Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

What are the chances that your flight will get disrupted in some way?

It might not be the airline's fault. 

On occasion, though, it just might be.

If you're flying around the U.S., your hopes of compensation are relatively minimal.

Well, unless the airline forcibly drags you down the aisle even though you've paid for your ticket, kills your dog, or sends your dog to the wrong country.

The Europeans, though, have slightly different rules. And those rules still apply if you happen to be American, dog-lover or not, and just passing through. 

Or, as Americans call it, doing Europe.

European air travel compensation rules favor passengers -- all passengers -- much more.

A company called AirHelp performed a survey among 2,000 Americans and discovered that most had no idea that they could claim back money for European flight delays.

You see, the Europeans -- I think this still includes the British -- have something called regulation EC 261

This joyous attempt at justice, enacted in 2004, insists that airlines have to pay passengers between 250 (around $307) and 600 Euros (around $738) for delays, cancellations, overbookings and many of the other nuisances that come with flying and just might be the airline's fault.

The actual payment also depends on the length of the flight involved.

You'll be stunned into buying your own Dreamliner when I tell you that AirHelp was specifically set up to help passengers file such claims.

Still, some of the company's observations have a believable quality. 

Once you're back in the U.S., though, would you even bother to file a claim?

AirHelp says that less than 25 percent of those who think they could claim actually do.

Which leaves, it says, around $500 million left for airlines to keep and American flyers to rue missing out on.

I can already hear you muttering that there must be a very narrow statute of limitations on claims and you have to put in a lot of effort to file.

The truth is that you have three years after the flight to stake your claim.

And, though I can't vouch for AirHelp's service, it offers you a quick route to checking whether the flight you took with your, um, special friend, is eligible.

Now of course airlines aren't always so willing to pay, even when they should.

So I asked AirHelp CEO Henrik Zillmer which airlines were the worst offenders:

In 2017, when looking at airlines across the globe, Ryanair and Monarch Airlines had the lowest scores for claim processing, with only a .8 out of 10. This rating is developed based on how efficiently and fairly a carrier handles delay compensation claims, including the percentage of claims rejected, as well as the turnaround times for processing and payouts.

Technology is becoming ever more powerful not just on the airlines' side, but also on the passengers'.

You'd think, therefore, that some bright individual could create a system so that payouts would be automatic, once a flight is defined as having offended the rules.

Yes, this would also be painful for airlines' cashflow. 

But it would smack of uncommon justice.

You don't always get that where airlines are concerned, do you?

Published on: Mar 17, 2018