This one is bound to rile the airlines and seems quite apt with our very own Disrupt Europe conference currently under way. AirHelp is a new “flight compensation” startup which aims to make it orders of magnitude easier to claim compensation when flying to and from the EU should you face delays.
AirHelp was founded by early Skype investor and serial entrepreneur Morten Lund, who heads up AirHelp’s board, and ex-Rocket Internet executive Henrik Zillmer (CEO), ex-Moshi Monsters Greg Roodt (CTO), and Nicolas Michaelsen (CMO). The company’s website and iOS and Android apps are designed to optimise the process of making a compensation claim with airlines for delays, cancellations or overbooked flights under EU regulation — something that most flyers don’t bother with since the airlines are extremely good at making the experience a pain. It’s already launched in the UK, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and claims to have processed 4,500 claims in 35 countries, though it doesn’t say how many have been successful.
To that end, the Hong Kong-headquartered startup’s business model is based on “no win, no fee”, a well-known model in the ambulance-chasing legal sector but not so much for travel. If the claim is successful, AirHelp keeps 25% of the compensation amount.
Update: AirHelp isn’t without competition. Launched in July 2012, Refund.me offers a similar proposition, but takes a lower 15% commission.
Under EU Regulation 261/2004, if you’re leaving from an EU country or arriving to a EU country on board a EU registered airline, you could be entitled to up to €600 in compensation if you experience delays of more than 3 hours, cancellations or overbooked flights. Interestingly and likely even less well-known is that the rules also apply to people from outside of the EU and can be claimed as far back as 5 years, depending on the country of origin. That represents a potential backlog of claims which AirHelp is presumably hoping to cash in on.
To file a complaint using AirHelp involves filling out a free-to-use online form, from which the app/startup handles the rest of the claim. It’s able to smooth out the process by using its own “automatic flight compensation technology” that relies on large quantities of airport, weather and airline data, in order to consolidate the huge quantities of legal content “from a multitude of sources making it more efficient and convenient for passengers and legal departments alike.” In doing so, the company hopes to empower travellers to make use of their rights, and in turn raise the level of service provided by airlines.
“Airlines are currently living in their own little bubble where air passenger rights are viewed as a pain that should be ignored or even fought against,” says Lund in a statement.
“Quite ironic considering it is their own customers that they ought to be protecting. Air passengers need a helping hand from AirHelp when the airlines forget the law and how to treat customers. We are activists and lawyers and we are proud to be feared by the leading airlines in the world,” he adds.