Canadians slow to apply for compensation from airlines, leaving money behind
Published Tuesday, March 12, 2019 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 13, 2019 9:36AM PDT
Do you know your rights when it comes to compensation from the airlines? According to the group AirHelp, 87 per cent of passengers have no idea what kind of compensation they are entitled to for things like delayed flights, denied boarding and lost bags.
Canadians who may know their rights are not very quick to go after what they are owed.
“It turns out Canadians are the slowest,” said Christian Nielsen of AirHelp.
AirHelp is one of many services that helps passengers claim compensation they deserve when the airlines screw up.
This news comes as the Canadian government prepares to pass new laws to protect passengers. Under the proposed rules you could get up to $1,000 for delayed flights, up to $2,400 for denied boarding and up to $2,100 for lost luggage.
When you travel on an airline to and from Europe or within the European Union, you could be entitled up to $900 if your flight is cancelled or arrival at your final destination is delayed more than three hours. It’s a rule called EC 261.
Research by AirHelp shows that last year 43,000 Canadians were eligible for compensation under that European rule, but out of 21 countries, Canadian passengers ranked last in applying for it – taking 57 days to file a claim. Many never claimed at all.
However, that same research shows that both WestJet and Air Canada rank in the 90th percentile for processing claims under the EC 261, often getting money into passengers hands within two weeks after they file a claim.
"It says that they probably don't want to deal with air passengers rights in Europe so when they receive claims they happily pay up," said Neilsen.
However, sometimes they need a nudge and that’s where Air Canada and WestJet differ. AirHelp says, on average, Air Canada wrongly rejects 46 per cent of legitimate claims, compared to WestJet rejecting eight per cent of valid claims.
AirHelp says that’s when it steps in to take legal action on behalf of passengers who use their service.
There is a fee for that service. AirHelp charges 25 per cent of the compensation received. Some passengers who don’t want the hassle are willing to pay.
However, the Canadian non-profit group Air Passenger Rights says you can do it yourself and they will offer help at no cost.
“The trouble is that I haven’t seen any business which specializes in the difficult cases. That’s what we are here for,” said founder Gabor Lukacs.
Some other services offering claims help include, Bott and Co., Flight Claim, Weclaim, Green claim, Refund.me, and Flightright.
However, the Canadian Transportation Agency has a complaints procedure to help resolve disputes with the airlines over compensation and other matters. It has proven successful for many consumers who felt that the airlines have not lived up to their responsibilities.