Is Qatar Wow?

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Do you know what are you entitled to claim from the airline in case of flight cancellations, delays, or other such events which have cause you pain?

If you’re flying into, out of, or within Europe—or on a Europe-based carrier—chances are you’re entitled to more than you think. Travellers are entitled to as much as €600 ($708 or about ₹47,800) for flight delays, depending on the length of the delay and the travel distance.

Regulations in USA are less generous towards passengers. Domestic travellers aren’t subject to compensation for traditional flight delays—but tarmac delays and involuntary boarding denials (which happen when your flight is oversold and you’re forced to give up your seat) can warrant a payout of up to $1350. So do lost, delayed, or damaged luggage claims. The catch is that you need receipts to show the value of what was inside your luggage if anything has gone missing.

Elsewhere, legislation varies. The Montreal Convention applies to international flights between nations that honour the regulation. It was signed and is recognized by more than 120 countries around the world, including USA and the EU. Most major airline markets are members with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Sri Lanka and Vietnam). The list of members does occasionally change as nations join in. The Convention also applies if your departure and destination are both within a single member nation, but only when there is a planned stopover in a different country. For example, imagine that you’re flying between cities in a member nation such as China with a stopover in Vietnam. Your flight would be covered. But if you had a direct flight instead, with no stopover, it would not be an “international” flight and would not be covered.

For domestic flights in India, you can get:

  • Upto ₹20,000 if you are Denied Boarding, depending on flight time and a number of factors
  • Upto ₹10,000 for a Cancelled Flight depending on Flight time; this is only payable if you have been informed at least 3 hours in advance AND if you accept an alternate flight (if offered)
  • No Compensation for Delayed Flight; however, if you were booked on connecting flights and the first leg of his departure is delayed, you can be compensated by the airline of the first flight for the first leg, provided that you ultimately arrive at the final destination at least 3 hours later than the scheduled arrival time

When it launched in 2013, AirHelp made a simple promise: Report your flight disasters to it, and AirHelp will litigate against the airline on your behalf. You don’t have to pay a penny—unless they manage to get you a settlement. And when they do, the service takes a 25% cut. Simple.

In early 2017, it launched an APP on the iTunes and Android Play stores. The app used to require that travellers fill out a short survey and provide a description of their issue to initiate a claim; now, travellers can simply scan an image of their boarding pass and let AirHelp take care of the rest. With the information from your boarding pass stored in the AirHelp system, the company can track your flight for delays, cancelations, and overbooking so claims can get rolling before you pick up the phone.

AirHelp has processed claims for more than 5 million air passengers for a total compensation of  over $450 million. The average payout runs from $500 to $600, often divided among multiple family members flying together and filing a joint claim. They can instantly tell you how laws are applied in your exact circumstance and what the airline owes you in your situation. It takes just 2-3 seconds to file a claim.

The average claim is resolved in two to three months. And, just as in its early days, the company will take 25% of any secured compensation. When claims require full-blown legal action, the cut jumps to 50%—but consumers are not required to pay out of pocket to be represented in court.

Sounds like a startup I should have invested in March 2014, when they raised $221,000 (about ₹1.4 crores) in seed capital. Too late now, I think. In August 2016, the company was already valued at $80 million (about ₹520 crores), when Khosla Ventures pumped in $12 million(about ₹78 crores).

The Indian equivalent of AirHelp is www.refundme.in although I have never tried them.

In 2015, the company came out with a product called AirHelp Score, which ranked the best and worst airlines and airports in the world. AirHelp Score rates airlines and airports worldwide on the following key factors:

  • Quality of Service
  • Claims Processing
  • On-time Performance
  • Overall Social Media Sentiment

The 2018 AirHelp Score ranks 72 airlines on the above parameters. Here are their 10 Best Airlines and the Ten Worst Airlines:

Airlines_Best_and_Worst_2018_AirHelp

The company should have stuck to its core compensation of helping passengers claim their penalties/settlements from airlines. In my opinion, any survey/ranking which puts Lufthansa at No.3, Etihad at No.3. South African Airways at No.5 and Qantas at No.8 amongst “BEST” airlines, can at best be termed as unreliable. Even though it may not be in my Best 10 list, Emirates would beat all 4 of these carriers. So would JetBlue and Cathay Pacific.

I am very happy to see Jet Airways in the Worst 10. About 10 years ago, this airline would probably be in the Best 20, until they were hammered by Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher. Things have gotten worse after Etihad has acquired a majority stake in Jet.

2 comments

  1. I do think Emirates as a product has slipped into mediocrity and is not really up there any more. From a gold card holder of the airline who seldom uses it anymore you can be rest assured it’s real time experience talking here

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