer Herman, the industry’s first artificial lawyer designed to process claims for flight disruption compensation as quickly as possible for court action.
It marks the third ‘travel tech’ innovation for the company, after the launch of Herman and the boarding pass scanner back in the summer. The addition of Lara will also streamline the legal processing capabilities of AirHelp to increase the company’s goals to be much more accessible and cost-effective for the consumer, and allow greater administrative efficiency, growth of legal services and market expansion.
AirHelp has also created an exciting new feature that launched in March. The new feature provides a simple way for air passengers to check their personal flight history and claim on disrupted flights experienced over the past three years.
Available on the AirHelp website and mobile app, the tool is an exciting new dual feature that provides a simple way for air passengers to check their personal flight history for compensation eligibility. Once connected, AirHelp will have the capability to update consumers on future eligibility as soon as their flight disruptions occur.
By analysing past flight data and including any new flights as they are booked, the tool creates a colourful and engaging map of recent flights, how much money you have spent on flight tickets, how many times you’ve been to the moon and back, and much more, to highlight past experiences via a fun and visual display.