Read the fine print
Yes, I should have read the fine print. But maybe this will help someone else.
One fun thing about low power mode (we have a few more days of that here) is that I’ve been able to go back and find some rather obscure things to re-share that might actually help people.
Case in point: My wife and I took a really fun, 10-day vacation to Italy in 2015. I’d never been there before. We spent most of our time on the Amalfi Coast. It was utterly amazing.
Coming home, our United Airlines flight was out of Rome. It was supposed to take off at 9:55 a.m. for Newark, but there were some mechanical issues and it didn’t actually take off until 4:48 p.m.
That’s seven hours stuck in the airport.
Actually, not seven hours: instead, it was seven separate one-hour delays. If they’d told us seven hours upfront, we would have just gone back into Rome for the day.
Oh well, it was still a great vacation. But, fast forward to 2018. My wife and I were reminiscing about the trip.
“You know what?” I said. “I think it was three years ago today that we were stuck in Rome.”
“No,” my wife corrected me. She’d been posting on Instagram from the airport while we were stuck, and she’d just received one of those “on this day” notifications on her phone. “It was three years ago yesterday.”
A couple of hours later—seriously, that same night—I was sitting on our couch writing an article.
(Timeout for a meta reference: 18 months later, I am again sitting on the same couch, writing this article. And yet another meta reference, here I am another two-plus years after that, sitting at our kitchen table but within view of that couch.)
Anyway, I came across an ad for a company called AirHelp:
Flight delay to/in Europe within the last 3 years?
“According to EU regulations, when airlines cancel European flights, or delay them by more than 3 hours, they owe you $700 cash.”
Yes, I realized, we had in fact been on a flight from Europe that was delayed more than three hours!
But, also … it had now been three years and 1 day. Would the extra day matter?
TLDR: Yes, it mattered
I clicked the ad and filled out the intake form. Sure enough, my claim was flagged for having fallen just outside the three year window.
Read your colleagues’ work, Murphy
This was no small error. Given that both my wife and I would have been eligible, we would have potentially been owed $1,400 or more. But, I’d had no idea at all about this whole situation until I saw the ad.
Even worse, it turns out my friend and colleague at Inc.com at the time, Chris Matyszczyk, had written about AirHelp and the EU law a few months earlier. I’d missed it.
Due to an EU regulation called EC 261, AirHelp says, “airlines must provide passengers affected by lengthy delays of more than three hours with compensation of up to $700 each, in addition to meals and drinks for all delays of more than two hours.”
I’m big on going straight to the top, so I asked Airhelp’s CEO, Henrik Zillmer, for his assessment of my situation.
“You may have been able to successfully file a claim for compensation from the airline,” he told me, except that I was now one day past the statute of limitations.
14 million people
Of course there’s some intense fine print to the European law.
It’s potentially a lot of money that airlines have to pay out, so they’re not eager. Plus, this is the European Union. Nothing is ever straightforward and simple.
Anyway, as of when I figured this out, AirHelp said it had helped more than 5 million passengers worldwide claim more than $369 million in compensation from airlines.
Then, literally yesterday, their corporate comms person reached out to me. (We’ve talked quite a few times since my $1,400 discovery.)
She wanted me to know that last year, 14 million passengers experienced flight cancellations, and AirHelp thinks that between 60 and 75 percent of passengers on flights eligible under EC 261 should be eligible to file a claim.
I know this won’t apply to the majority of readers. But I have a feeling at least once, someone on this list will be on a delayed European flight, and you’ll remember this article, and walk away with a windfall.
(Reminder, while we’re running on “low power mode,” we’ll be skipping the “7 other things” we normally run. But I invite you to share links to things you think your fellow readers would appreciate or enjoy in the comments.)