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How to Find Out If an Airline Owes You Money

If you’ve ever experienced a lengthy flight delay, cancellation, or been bumped involuntarily from a flight in the past three years, an airline might owe you money. A lot of Americans don’t know that, but that could soon change thanks to one air rights advocacy group: AirHelp. August marks “Passenger Rights Awareness Month” thanks to the flight compensation company, which handles claims to airlines on behalf of customers for their consumer rights, one claim at a time.

I personally got money back for a nightmarish travel delay by using AirHelp (you can read the full story here) and I recommend it to friends and family whenever they experience a flight disruption. Until I had the horrible experience that I did, I never looked into what my air passenger rights might be—and I’m not alone. According to an AirHelp survey, 75 percent of U.S. travelers say they feel uninformed about their air passenger rights, and less than 10 percent know their rights.

So, does an airline owe you money? The legal jargon can be confusing, and with different laws for international and domestic flights, it’s not easy to know when you deserve compensation. That’s why SmarterTravel has created a handy, printable fold-up card so you can know your rights:

Download here.

For example, did you know:

  • If an airline loses or damages your checked baggage, it owes you up to $3,500 (domestic) or $1,675 (international).
  • If an airline bumps you from a flight, it owes you 200 percent of the one-way fare, with a $675 maximum, if it can’t get you to your destination within two hours; or 400 percent, with a maximum of $1,350, if the delay is more than four hours. Those time limits double for international flights. (This does not apply to circumstances when you volunteer to be bumped from an oversold flight.)
  • Compensation may be claimed within three years of the disrupted flight.

Being uninformed about air passenger rights adds up. According to an AirHelp press release “every year, almost 13 million passengers leave over $6 billion in the hands of airlines globally. In the U.S. less than 25 percent of travelers who were on a disrupted flight actually filed a claim.”

“It is crystal clear that air passengers still feel powerless against airlines and many miss out on the compensation they’re owed by not filing a claim. And if airlines will not play their part to inform and educate their passengers, we will”, states Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp.

“With the launch of Passenger Rights Awareness Month we hope to push the envelope further in our efforts to inform travelers all over the world about their rights. There is great value in the EU law EC 261 protecting travelers’ rights. In the U.S., from January through June 2018, 415,800 passengers are owed $292 million in compensation from the airlines, which is nearly 60 percent more than the same period in 2017.”

You Tell Us: Have you had a flight disruption and received compensation?

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