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Airline passenger rights group: US travelers don’t know their rights

Air passenger rights group: Travelers don’t know their rights

The results of the most recent study looking into whether travelers are aware of their rights were unveiled today by an air passenger rights company AirHelp. The data indicated that 81% of Americans do not understand their rights and are leaving hundreds of dollars each in the hands of airline companies every year.

Under European law EC 261, airlines are required to inform travelers of their rights and are obligated to pay passengers compensation of up to $700 for many disruptions. However, despite airlines‘ legal obligation to properly communicate rights to travelers, Americans‘ lack of awareness continues to be a major issue.

Are People Submitting Claims for the Compensation They Deserve?

Only 55% of Americans who have been on a disrupted flight and thought their flight disruption was eligible have gone through the process of filing for compensation, making U.S. passengers 22% less likely than European flyers to file claims, which is unsurprising given that air passengers have better protections in the EU than in the United States. Also, nearly half (45%) of Americans who think they are eligible for compensation never file claims.

“Air passengers across the globe are constantly being mistreated by the airlines, and most travelers are not even aware of how they can fight back and be compensated when they are taken advantage of. As an organization, we are fighting on passengers’ behalves every day, and will not rest until travelers are more efficiently and regularly getting the treatment, compensation and education from the airlines that they deserve,” said Christian Nielsen, AirHelp’s Chief Legal Officer.

What many travelers do not know is that accepting a voucher or cash offer from an airline is often not the best course of action. Taking vouchers may seem easier, however, these can often have expiration dates or terms that make them less valuable than the compensation they are eligible to claim. Furthermore, the cash that passengers are entitled to is almost always of a higher value than the voucher. Regardless, nearly one quarter (24%) of Americans have fallen prey to this and accepted an airline’s offer of vouchers or food instead of getting the cash they are owed. By focusing on education, going to bat for wronged passengers, and lobbying for travelers‘ rights around the world, AirHelp empowers millions of people to claim flight disruption compensation from airlines and get what they are owed, rather than a voucher of a lesser value.

Why Aren’t People Filing Compensation Claims?

After experiencing a disruption, the most common reasons passengers cited for not filing claims were that they were unaware of their rights (60%), they did not think the airline would listen (42%), or they did not believe they were entitled (48%), showing that Americans‘ trust in the airlines is extremely weak and that the airline industry must work harder to make travelers better informed and more trusting.

“We are glad to see that more travelers are aware of their rights in the United States than in 2018, but the airline industry has a responsibility to better treat the travelers that are keeping it in business,“ commented Nielsen. “We have seen countless problems in the airline industry over this past year from airlines going belly up and leaving passengers stranded, to creating unsafe aircraft and even delaying flights for more than 24 hours. EC 261 is extremely valuable in protecting travelers, and we must continue to educate travelers and help them exercise their rights.”

Ninety-two percent of Americans have traveled by air, yet about half (55%) of travelers have not had an airline communicate their rights to them during the flight disruption. In general, 67% of travelers were never informed about their rights by an airline. While younger generations are twice as likely to feel adequately informed of their rights when compared to older generations, airlines owe all travelers a better education about their rights when they are wronged.

Flight Disruptions: These Are Travelers‘ Rights

Under European law EC 261, passengers may be entitled to financial compensation of up to $700 per person in the case of flight disruptions, cancellations or denied boarding. Passengers on flights to the EU on an EU airline or out of the EU are covered by the law and can file a claim for up to three years after the incident. Airlines are only exempt from this obligation if the disruption was caused by an extraordinary circumstance such as weather, political unrest, or air traffic control issues.