Four tools that help you relax and recoup money from holiday travel

Hark the delayed flight screens blink.
Hark the delayed flight screens blink.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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All is not merry and bright when it comes to getting yourself home for the holidays. With a busy weekend of pre-holiday travel ahead, airports are bound to be mayhem, the weather uncertain, and at least some flights will be delayed, overbooked, re-routed, or cancelled.

While it’s unlikely the internet can help you regain holiday cheer lost in transit, there are a slew of online services that can at least help you recoup costs, make your delay more bearable, or help you facilitate a last-minute change of travel plans.

Interestingly though, when it comes to compensation, few passengers go to the trouble of actually demanding what they’re owed. According to travel industry data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a paltry 9% of leisure travelers bother to collect money—in the form of vouchers, miles, or cash—they are entitled to as a result of an airline fault. This is compared to a full third of business travelers.

So this Christmas, if your travel plans go awry, don’t let it hurt your wallet—or your spirit. Here are four tools to help you recoup and cope with the indignities of chaotic holiday travel.

AirHelp: AirHelp helps passengers get reimbursed for flight delays, cancellations, and over bookings. Users can submit details of a disrupted flight via its website or the app. It then determines whether or not you’re entitled to compensation based on weather, technical issues, and circumstances under EU law EC 261 and by the US Code of Federal Regulations. If you’re owed a refund, it will pursue it on your behalf with permission—sometimes going as far as taking the airline to court. If you want to know more about what entitles you to compensation, they provide details on their website. Or, you can simply fill out their webform for an quick answer. AirHelp charges a 25% fee (or a pre-set amount for certain kinds of compensation) which it deducts only if your claim is successful.

LoungeBuddy: So let’s assume the worst happens and you’re stuck in the airport for way longer than you intended. This is bound to be somewhat depressing, but you can make it less so by checking yourself into a lounge. The app LoungeBuddy helps you figure out what airport lounges you might be able to gain access to based on your flight details, credit cards, frequent flier status, and any Priority Passes you may have. If you strike out for free entry, you can also purchase access to lounges via the app. While nothing beats cuddling up in front of the fire at home, at least you’ll have free drinks and ample space to wait for your next flight.

Service: The simply-named Service app not only helps you get paid when your flight has been delayed or cancelled—it also helps detect when you might unknowingly be entitled to compensation. Once you download the app and allow it access to your email account, it scans your past year of flight itineraries and looks for flights that were delayed by more than 90 minutes (2 hours for flights in the EU) or cancelled. They then add up the total compensation you’re entitled to—seeking “goodwill” compensation, which is not legally required, but often offered by airlines to disgruntled passengers—and offer to file it for you with one tap. In addition, if you enable AutoProtect, it will monitor all future flights, as well. The catch? Like AirHelp, Service charges a fee, which is 30% of the compensation earned. It’s a steep commission, but if the alternative for most people is getting nothing, it seems worth it. And, let’s be honest, avoiding all those hassles is truly priceless.

TransferTravel: Thanks to the maddening reality that is airline “change fees,” it’s easy to feel that once your flight is booked—you will be paying for it whether you make the plane or not. But of course in the real world, plans change, particularly around the holidays. A sharing economy website called TransferTravel is designed to help people sell their pre-booked travel itineraries in a secure and non-shady way. It works by connecting buyers—who post details and proof of itinerary, along with any fees associated with changing the name on the booking, and their preferred payment method—to sellers who are seeking a fairly last minute deal. The TransferTravel team will then help market the listing and help coordinate the transfer of the travel documents to the buyer. All payments are held by the service until the seller has transferred all the necessary details and the buyer is satisfied that they have secured the booking. It also works for transferring accommodation bookings in certain cases.

Correction: A former version of this article noted that TransferTravel is an app; it’s just a website.