This spring, we’ve seen a true resurgence of both domestic and international travel among Americans, and the peak summer season promises to be even busier. With strengthened demand, there are sure to be more flights operating and, therefore, the potential for more flight disruptions.
The 2021 end-of-year holidays and winter snowstorms saw thousands of flights canceled or delayed, due to a combination of snowstorms and aviation sector employees being quarantined after contracting COVID-19.
A more recent spate of flight disruptions this spring was caused by adverse weather conditions or airlines’ own technical issues at airlines, resulting in the cancellation or delay of hundreds or thousands of flights over the course of only a few days.
Add to that the multiple reports of pilot shortages and carriers continuing to be short-staffed after having minimized their workforces during the pandemic, and customers can likely expect to encounter plenty of hiccups in the coming months.
What most airline customers who find themselves in such situations don’t realize is that they may be entitled to $700 or more in compensation when a flight gets delayed or canceled.
Enter AirHelp, an air passenger rights company that’s dedicated to making the process of claiming compensation straightforward for passengers who aren’t well-versed in their own rights, or who lack the time or expertise to pursue it themselves. Besides providing air travelers with information and advocating on their behalf in court, the company routinely petitions national governments to implement fairer air travel rights.
We asked Rosa Garcia, Legal Tactician at AirHelp, about the types of air travel disruptions and related troubles that might entitle flyers to receive remunerations from their airline.
The broadest legal protection seems to be European law EC 261, under which air travelers who’ve encountered avoidable flight disruptions can be eligible for up to US$700 per person in compensation, as long as they make their claim within three years of the incident.
Examples include delays lasting longer than three hours, flight cancellations or being involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking by the airline. However, EC 261 only applies to flights (aboard any carrier) that departed or landed inside the European Union (E.U.), or that were flown aboard a carrier that’s headquartered in the E.U.
It’s worth noting that EC 261 also applies in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the E.U.’s nine so-called “outermost regions”: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion Island, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.
“In instances of a cancellation, travelers can claim up to $700 if a flight was canceled within 14 days of departure, if, when you took a replacement flight, your new arrival time was significantly different to your original flight, and if the reason for the cancellation was within the airline’s control,” Garcia explained.
There are also laws in the U.S. for passenger protection, although they cover far less than EC 261. Passengers can only expect to see compensation if they were denied boarding due to overbooking, in which case, they could be entitled to up to $1,350. There’s no getting compensated for delays, no matter the duration.
“According to U.S. law, any tarmac delay of two hours or more requires special attention. For delays of two hours, passengers must be provided food, water, operational lavatories, and medical care (only if needed),” according to Garcia. “With a tarmac delay of three hours (or four hours for international flights), passengers must be given the option to deplane.”
AirHelp has a global staff of 350 employees, who speak a combined 17 languages, and boasts the world’s largest team of lawyers who specialize in air passenger rights. Leveraging its unique network of law firms in 30 different countries, it is uniquely positioned to aid air passengers all around the world.
If you think you may be entitled to monetary compensation from an airline, it’s worth doing to AirHelp’s website, where information on passenger rights is freely available, to see if you are, indeed, eligible. There is no upfront fee for filing a claim. Instead, “we take a percentage of compensation won as our fee,” said Garcia. “If compensation isn’t won, we don’t take a fee at all.”
The company also now offers a subscription service called AirHelp Plus, which can instantly check for delays and other issues with your flights, and offers live advice and an analysis of the compensation you’re entitled to under local and international laws, including refunds being denied boarding, delays, cancellations, baggage issues and more.
For more information, visit airhelp.com.