Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Airline delays. They can throw off important work meetings, long-awaited family get-togethers, and vacations. But did you know that you may be eligible for compensation due to these delays?
That’s right! In certain circumstances — especially when flying in, to, or from Europe — you can request compensation from airlines when something goes wrong. In fact, you may even be entitled by law to compensation. So no matter the delay, it’s always worth looking into whether or not you can get a cash payment from the airline at fault.
Sure, you can file the paperwork on your own for free, but if you don’t have the time or can’t be bothered, that’s where AirHelp — an airline claims management company — into play.
AirHelp is a Berlin-based startup that helps victims of delays, lost baggage, and other travel mishaps request compensation for their misfortune. The service will contact the airline on your behalf, so you don’t have to go through the process of paperwork and phone calls on your own.
Sounds great, but should you use AirHelp for requesting compensation? What can you actually be compensated for? And most importantly, what does it charge for its services?
It’s a good thing you asked because we’ll answer all of those questions and more in this article. We’ll start by taking a look at what you can request compensation for and then dive into the AirHelp specifics. Then, we’ll end the piece by taking a look at the pros and cons of using AirHelp to request airline compensation.
Let’s dive in!
You can be compensated for a wide range of airline mishaps. From delayed baggage to overbooked flights, you may be able to get a paycheck for the time you wasted finding new flights or buying new clothes.
Here’s a quick look at all of the things you can request compensation for.
If you’re flying to, from, or within the EU, your flight is covered by the EU 261 law. This law governs passenger rights and provides compensation to air passengers that experience mishaps when traveling on a commercial air carrier.
One of the main benefits of the EU 261 law is compensation for delayed and canceled flights. Compensation starts when your EU flight is delayed for 3 hours or longer, and the amount you’re owed continues to rise based on the duration of the delay. The chart below will show you exactly how much compensation you’re eligible for when an EU flight is delayed:
|Less Than 3-Hour Delay||3-4-Hour Delay||More Than 4-Hour Delay||Never Arrived/Canceled Flight||Distance|
|N/A||€250 (~$297)||€250 (~$297)||€250 (~$297)||Flights >1,500 kilometers (932 mi)|
|N/A||€400 (~$476)||€400 (~$476)||€400 (~$476)||Intra-EU flights <1,500 kilometers (932 mi)|
|N/A||€400 (~$476)||€400 (~$476)||€400 (~$476)||Flights to/from the EU <1,500 kilometers (932 mi) and >3,500 kilometers (2,175 mi)|
|N/A||€300 (~$357)||€600 (~$714)||€600 (~$714)||Flights to/from the EU <3,500 kilometers (2,175 mi)|
The airline must also provide you with food and a hotel room during layovers of certain lengths — generally, for extended overnight delays. Funny enough, the EU 261 law also states that the airline must provide access to 2 free telephone calls, fax messages, and emails, but you’ve probably got that covered with your smartphone.
Hot Tip: The EU 261 law also applies to Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the “outermost regions” of the EU. This includes places like French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, La Réunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands. Flights bound for the EU on an EU carrier are also covered by the law.
However, not all EU flight delays are eligible for this compensation. Flights delayed by “extraordinary circumstances” aren’t covered by EU 261. This includes things like:
In these cases, the airline usually isn’t required to compensate you if it can prove that it had no way to prevent the delay in question. So if you’re delayed due to the airline not properly de-icing your aircraft, you will be compensated. On the other hand, if it was too cold for the airline to de-ice the aircraft, you are not eligible for compensation.
While airport staff and air traffic control strikes aren’t covered by EU 261, airline strikes are covered. If you’ve been affected by a recent strike, make sure to claim the compensation you’re owed.
In the case of airline delays, you’re eligible for compensation up to 3 years after you’ve experienced a flight delay or cancellation. Further, if an airline gives you a voucher, hotel, or food during your delay, you’re still eligible for cash compensation under the EU 261 law, so don’t miss out!
Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn’t have a similar law in place regarding flight delays or cancellations. However, you may have luck asking the airline for compensation directly — some members of the Upgraded Points team have received hundreds of dollars in flight vouchers when doing this. Just note that there’s no guarantee, and AirHelp cannot help you with these claims unless you’re an AirHelp Plus member (more on that soon).
The EU 261 law also provides compensation to passengers that miss connections. So long as your connecting flights are on the same ticket, you are eligible for compensation if you miss a connection for any reason that is not under your control. For example, connections due to flight delays, overbooked flights, or an airline employee strike will receive up to a €600 (~$714) payout.
Again, this benefit only applies to flights operating to, from, or within the EU. Further, you’re still eligible for EU 261 compensation if the airline puts you on a later flight (as legally required) or provides a hotel if a missed connection forces you to stay overnight in a connecting city.
As you’d expect, though, connections missed due to passenger error or connections booked on separate itineraries are not eligible for EU 261 compensation.
Hot Tip: The missed connection benefit is largely redundant as most missed connections are due to long flight delays. If this is the case of your missed connection, you’d already be compensated for your 3+ hour delay and are not eligible for additional compensation for the missed connection.
It’s common practice for airlines to oversell their flights. This practice was put in place as, more often than not, not everyone that has a ticket for a flight will actually fly on the flight. Some customers may no-show, others may miss a connection, and some will switch to an earlier or later flight by choice.
But on the rare occasion where everyone does show up for a flight, some customers may be denied boarding because there are simply not enough seats for everyone.
More often than not, airlines will compensate people that are denied boarding due to overbooked flights on the spot. We’ve seen passengers on U.S. domestic flights fetch up to $1,000 in compensation for overbooked flights, and international passengers have gotten much more. When you accept this type of compensation by choice, you’re considered to have voluntarily given up your seat and are ineligible for additional compensation through AirHelp.
However, the U.S. and EU both require that airlines compensate passengers that are involuntarily denied boarding. This is when you still wish to board and are forced by the airline to give up your seat despite being offered flight vouchers or another on-the-spot type of compensation. In the U.S., passengers are entitled to up to $1,350 in compensation when this happens.
Likewise, the EU 261 law requires that flights to, from, or within the EU compensate passengers up to €600 (~$714) when involuntarily denied boarding. But again, agreeing to give up your seat may make you ineligible for this compensation.
Further, note that non-EU carrier flights (think United, American, Singapore Airlines, etc.) to the EU are not covered by this law when traveling from outside the EU to the EU. These airlines are instead covered by the laws of the airlines’ home countries. However, non-EU carrier flights from the EU are subject to EU law regardless of where the flight departs so long as the destination or origin is within the EU.
In our opinion, you should accept the airline’s offer at the gate if you want to be compensated for an overbooked flight. Otherwise, someone else may take the bump and receive the compensation instead. Regardless of the overbooking situation, though, the airline is still required to rebook you on a later flight.
If you purchased a first, business, or premium economy class ticket and ended up in a lower cabin due to a flight cancellation or delay, you’re also eligible for compensation when flying to, from, or within the EU.
The EU 261 law states that passengers rebooked in a lower cabin are entitled to a reimbursement worth 30% to 75% of the original cost of their ticket. If your flight was delayed, too, you’ll be eligible for the compensation discussed earlier as well.
Here’s how much you’ll be compensated for involuntary downgrades to, from, or within the EU:
Currently, the U.S. doesn’t have a law in place regarding airline downgrades in the U.S. However, you can request compensation from the airline directly. Further, you can dispute the charge with your credit card if you don’t end up flying in the class booked (or aren’t refunded for the cost difference).
Flights booked with points are still eligible for compensation when downgraded. You’ll be compensated based on the cost of a paid ticket, which can be pretty significant on long-haul flights.
Finally, you may be eligible for compensation if you’ve experienced baggage delays, lost baggage, or damaged luggage in the U.S. or EU.
While AirHelp provides valuable information on what to do in these situations on its website, it doesn’t actually help with filing claims unless you’re an AirHelp Plus member (more on that later).
The process is pretty simple though: when your bag is damaged, lost, or delayed, file a claim at baggage services as soon as you land. Then, document all purchases and keep receipts for all incidental and replacement charges that are incurred because of a damaged, lost, or delayed bag.
Once your baggage shows up, file a claim directly with the airline. In this claim, you should request reimbursement for things purchased due to your bag being lost or delayed.
Hot Tip: Credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® also include baggage insurance. In many cases, you’ll have an easier time being reimbursed for incidental purchases or baggage replacement costs with your card — just note that you may still be required to file a claim with the airline, too.
In case of damaged luggage, file a claim while you’re at the airport. Generally, the airline will try and negotiate with you on the spot, offering reimbursement for new luggage or offering to send your bag away for repairs. You can try following up for compensation after-the-fact, but unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive anything.
If your baggage is never returned to you, you’ll have to follow up with the airline for reimbursement of the items in your luggage. According to AirHelp, the average compensation under the U.S. and Montreal Convention air passenger rights laws for lost bags is between $1,525 and $3,500.
According to EU 261, you’re eligible for up to €1,300 (~$1,540) if your baggage is lost, delayed, or damaged. However, it should be noted that there’s no standard EU 261 form available for this request — instead, you have to contact the airline on your own within 21 days of a baggage delay. Lost baggage should be reported within 7 days.
We recommend saving the receipt for your luggage to help you determine how much the airline owes you. However, this receipt isn’t required by EU 261 or the U.S. and Montreal Convention laws for compensation. Just make sure to save receipts for claiming reimbursement for interim expenses.
Fortunately, AirHelp runs on a “no payment, no charge” system. This means that you’re not liable for paying AirHelp unless you win a case and receive compensation from the airline in question.
However, AirHelp’s pricing structure is hidden within its website and not blatantly shown when you’re filing a claim. This is frustrating, especially since the fees can be steep.
For most claims, AirHelp charges a flat fee of 35% of the compensation amount for all claims that payout. Further, if legal action is required, AirHelp takes an additional 15% cut of the compensation. The legal fee is only charged if legal action is required against the airline, but the company’s pricing page doesn’t go in-depth on what exactly this entails.
This means that AirHelp could take up to 50% of your compensation, so it can be a pretty costly endeavor when compared to requesting compensation on your own time.
AirHelp’s biggest selling point is simplicity. Instead of having to manually fill out compensation request forms and provide proof that your flight was delayed, AirHelp will do all of this for you. All you need to do is fill out a quick form on AirHelp’s website and the company will take care of the legwork for you.
Here’s how to use AirHelp:
1) Head over to the AirHelp website and click look towards the center of the screen. Here, you’ll find a form where you can input the origin and destination of the flight you experienced a delay on. Enter your details here and click the Check Compensation button to the right of the form.
2) Now, you’ll be asked if you had any connecting flights. Answer yes or no, and then click the green Continue button.
3) You’ll now be asked what went wrong on your flight. Select from the options presented and click the Continue button. Depending on the option you picked, AirHelp will ask for more information like how late you arrived at your destination, the reason for the delay, etc. Answer these questions to the best of your ability and press Continue.
4) Now, AirHelp will ask for your flight carrier and flight number. Enter this, click Continue, and you’ll then be asked for a series of information about yourself and others traveling with you. Note that it may be helpful to have a copy of your ticket with you to gather information like booking reference, etc.
5) You’ll now be asked to digitally sign a form on AirHelp’s website that grants the company the right to handle your case against the airline. Further, this document includes a link to AirHelp’s price list — don’t worry, we’ll cover that shortly.
6) Now that you’ve granted AirHelp the rights to your case, you’ll be asked to upload a copy of your boarding pass or e-ticket. Click the Continue button once you’ve uploaded the file, and AirHelp will start work on your case.
AirHelp notes that most claims take roughly 3 to 4 months to process, although some claims could take longer. The completion time largely depends on if a case needs to go through legal proceedings and how long it takes for airlines to actually respond to AirHelp’s contact. You can contact AirHelp at any time for an update on your claim.
AirHelp also offers a premium service called AirHelp Plus.
This service offers a few premium features like priority support that will help you get compensation for things that aren’t covered by the EU 261 law. Think delays outside the EU, minor flight delays, and more. This type of compensation is generally provided directly by the airline in the form of points or flight vouchers.
One of the more valuable perks of AirHelp Plus is that it can help you be compensated for baggage mishaps. This includes things like lost, delayed, and damaged baggage. According to AirHelp, you can be compensated up to $1,525 for baggage claims, so it might make sense to enroll if you check bags frequently.
You can enroll in AirHelp Plus for €19.99 (~$23) per year — make sure to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees as you’ll be billed in euros regardless of where you live.
We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons of using AirHelp for delays below. Use these to help you decide if AirHelp is right for you.
The short answer is: it depends.
Filling out an EU 261 claim isn’t too hard. Generally, you can just email your airline after a delay, stating that — under the EU 261 law – you’re entitled to compensation due to your extended delay. Alternatively, you can fill out this official EU 261 form that will cover all your bases.
On the other hand, if your claim requires legal assistance, you may have a lengthier process. However, we’re not confident that cases like this happen regularly, especially when it comes to EU 261 claims. In most cases, airlines will pay out these claims without any friction as the law is very clearly stated.
You may find that AirHelp is worthwhile for downgrades, overbookings, and other more complicated mishaps. These may require more extensive paperwork beyond the standard EU 261 email or form.
AirHelp has a 4.7/5 rating on TrustPilot. Good reviews cite quick communication and good customer service, while bad reviews mostly discuss a delay in actually getting compensation. However, the actual time to get compensated is largely dependent on the airline’s responsiveness.
All in all, we think that AirHelp is a solid service if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of airline compensation. While you’ll get less money than if you filed the claim yourself, you’ll save time by offloading this task to AirHelp. However, if you have the time to file the claim on your own, we recommend doing this so that you get the full amount of compensation for your delayed flight.
Now we want to hear from you. Have you used AirHelp to request compensation for a delayed flight? If so, let us know your experience in the comments.
The most compensation you can receive is €600 (~$714) per passenger for a long-haul EU flight that is canceled or delayed 4 or more hours. See the chart at the beginning of the article that shows the compensation structure for EU 261 claims.
AirHelp can help you request compensation for overbooked, delayed and canceled flights. AirHelp Plus members can also request compensation for damaged, lost, and delayed baggage.
AirHelp takes 35% of your compensation if your claim doesn’t require legal help. If your claim requires legal assistance, AirHelp takes 50% of compensation.
No, there is no federal law that protects delayed passengers on U.S. flights. Because of this, AirHelp cannot request compensation for domestic U.S. flights.
However, AirHelp Plus members may be able to get help in requesting goodwill compensation on these flights. This is because the service helps with requesting compensation for things not covered by EU 261.
AirHelp notes that most claims are processed within 3 to 4 months of submission. However, claims that require legal proceedings may take longer.
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Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City.
He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew formerly worked for The Points Guy and is now Senior Money Editor at CNN Underscored.
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