Thanks to the recent U.S. launch of AirHelp, Americans have an easy way of filing claims if a flight from or within the European Union is delayed, cancelled, or overbooked. (Flights from the U.S. to the EU are covered only if operated by an EU-based carrier.) Under EU regulations, compensation can be as high as $800, but according to AirHelp founders Henrik Zillmer and Nicolas Michaelsen, only 2% of eligible flyers make claims—and only .06% actually receives what’s due.
That’s where they step in. To file a claim, passengers answer five easy questions about their flight situation, sign over power of attorney so that AirHelp can fight the battle, and email a PDF of the e-ticket and a short description of the incident. From there, AirHelp goes to the airline, which can anywhere from four weeks to six months to respond. “We typically send around 100 claims per day,” Michaelsen says. “The airlines know us very well by now.”
AirHelp takes 25% (including taxes) of every successful claim—nothing if you don’t get a cent. Refund.me, which offers the same service, charges 15% plus tax if you sign over power of attorney within 28 days; 25% anytime after.
AirHelp differs from Refund.me in that it also fulfills claims on domestic flights for those who have been involuntarily bumped—and compensation can be as high as $1,300. Data from the Department of Transportation shows that people are usually quick to volunteer: last year, 466,677 passengers were voluntarily bumped, compared with 56,986 involuntary. “People need to think twice before they accept airline vouchers because they are entitled to much more,” Zillmer says. “And once you volunteer to be bumped, you actually waive your right to further compensation.”
As Michaelsen puts it, “Our goal is to make the process as simple as possible, but still have something that is legally vigorous. We want the airlines to know that when they see the AirHelp logo, they are going to have to pay out.”
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.