Bumped From Your Flight? Here's $1,300.


(Photo: Thinkstock)

Being bumped from a flight is an air travel nightmare. But there may be a silver lining: cold, hard cash.

AirHelp, a US-based website and mobile app, will do the legal legwork to find out what, if anything, you’re owed from the airline that kicked you off. For domestic flights, awards can add up to $1,300. For flights in the European Union, travelers can get up to $800 returned.

“We want to make the parts of travel that can be painful less painful,” AirHelp co-founder Nicolas Michaelsen told Yahoo Travel. An estimated 26 million people are entitled to compensation each year, but only a fraction have the patience and time to pursue the cash.

One reason: It’s a hassle. One airline, for example, accepted only claims faxed on weekdays between 2 and 4 p.m., Michaelsen recalled.

But after a year in business, AirHelp has assisted 25,000 frustrated fliers by cutting through the red tape (like only being able to fax a claim in and fighting the airline on your behalf—for 25 percent of the reward. If the company doesn’t get you cash, there’s no charge.


(Courtesy: Airhelp)

Among their claims, so far, only about 10 percent have been “rightfully rejected,” says Michaelsen. A legitimate rejection means an extraordinary circumstance such as an airport strike, terror threat, or even political instability were found to cause the delay. “In general, the majority of the claims we put in, we win,” he says. Amounts depend on the price of the ticket and the length of the delay, according to the Department of Transportation

AirHelp “will bring appropriate relief to those afflicted by involuntary bumping, and that’s a great thing,” Max Rayner, a partner of travel industry analyst group Hudson Crossing, told Yahoo Travel. European companies EUClaim and refund.me offer similar services.

Just remember not every bump is a cash-money slam-dunk. In fact, according to Rayner, a number of reasons will disqualify you for airline compensation—including giving up your seat for cash or a travel voucher.

If you’re involuntarily bumped, “always insist on cash on the spot and never a voucher,” advises George Hobica, founder of AirFareWatchDog.com. To maximize your reward he has some additional tips:

• If you volunteer to give up your seat, go for the best offer: You might do better to take a travel voucher that has a higher value than the cash offered, advises Hobica, especially if you plan on flying that airline again soon—most vouchers expire within a year.

• If you’re offered a flight voucher, be sure to ask about restrictions. Is there an expiration date? Is it “blacked out” during holiday periods—or another time you’d like to use it? Can it be used for international flights or for travel to Hawaii, the Caribbean, or other popular vacation spots?

And though it may sound obvious, get to the airport early—“It’s usually the last person to check in and/or board” that gets bumped, he warns—and always join the frequent-flier programs. Membership has its perks. So does flying first or business class. Ditto paying full fare: “You’re more likely to get on board than the poor chap who paid next to nothing for his coach ticket,” Hobica points out.

Getting bumped may a part of flying. At least the next time it happens, you don’t have to come away empty handed.

Want to make your voice heard as well? Yahoo Travel Editor Jo Piazza explains How To Complain Effectively—About Anything.