By Melanie Lieberman
March 06, 2018

Even though it might not feel like it sometimes, travelers do actually have rights. But according to a new report, as many as 92 percent of U.S. travelers don’t know they have them.

AirHelp — a company that assists travelers in recovering compensation from airlines for delayed, canceled, and overbooked flights — surveyed more than 2,000 Americans and determined that less than a quarter of them sought compensation for disruptions.

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

In fact, AirHelp’s survey revealed that as many as 13 million travelers worldwide are leaving more than $6 billion in the pockets of airlines every single year. That breaks down to approximately $700 per person — per incident. Meaning a traveler who experiences two disruptions could be missing out on $1,400. 

Related: This Is the First Thing You Should Do If Your Flight Is Canceled or Diverted 

Travelers are protected under two main laws, though they’re both incredibly confusing and painfully particular.

Passengers flying within the United States, for example, are protected only in the event of being denied boarding. But for flights to or from Europe, a more broad European Union law (EC 261) also protects against delays and cancelations.

Unfortunately, travelers are not protected in the event of “extraordinary circumstances” beyond the airline’s control. That means cancelations and delays caused by winter storms, strikes, and medical emergencies won't be eligible for compensation.

What does count? Travelers who are bumped from an overbooked flight can seek remuneration — as can people who were delayed more than three hours by a “technical difficulty.” And if flights are canceled and reasonable alternatives are not provided, there may also be an opportunity to file a claim. 

If all this reminds you of the one time a few years ago your flight from Europe was canceled or seriously delayed, it’s actually not too late to take action. Compensation can be claimed within three years of the offending flight.

And AirHelp isn’t the only company that can help you get back the money you're owed. A new app, Service, can automatically file claims for all eligible past and future flight disruptions.

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