An alarming number of passengers (55%) do not trust airlines to abide by air passenger rights laws, a new global study revealed.
The survey, which investigated to what extent consumers understand their air passenger rights, has surfaced a worrying level of distrust in air carriers. Only about half (55%) of US travelers have filed compensation claims. This year, 169 million U.S. passengers have been affected by flight disruptions. Many travelers experienced disruptions that are eligible under EC 261, and are battling with airlines to be awarded compensation that is rightfully theirs.
Adding insult to injury: airlines lacking in transparency
Under EU law EC261, if a flight is delayed by more than three hours, cancelled, or in an instance of denied boarding, passengers are entitled to financial compensation of up to $700 per person if the cause of the disruption was in the airline’s control. This law protects U.S. travelers on flights out of the EU and flights to Europe if they are with a European airline.
Despite the clear European legislation, the research has revealed that only one-third (33%) of people in the United States have been informed of their passenger rights during a flight delay or cancellation. Furthermore, more than half have never had an airline communicate their rights to them following a disruption.
Passengers forced to fight for rights
In addition to the lack of transparency, United States passengers have to contend with poor claims handling by airlines. A separate study found that United States airlines reject an average of 25% of claims on wrongful grounds. This shows that even passengers who are aware of their right to claim compensation are facing an uphill battle for compensation that is legally theirs.
The survey also revealed a brazen lack of honesty from airlines; 24% of United States passengers facing a significant flight disruption have accepted an airline’s offer of vouchers or food instead of claiming for financial compensation. This shows how little air passenger rights are understood, and that many people believe that the “right to care” is the full extent of what they are entitled to when a flight is disrupted. 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.
Passengers are losing out on money that is rightfully theirs because airlines are dishonest about their own passengers’ rights. The compensation claims process has become so disheartening that many passengers give up after their initial claim was rejected, highlighting the fact that many consumers feel powerless against airlines. United States passengers already have limited protections against the airlines when compared to European travelers, so their lack of faith in airlines is unsurprising. EC261 — which protects all travelers on flights departing from the EU and flights to the EU on a European airline — is in place to empower passengers and should not be used by airlines as smoke and mirrors allowing them to shirk their legal responsibility.