As discussed in the KCL article Delayed Flight? Lost Baggage? You May Be Legally Entitled to Cash sometimes an airline “screw-up” entitles you to cash compensation. The only thing is, how do you even start to ask for that cash compensation? Thanks to the new app AirHelp you don’t have to do much at all. AirHelp will negotiate with the airline on your behalf, petitioning the airline and handling all communication and correspondence. If AirHelp successfully negotiates a cash compensation for you, they will pay it directly to your bank account, less 25% as their fee for doing all the time-consuming work. If you don’t get paid, you don’t owe AirHelp any money.

Why use AirHelp and give up 25% instead of negotiating with the airline on your own?

You can negotiate with the airline on your own, but be fully aware that the process can be time-intensive and maddeningly annoying. Airline staff will try to woo you with the instant option of “Oh, why don’t you just take this flight and meal voucher, it’s right here in my hand” over cash compensation. You’ll also be at a negotiating disadvantage because as a layperson, you likely know very little about the complicated passenger rights and compensation laws, whereas the airline knows everything about them.

As discussed in a March 2014 CNBC.com article, AirHelp estimates that each year a total of $450 million in potential cash compensation is owed to passengers involuntarily bumped on overbooked U.S. flights and $2.1 billion in potential cash compensation claims for U.S. air passengers flying to, from or within Europe.

How to use AirHelp

Start a claim

  1. To submit your claim on the AirHelp website, click on the “start your claim now” button.
  2. Follow the prompts on the site to choose your claim reason (i.e., delayed, cancelled, or overbooked) and then answer a few specific questions about your flight (e.g., name of airport where trip began, arrival city, flight number, booking reference/ticket number, total time of delay, etc.). The questions should take you no more than three minutes to answer. When you’ve finished click on the “submit claim” button.
  3. AirHelp will analyze your responses, determine  your eligibility for cash compensation and then present you with one of two results screens:

If AirHelp says you’re eligible for cash compensation, follow the additional prompts to submit your claim through the site. When you submit your claim, you will have to sign a document that gives AirHelp power of attorney with regards to dealing with the airline on your behalf.

Your right to cash compensation under U.S. laws

Involuntary bumping (U.S.)

For flights on U.S. airlines, with a U.S. departure city and a U.S. arrival city, the only time you are entitled to cash compensation from the airline is when you are involuntarily bumped off your flight. If you were involuntarily bumped, then it depends on how long you were delayed. See the chart below for specifics:

Delayed or cancelled flights (U.S.)

For flights on U.S. airlines, with a U.S. departure and a U.S. arrival city, you are not entitled to cash compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements. While some airlines may offer meal and hotel vouchers, others may not offer anything.

Your right to cash compensation under European Union laws

Delayed, cancelled or overbooked flights (E.U.)

There are different regulations regarding your right to compensation for delayed, cancelled or overbooked flights in the E.U.  Air passengers must be financially compensated if their flight is cancelled or overbooked. Additionally, passengers whose flights arrive three or more hours late are also entitled to financial compensation, unless the delay is due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the airline’s control, such as labor strikes or bad weather. To be eligible for cash compensation, your flight has to be departing from any airport located in the E.U. (on any airline) or arriving in the E.U. (on an E.U. airline) or from Iceland, Norway or Switzerland. The chart below should help clarify when this EU law for financial compensation applies:

  • Example 1: Tracy Traveler, a U.S. citizen, has a flight on American Airlines (a U.S. airline) from Miami International Airport (a departure city outside the E.U.) to London Heathrow Airport (an arrival city inside the EU). Her flight to London Heathrow was delayed eight hours. Referring to the above chart, you’ll see that E.U. law does not apply to Tracy’s flight. Instead, U.S. law applies to her delayed flight. Accordingly, she is not entitled to cash compensation.
  • Example 2: Same facts as Example 1, except Tracy’s 8-hour delayed flight from Miami to London was on British Airways, an E.U. airline. Referring to the above chart, you’ll see that E.U. law applies to Tracy’s delayed flight. As you’ll see in the AirHelp Compensation Chart below, Tracy is entitled to a cash compensation claim for her delayed flight in the amount of $800 (her flight was delayed more than four hours and the flight distance was greater than 3500 km). If she uses the AirHelp services, Tracy will receive $600 and AirHelp will receive a $200 fee (25% of $800).
Amount of compensation for delayed, cancelled or overbooked flights (E.U.)
Compensation for delayed, cancelled or overbooked flights ranges from $170 to $800 per passenger. The amount varies according to the distance of your flight and how long you were delayed getting to your final destination. To help you work out what you’re entitled to, AirHelp covered all the possible scenarios in this AirHelp Compensation Chart:

  • Major exceptions: If you were notified about the cancellation 14 days or more before the scheduled flight date (or the carrier offered an alternative for the same route with a similar schedule to the original flight), then you are not entitled to compensation. Also, if your cancellation occurred due to an extraordinary circumstances (i.e., extreme weather, political unrest, airline strikes and other circumstances beyond the airline’s control), you are not entitled to cash compensation.

In sum, 25% of your potential cash compensation amount can be a considerable chunk of money. But you have to ask yourself what the time value of your money is. Is not having to spend hours of your time, in slam-your-head-on-the-table frustrating negotiations with airline worth that 25% cut?