Dealing with an airline after a disrupted flight isn’t easy.
Every year, 8 million passengers rack up of a total of $US3 billion in unclaimed compensation for disrupted flights, according to New York-based startup AirHelp.
Y-Combinator alumni and lifelong friends, AirHelp founders Henrik Zillmer, 34, and Nicolas Michaelsen, 32, claim they have assisted over 140,000 travellers in recouping $US15 million in due compensation.
“It baffled us that something could be law and you, as a private consumer, weren’t able to assert it,” said Michaelsen, AirHelp CMO, in an interview with Business Insider. “So we asked ourselves ‘how can we help people to legally assert what is theirs without the hassle?'”
AirHelp’s services are free to use, and the company only gets paid if you do, taking 25% off the top. They will even take the airline to court on your behalf, if necessary.
The company can tell instantly if you’re eligible for compensation thanks to their massive database of every flight in the world.
“The secret sauce is in the backend,” Michaelsen said. “We know exactly what happened to each specific slight. We can see how delayed it was, and any acts of god that may have occurred — like extreme weather, labour strike or terror threat.”
AirHelp currently operates in 17 countries, with plans to cover the whole world. The only things slowing them down are carrying laws throughout the world. In the U.S. AirHelp operates within the confines of the Department of Transportation’s Passenger Bill of Rights, and in Europe under EC261, or the European Commission’s Passenger Rights law.
Before AirHelp launched in January 2013, the founders say that less than 1% of eligible passengers were obtaining what they were owed. Their goal is to make that 100%.
“We want to help everyone in the world,” said CEO Henrik Zillmer. “Canada is next, followed by Brazil, and Asia as china is travelling more and more.”
The worst flights for disruptions? New York’s JFK airport to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and Rome’s Fiumicino to JFK.
“I don’t know if it’s because the Italians say ‘tomorrow, tomorrow!,'” said Zillner. “But it’s always disrupted.”