Flight Delayed? Get That Money (Or 75% of It)


When an airline bumps us from a flight or delays us for hours on end, most of us accept our meager meal vouchers and swallow our pride. A bold few might actually file a claim for compensation, but when an airline either fails to answer the claim or rejects it outright, those passengers usually give up, too.

Not Henrik Zillmer. When Zillmer had airline trouble a few years back, he “didn’t take no for an answer.” Instead, he pored over national and international flight regulations and scoured legal judgments against the airlines. What he found was that, in most cases, passengers who take their meal vouchers and walk away may actually be legally entitled to hundreds of dollars in compensation from the airlines. He crunched publicly available data on the number of delayed flights and the number of passengers per flight, and discovered that airlines collectively owe compensation to some 26 million passengers every year. The problem is that they’re only paying about 0.06 percent of what they owe.

Henrik Zillmer has started a company to get you some money back from all those damn delayed flights. Or wait. Henrik Zillmer has started a company to get itself 25% of the money it gets you back. Capitalizing on our airline rage! Possibly brilliant. How it works: if your flight has been delayed for reasons other than weather or security, Airhelp will file a claim on your behalf and then take the airline to court if they reject the complaint. And they usually win. With 20,000 customers already, they’ve won millions of dollars in airline compensation.

To get yourself (and Airhelp) justly compensated, you’ll need a copy of your boarding pass, and then you’ll need to print, sign, and mail a power of attorney so that Airhelp can work on your behalf. Having to print something is usually a dealbreaker for me, but some of you may have your lives more together, or you know, be more willing to print things out in the name of justice.

Apparently AirHelp is part of a larger trend of startups working under the “get you a refund and then take half of it” business model:

That might sound a bit self-serving, but AirHelp is one of a growing number of startups building businesses that help fight consumer battles. Fixed, a San Francisco-based startup, will fight to get your parking ticket dismissed and charge 25 percent of the fine if you win. Another startup, 71lbs, helps consumers get FedEX and UPS refunds if their packages are late and takes a 50 percent cut of the money won. “You could say it’s a logical next step in the whole empowerment of consumers. With social media, they could harm a brand,” says Michaelsen. “Now, they’re actually able to assert their rights and not just on a brand level.”

Taking 50% seems like a LOT to me, but if you weren’t going to fight the good fight on your own anyway maybe it’s worth it.

Photo: leyink

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9 Comments / Post A Comment

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

In the long run services like this will be good for consumers. As airlines are forced to pay more and more of what they actually owe their customers they’ll become more responsive to claims. Eventually, hopefully, it won’t require a middle man.

That being said, I’ve had a lot of good luck getting reimbursed. After being delayed several times on a circuitous Delta flight home from Texas I got enough credit to fly to Australia the following year for around $500. Some airlines are particularly responsive on social media, Delta solved all my issues via twitter.

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

“With social media, they could harm a brand.”

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeew.

seakelps (#5,146)

The likelihood that I’d ever go through all that work myself is slim to none, so to me it’s 25-50% > 0%… sounds all right. But printing… yeah, that’s difficult. And it’s hopefully a very limited power of attorney, right?

I am not sure how much harm social media could do to airlines brands. I’m pretty sure everyone universally recognizes them as terrible.

andnowlights (#2,902)

Kind of wondering if I can apply this in some way to the fact that United moved my return flight from our vacation up 5 hours. I’m so mad because I needed those 5 extra hours on my vacation and they’re taking them away.

@andnowlights If it’s an airline schedule change, they have to accommodate your request to move to a different flight for no extra charge or fees. So if there’s a later flight, call and asked to be moved. (I know this doesn’t help if there aren’t later flights or it screws with your vacation days, but you do have options when schedules change in advance.)

guenna77 (#856)

this is a fantastic trend. the wealthy do this all the time – it’s called having a ‘business manager.’ i don’t understand why non-wealthy have such a problem with paying experts and agents to do complicated things for you. it’s like when people complain about having to pay lawyers a percentage fee, as if it’s something outrageous. People in these situations would most likely have have nothing if not for these agents, but all that people seem to see is the 25% they AREN’T getting instead of the 75% they ARE.

ThatJenn (#916)

To discuss a small offhand-mentioned thing from your post, because I am flying in 3.5 hours with a tight connection in Charlotte and don’t want to curse myself by commenting on the actual content of the post: I bought a relatively nice printer (does color, wireless, double-sided, scans to your computer wirelessly) to use for business stuff when I was working for a tutoring company a few years ago and I actually think it’s overall saved me money because of the few annoying things I used to have to pay to do that I don’t anymore, and my willingness to print something out and mail it (a supply of vending machine stamps in my purse help with this too). It was a good investment for me long term.

Of course, now I work in an office where I’m allowed to print small personal things and use their scanner, so it’s less useful, but it’s helpful for the dude who does not have that sweet setup.

@ThatJenn Buying a printer really was one of the better small outlays of cash (not having to surreptitiously, or not, do it at work, where I would forget). I took the Wirecutter’s advice and got a cheap, black & white laser printer (it’s a Brother). It was maybe $80; I’ve bought one toner in the year or so I’ve had it. It’s made life just a little easier.

@ThatJenn What is this magical device?

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