Finally, I gave up.

Step five: Help

I should have listened to Yanofsky on Jan. 12—I eventually did on Aug. 3, and submitted my claim through AirHelp, one of the companies that submits claims on passengers’ behalf. I chose it somewhat arbitrarily, since they all seemed to apply pretty much the same fees. It took under 10 minutesthough if successful, they’d take a steep 25% of my compensation.

Three days later, my claim for €600 was sent to American Airlines and on Aug. 11 it was accepted. On Aug. 22, the money was in my bank, minus the €150 for the commission. Compared to the time I had spent to (not) get it done on my own, it suddenly didn’t seem like much.

“That unfortunately happens a lot,” Nicolas Michaelsen, the co-founder of AirHelp, says. ”Often passengers are [pushed] around.” He says, the majority of passengers aren’t even aware that they are owed money at all—though that is changing: in the US, for instance, 29.8% more complaints were filed in 2015 than 2014.

Part of the problem is that there is not one body whose responsibility it is to go after the airline. “There are national enforcement bodies,” Christian Nielsen, who leads Air Help’s legal operations, says, “and they have the authority to make decisions that are not binding.” In Italy for instance, ENAC is the body technically responsible for enforcing the regulation, but after contacting them I found that it really only tracks complaints and couldn’t help me get my money.

‘There are no good enforcement options,” he says, which is why companies like his are proliferating: “if the claim is really valid, we will take the airline to court.”


If you’re flight is delayed in the EU, you might be owed money but take it from me, it’s worth hiring someone to help you get it.

I found there is a precedent for reducing the compensation by 50% if flights are between three and four hours late, following a decision that was made in a European court combining two articles of the regulation. American Airlines was right—had they simply explained this regulation to me, I would not have contacted AirHelp, nor gotten twice the money out of them.

I contacted American Airlines to ask why they were so quick to reply to AirHelp’s claim and so slow to mine, as well as to understand why they paid the full amount if indeed they could’ve given me half. A spokesperson told me that American Airlines “follow[s] the same procedures regardless of how the claim is submitted,” and despite my request for details, didn’t articulate further.

I look at it this way: I spent hours figuring out the best way to get my delay compensation so you don’t have to, nor I, from now on.

In the future, I’ll try send the airline my claim—one time. (For the record, during the months I was chasing American Airlines I also happened to file a complaint with Air Berlin that was swimmingly resolved in a month, so it’s worth trying.)

If they offer me less than I think I am owed, I’ll get a professional service to take care of it.


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