by Loren G. Edelstein | March 06, 2018
Ninety-two percent of U.S. citizens do not know their rights as airline passengers, according to research released today by AirHelp. Globally, air travelers are missing out on $6 billion a year in unclaimed compensation.
 
Among other findings from the survey of 2,062 U.S.-based travelers: 75 percent feel that airlines don't adequately inform them about passenger rights, and 77 percent of those who have experienced a disrupted flight do not file a claim. The most common reasons passengers fail to seek compensation: They are not aware of their rights (63 percent), they don't believe they are eligible for compensation (47 percent) and they don't know how to file a claim (42 percent).
 
According to AirHelp, a service that assists passengers in filing such claims, the implementation of air-passenger-rights regulation EC 261, a 14-year-old law that also covers U.S. citizens traveling to and from Europe, is not widespread enough, leaving billions of dollars in compensation in the hands of the airlines. "There is great value in the EU law EC 261 protecting travelers' rights for both European and U.S. travelers," noted Henrik Zillmer, AirHelp's CEO, "and we are hopeful that the U.S. will follow suit in the near future to pass similar consumer protection regulations."
 
"Air-passenger rights are of the utmost importance, but are unfortunately consistently ignored by Congress and other political leaders," added Charles Leocha, president and co-founder of Travelers United, a nonprofit air-passenger advocacy group. "We are grateful to AirHelp for holding airlines accountable and helping consumers around the world get the compensation they deserve, while also working tirelessly to inform consumers about their rights."
 
What are passengers' rights?
For delayed or canceled flights, and in instances of denied boarding, passengers might be entitled to financial compensation of up to $700 per person in certain circumstances. The conditions for this stipulate that the departure airport must be within the EU, or the airline carrier must be landing in the EU and headquartered in the EU. Compensation can be claimed within three years of the disrupted flight.
 
To qualify for compensation, the reason for the disruption must be caused by the airline. In situations deemed as "extraordinary circumstances," such as unannounced strikes, storms or medical emergencies, the airline is exempt from the obligation to compensate passengers.
 
In early 2018, AirHelp launched a new tool to help travelers sift through eligible flights. The app concentrates specifically on flights that are eligible for compensation. With AirHelp's secure app, affected passengers can also check flight eligibility while at the airport. The app will analyze if a flight problem qualifies for compensation and will then register a claim within a few seconds.
 
The AirHelp app is free and is available via Google Play.