Study exposes that more than 90% of U.S. air passengers do not know their rights

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AirHelp released the results of a new survey finding that 92% of U.S. citizens do not know their air passenger rights, and globally, air travelers  are missing out on $6 billion a year in compensation. Despite requirements of EU law EC 261, airlines are still not making passengers aware of their rights, as 75% of U.S. air travelers feel uninformed by the airlines.

AirHelp conducted the survey this month among over 2,000 people across the United States, making it one of the most comprehensive pieces of research on air passenger rights. The survey findings suggest that there is still a long way to go before air passengers are fully aware of their rights. The survey also revealed that even though one in four U.S. air passengers thought they were eligible to receive up to $700 in compensation, less than 25% of those who were on a disrupted flight actually filed a claim. What this shows is that the implementation of air passenger rights regulation EC 261, a 14-year-old law that also covers U.S. citizens traveling to and from Europe, is not widespread enough and billions of dollars in compensation remain in the hands of the airlines. The three main reasons passengers did not file for compensation included: they were not aware of their rights (63%), they did not think that they were eligible for compensation (47%) and they did not know how to file a claim (42%).

Henrik Zillmer, CEO at AirHelp, comments: “There is great value in the EU law EC 261 protecting travelers’ rights for both European and U.S. travelers, and we are hopeful that the U.S. will follow suit in the near future to pass similar consumer protection regulations. However, despite the protection that EC 261 provides for air travelers, it is clear that air passengers still feel powerless against airlines and many miss out on the compensation they’re owed by not filing a claim. Every year, almost 13 million passengers leave over $6 billion in the hands of the airlines that owe them compensation following unpleasant flight disruptions. We are very excited to share the results of this study with passengers, policy makers and airlines, which for the first time, shows incontestable proof of the real need to increase awareness and understanding of air passenger rights. This is why we created AirHelp five years ago, and we will continue to work tirelessly to help travelers get the compensation that is rightfully theirs and support them throughout their flight disruptions.”

“Air passenger rights are of the utmost importance, but are unfortunately consistently ignored by Congress and other political leaders,” adds Charles Leocha, President & Co-Founder of Travelers United. “We are grateful to AirHelp for holding airlines accountable and helping consumers around the world get the compensation they deserve, while also working tirelessly to inform consumers about their rights.”

Flight disruptions: These are the passengers’ rights

For delayed or canceled flights, and in instances of denied boarding, passengers may be entitled to financial compensation of up to $700 per person in certain circumstances. The conditions for this stipulate that the departure airport must be within the EU, or the airline carrier must be landing in the EU and headquartered in the EU. Compensation may be claimed within three years of the disrupted flight.

The reason for the disruption must be caused by the airline. Situations deemed as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as unannounced strikes, storms, or medical emergencies mean that the operating airline is exempt from the obligation to compensate passengers. In other words, ‘extraordinary circumstances’ do not qualify for flight compensation.

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.