Most travelers are blissfully aware of the fact that EU regulations exist to compensate travelers in the event of missed or delayed air travel. Applying to all flights from the EU, as well as any flights into the EU with European airlines, the scheme allows for up to EUR600 compensation in the event that travelers suffer delays. But having a scheme that is a mystery to most travelers, and one which is also complex to leverage, isn’t much help and this is where AirHelp a fight compensation company, aims to assist.

AirHelp is a Y Combinator-backed startup whose entire focus in on assisting air passengers to apply for compensation following a delayed, canceled or overbooked flight. Since its launch back in 2013, the company has processed over $195 million in total compensation for disrupted passengers and has helped more than two million people worldwide. AirHelp is headquartered in New York, NY, and is live in 30 countries, offers support in 15 languages and employs over 500 staff globally.

But what happens if you were deep in the throes of travel delays and you forgot to check on compensation? Well, AirHelp wants to assist historical claims and is today launching a tool that allows travelers to check their eligibility for compensation from flight disruptions up to three years in the past. Alongside this, and since AirHelp is getting insights into customers’ total travel, they’re also delivering something that will be attractive to #AvGeek’s everywhere – visually mapping out customers’ journeys directly from their mobile devices into an adventure map for social sharing. Of course, this visualization, while kind of cool to generate and share over social media, isn’t exactly useful. But as a byproduct of AirHelp’s core offering, it’s kind of cool.

Anyway, in terms of the compensation aspects. I signed up for AirHelp and gave the service access to my email. The busy little AirHelp robots then went through my email and dug out all the flight-related information. At which point it is worth reflecting on AirHelp’s approach to data privacy. Front and center the company clearly states that personal data shared with the company will be used solely for the purpose of determining flight eligibility and the active actions in pursuing a claim.

My personal statistics are a climate-change scientist’s nightmare (actually a nightmare for anyone environmentally aware or, for that matter, concerned about time at home). From AirHelp’s infographic:

flight stats

The interesting thing for me is that, over those three years and more than 200 flights, there is not a single flight that AirHelp determined I was eligible for compensation. Now one reason could be that the airlines I fly with are always on time (luckily, a huge proportion of my flights are with Air New Zealand who has a stellar history when it comes to flights). While I’ve had relatively good luck in the past, I’ve also had a number of delayed flights over the years. The second, and more likely, possibility is that none of my delayed or canceled flights were on EU-operated airlines or origin/destination airports. That’s likely (most of my travel is between New Zealand and the US, I only get to Europe a few times a year).

So my experiment wasn’t a particularly good test for AirHelp, without trawling through those 300 flights, it’s hard to say whether or not AirHelp’s analysis was accurate. That said, there are obviously a huge number of people who are eligible for airline compensation but don’t know it. Opining on the fact, Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp, said that:

Raising awareness of air passenger rights and identifying new ways to be a consumer advocate has always been our priority. Over eight million air passengers are entitled to compensation for disrupted flights, yet most of these travelers don’t know that they are eligible or understand how to pursue a valid claim.

In terms of the applicability of AirHelp for particular travel scenarios, the company gave me these details:

If you’re flying within the US: Flights within the US are only eligible for compensation if they are overbooked, you then are denied boarding, and the rerouted flight they put you on gets you to your destination one hour late or more.

If you’re flying to or from Europe: Flights to or from Europe are eligible for compensation if they are delayed, canceled, or overbooked due to a situation they could control. Situations that the airlines could not control (such as a weather event) are exempt from compensation.

MyPOV

What’s not to like. Sure AirHelp didn’t find any compensation for me, but it gave me a cool (and distressing) visualization of my travel and it left me comfortable with the perception that I wasn’t missing out on anything I was entitled to. It’ll be interesting to talk with my European friends and get them to try out AirHelp and see if their Euro-centric travel yields different results.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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