We’ve all been there: You wake up at the crack of dawn to make a flight, only to have it canceled minutes before your departure. You’re suddenly stuck there, like some dope who’s been stood up for a date, eating Cinnabon by yourself.
A young startup named AirHelp might just help you exact a little revenge for all those times. It helps streamline the claims process (yes, there’s a claims process), so you can be reimbursed for the money you’re entitled to when something goes wrong with your flight.
The idea for the company came when one of the co-founders, Henrik Zillmer, was attempting to fly out of Singapore. His flight was delayed several hours. The airline’s help desk was useless. He was stuck there with a lot of time on his hands and just started doing research.
Zillmer found that, under European legislation, you can claim up to $800 if your flight is delayed for more than three hours. He took this information to his co-founder Nicolas Michaelsen, and they eventually discovered that around 26 million passengers are eligible for this type of compensation each year. Even more shocking: Only 2 percent actually file a claim for what they’re owed. In other words, airlines are hoarding about $16 billion of unclaimed money each year.
According to Michaelsen, however, it’s harder to get them to pay up than you might think.
“We tried the claims process ourselves and found that it was a maze of documents and endless phone calls,” Michaelsen told Yahoo Tech. “It was so time-consuming, and there was a high likelihood of being rejected.”
How AirHelp aids your claims process.
He and Zillmer wanted to close the gap between what legislation said people were owed and the ability for passengers to actually collect that money. They set out to streamline the process using data they collected.
“Essentially, we took the law and put it into code,” Michaelsen said.
That law, in case you’re wondering, is as follows: Under an 11-year-old European law, you can claim money for flights delayed more than three hours. Under legislation from the U.S. Department of Transportation passed in 2011, you can claim up to $1,300 if you’re involuntarily bumped from a flight that’s oversold. You can submit claims that are up to three years old.
AirHelp’s website helps you determine if you’re eligible for compensation by asking a few basic details about your flight: the date, destination, ticket number, and circumstances. Pass all the preliminary requirements, and it’ll take care of the grunt work for you. If you end up being awarded some money, it’ll collect one-fourth of that sum as payment. If your claim is rejected, there’s no charge.
Since it launched in May 2013, AirHelp has helped about 15,000 passengers get their money back. So maybe you should visit its website next time you’re waiting around in an airport. Or bored at home. Who knows? You could be missing out on a large chunk of cash.