Flight delay? Get reimbursed with this clever app

woman at the airport. waiting hall. flight delay; Shutterstock ID 373732249
Image: Shutterstock / Evgeny Bakharev

When it launched in 2013, AirHelp made a simple promise: Report your flight disasters to the companys customer service agents, and theyll litigate against airlines on your behalf. You dont have to pay a pennyunless they manage to get you a settlement. And when they do, the service takes a 25 percent cut. Simple.

On Tuesday, the three-year-old company is takingits next step towardseamless airline compensation with an expansion of its namesake app. Offered free on the iTunes and Android Play stores, the app used to require that travelers fill out a short survey and provide a description of their issue to initiate a claim; now, travelers can simply scan an image of their boarding pass and let AirHelp take care of the rest. With the information from your boarding pass stored in the AirHelp system, the company can track your flight for delays, cancelations, and overbookingsoclaims can get rolling before youpick up the phone.

Before we came along, people didnt know about their rights at all, said AirHelpChief Executive Officer Henrik Zillmer. Most people dont know the lawand even if they did, they might not know what theyre entitled to. Its actually very complicated, and thats why we exist. Now, roughly one in three Europeans is aware ofair passenger rights, according toZillmer. We still have a huge educational learning curve ahead of us.

Image: AirHelp

To date, AirHelp has processed claims for 2 million air passengers fora total compensation of $195 million. (Zillmer saidthe average payout runs from $500 to$600, often divided among multiple family members flying together and filing a joint claim.) The boarding pass scanner, he said, will make it easier to help more peoplemore efficiently.

Now we can instantly tell you how the laws are applied in your circumstance and what the airline owes you in your situation, said Zillmer of the feature, sayingit takes just two or three seconds to file a claim. Though the process was never terribly cumbersome, he says that every additional survey question prompts drop off, and automatic tracking means passengers will get pop-up notifications when theyre eligible for compensation. All they have to do is give AirHelp permissionwith one tapto go after their case. Its like AAA for air passengers, joked Zillmer.

So what are you entitled to? If youre flying into, out of, or within Europeor on a Europe-based carrierchances are youre entitled to more than you think. In those cases, travelers are entitled to as much as 600 euros ($670) for flight delays, depending on the length of the delay and the travel distance.

Regulations in the U.S. are less generous towards passengers. Domestic travelers arent subject to compensation for traditional flight delaysbut tarmac delays and involuntary boarding denials (which happen when your flight is oversold and youre forced to give up your seat) can warrant a payout of up to $1,350. So do lost, delayed, or damaged luggage claimsfor which AirHelp can secure up to $1,220 in reparations. The catch, saidZillmer, is that you need receipts to show the value of what was inside your luggage if anything has gone missing.

Elsewhere, legislation varies. But AirHelp,which offered support only for European flights at its inception, can now handle claims in more than 30 countries around the worldand in 15 languages.(The company breaks down regional differences in clear terms here.)

The average claim is resolved in twoto threemonths, saidZillmer. And just asin its early days, the company will settle up with its customers by taking25 percent of any secured compensation. When claims require full-blown legal action, the cut jumps to 50 percentbut consumers are not required to pay out of pocket to be represented in court.

No matter what AirHelp takes, though, youre likely to get far more with its assistance than you will on your own. You can submit your own claims and never hear back, explained Zillmer. And then, when you finally hear back, you are likely to be rejected. The airlines speculate youll forget about it rather than invest in legal action. Thats not how it tends to play out when AirHelp is on the front lines. Weve sued airlines more than 30,000 times and won 95 percent of those claims, Zillmer said. So the airlines know that if we submit a claim, theres just no way around it.

    This article originally published at Bloomberg here

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