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There are credit cards on the market that come with different types of trip insurance in case of flight delays or cancellations. But what to do if your card doesn’t offer these benefits?
Every U.S.-based airline has a contract of carriage that outlines what they are — and aren’t — financially responsible for when there’s a problem with your flight. When it comes to flight delays, there are no federal laws requiring airlines to provide passengers with money or other compensation, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If your flight is canceled, most airlines will rebook you for free on their next flight to your destination as long as the flight has available seats. If you decide to cancel your trip as a result of a flight cancellation, airlines are required to refund your fare, even if they’re non-refundable, in addition to extras like bag and seat assignment fees. But check with your airline, since they all have their own policies on how they handle delays and cancellations.
European Union (EU) regulations are much stronger when it comes to what airlines are required to pay if travelers are bumped or have a flight delay or cancellation. It ranges from €250 to €600 (USD $285 to $685), depending on flight distance, length of the delay or bumping.
There’s help available when it comes to getting compensated for delays and cancellations — but it comes at a cost. We look at three companies that will chase after any money you may be owed due to a delayed or canceled flight.
Of course, you can do your own legwork by going after the airline directly for any money you’re owed, but you have to ask yourself if you are really going to take the time to fill out the paperwork needed to file a claim and do everything it takes to stay on top of the process until the bitter end?
That’s where these three companies come in. They do all the tedious work and get you a refund if you’re eligible. They make their money by either taking a percentage of your refund or through an annual membership. Below, we outline what it takes to get a refund.
This New York City-based company, founded in 2013, helps passengers get refunded for delayed, canceled or overbooked flights. There are two ways to file a claim: via a flight number or by linking AirHelp to your email, where it will search for any eligible flights going back three years.
When submitting a claim, AirHelp asks for the date and time of the flight, the airline, and any documentation such as ticket or confirmation numbers, then it runs a check with the airlines. Process times for claims can vary, depending on the airline, the time of year or whether a carrier is dealing with many claims at once. AirHelp offers email updates and allows you to check on your claim by signing into the customer dashboard and checking Claims & Flights tab.
AirHelp takes a 25% cut of successful claims. If a claim is taken to court, the fee jumps to 50% of the claim. Regardless, there’s no charge if your claim is rejected by the airlines or you lose your court case.
Once a claim is processed and approved, you receive your money as a credit if you booked the fare through an online travel agency, a bank deposit or via PayPal.
Founded in 2014, this German company created a free flight delay compensation calculator that lets travelers see how much they can get refunded by the airlines for delayed or canceled flights. On the website, you enter a flight number, travel date and the reason given for the cancellation or delay.
Claim Flights researches the claim to determine if you’re eligible for compensation. It will also take the case to court if it believes a claim was wrongly rejected.
Services it offers include: finding an airline’s legal address to send claims; checking ADS-B flight, law, weather and news databases; communicating with airlines; finding a lawyer who handles flight claims; taking the airline to court; and paying court and expert opinion costs. Case updates are sent via email.
Claim process times vary by each case. Claim Flights gives a range from a few weeks to more than a year. A final resolution is based on an airline’s regulation policy and its willingness to settle.
Whatever the outcome, the service is free. But Claim Flights will take a 25% cut of any successful claims. EU-based customers will receive their payments by SEPA bank transfer. Those outside of the EU will pay a flat, international fee of €20 (USD $22.85) for a bank transfer.
This Los Angeles-based company, founded in 2015, is different from its competitors because it covers hotel room booking cancellations as well as flights. Customers start the process by linking their email inbox to Service, which automatically scans it for airline reservations from the past 12 months. If it finds you may be owed money for a flight delay or cancellation, it will automatically pursue it on your behalf. It also regularly checks your email for future airline reservations.
With hotel reservations, Service will automatically rebook you if it finds a lower rate before check-in. Chains currently covered are Best Western, Carlson Rezidor (Radisson and Park Plaza), Choice Hotels, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Starwood and Wyndham.
Travelers have two options when it comes to paying the company: allowing Service to take 30% of whatever compensation it negotiates for you from the airlines or the room rate difference for hotels; or pay $49 for an annual membership that lets you keep 100% of your compensation for flight delays or cancellations. Service will extend the subscription at no charge if it doesn’t save you at least $49 from rebooked hotel reservations or compensation from airlines within the first year.
On average, 85% of EU and 92% of U.S. air passengers don’t know their rights, according to a March 2018 AirHelp survey. As a result, travelers are leaving $6 billion on the table every year because they aren’t filing claims and tracking the money they may be owed.
Even if travelers know they might be entitled to money for their inconvenience, they may be put off by all the hoops they have to jump through in order to get paid for legitimate flight delays and cancellations. If you don’t have a credit card that helps with this, you may not want to be bothered.
But these companies help you avoid the hassle, although you will have to give them a cut of any compensation you receive. It can be a win-win: you allow a company to do all the hard work chasing after your potential compensation and you don’t pay a dime if a claim is denied.