Jun 17, 2013

How passengers are fighting back against airlines, and winning

IN JUST the nine months since it launched, German website refund.me says it has already processed passenger claims for airline compensation from 122 airlines for passengers in more than 50 countries spanning five continents.

Competitor EUClaim.com just reached the milestone of €10 million euros ($13.5 million) in airline compensation collected on behalf of troubled fliers.

The number of sites doing what refund.me does is growing fast, and UK newspaper The Guardian recently predicted that the trend will continue, since individual passengers have had plenty of trouble collecting compensation – to which they are entitled – on their own, especially from smaller and discount carriers.

For the time being the companies are mainly European, but that doesn't mean they can't help international fliers. The European Union has been ahead of the curve in air passenger rights, detailing specific (and substantial) mandatory compensation for flight delays and cancellations.

These compensation schemes are administrated under EU laws, but according to refund.me, they include "All flights leaving from EU airports... In addition, all flights destined for Europe that are performed by EU carriers are likewise included. This greatly increases the number of cases that are potentially entitled to compensation".

That means no matter who you fly, if you are coming home from Europe and have a delay, you can potentially get reimbursed to the tune of several hundred dollars – at a minimum. And if you fly an airline like British Airways, Air France, or Alitalia, even if your flight and problem originate anywhere else in the world you are likely covered.

This is important because refund.me just released a list of the top 10 airports causing passenger consternation for which it handled compensation claims, and New York's JFK made the list, along with busiest airport in the world, Heathrow, and the most popular for US fliers going overseas, Heathrow, Paris and Amsterdam.

The worst on the list was Frankfurt, followed by Munich, Paris (CDG), Gatwick, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Heathrow, Madrid, and JFK.

The scheme is simple: go to refund.me, enter the details of your flight and problem, and the site immediately informs you if your claim is valid and covered under regulations, You can then proceed, and they contact the airlines one your behalf and gets the money, taking 25 per cent for its troubles (think of it as a collection agency in reverse, working for the consumer).

Compensation is available for flight delays, cancellation or denied boarding – even if you were put on another carrier.

Compensation varies by length of flight (and in the case of delays, whether it was over three or over five hours) but ranges from a not insignificant amount of $395 to $949. Other sites offering similar services include Flightdelayed.co.uk, EUClaim.com, and Eudelay.co.uk

Read more: http://www.news.com.au

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