When your flight is delayed, doesn’t arrive on time, or your bags don’t greet you when you land, you’re likely to be entitled to compensation — a fact that few people realise.
With the busy holiday travel season approaching, we asked frequent flier and travel expert Gilbert Ott, who runs the air miles site God Save the Points, to guide us through your compensation rights and how to make a successful claim.
Ott has made a career out of helping fliers use miles to get free seats in business and first class — and once even bagged a free ride on a private jet. He’s also well versed in the rules around compensation.
He told Business Insider that while there are close to no rights for flight compensation in the US, the situation is much better in the EU. To secure any money you’re owed, here are 3 things to keep in mind.
1. Know the three-hour rule
“If the plane lands any more than three hours later from the scheduled arrival time, that’s €600 (£510) or so due in compensation for a long-haul — over 3,500km — flight,” Ott said.
Most short-haul flights should give you €250, with a medium haul giving you €400 in compensation, according to Ott.
“Airlines are constantly trying to change the rules, but right now they’re pretty good. As long as it’s not due to weather or an act of God, a delay should be covered. If it’s mechanical, or if the crew were too drunk to fly — which happens more often than you’d think — you’re eligible.”
2. Make the most of apps
Ott added that there are a couple of apps that speed up the process of learning whether or not you’re eligible for compensation — and how to claim it if you are.
“Air Help is an app and website where you can sync your mailbox, and they’ll look through it and find all of your flight reservations for the past three years, then automatically tell you if you’re eligible for compensation,” Ott said. “For the lazy traveller, it’s a nice option.”
The app takes a 25% commission if you use them to file a claim, but if you pursue the claim on your own, the service is free to use. If you’re concerned about privacy, Ott suggests creating an email account just for travel moving forward.
“I have an inbox just for flight stuff – airline offers, hotels, super deals etc,” he said.
3. Don’t forget your baggage
Ott said an often overlook compensation claim is delayed baggage.
“Depending on which credit card you booked your flight with, if your bag is delayed by three hours you can receive up to $500 (£396) of insurance so that you can get the necessary items you need,” Ott said.
The more premium the card, the more premium the policy, he added. “They give you a card to go buy new clothes, shoes, and to get whatever you need.”
When a bag is lost forever, he added that most airlines make you wait 21 days, then compensate up to $3,000. As to proving what was in the bag, he said this is a grey area.
“To an extent they have to take you at your word. It never hurts to, as you’re finishing your final packing, take a snapshot into your bag, and of the bag itself,” he said.
“If it’s lost, it’s handy to have an actual picture of your bag for the airline. It will help you in a future claim — and it will also help them find it.”