The survey found that 24% of US passengers facing a significant flight disruption has accepted an airline's offer of vouchers or food instead of claiming financial compensation. Credit: Handout.

More than half of passengers do not trust airlines to abide by air passenger rights laws. That alarming new statistic is part of a just-released global study from AirHelp, an air passenger rights organization, Mia Taylor of Travel Pulse reported.

The study also found that one-quarter of passengers have not filed a compensation claim with an airline because they don’t think the airline would listen. Furthermore, 73% of United States passengers admit to having given up after their initial compensation claim was rejected by the airline.

The survey, which investigated the extent to which consumers understand their air passenger rights, has revealed a worrying level of distrust in airlines, the report said.

In fact, it showed that only about half (55%) of US travelers have filed compensation claims. Yet this year alone, 169 million US passengers have been affected by flight disruptions and may be entitled to claims.

Many travelers who experienced disruptions are eligible for compensation under EU law EC 261.

The law stipulates that if a flight is delayed by more than three hours, canceled, or in an instance of denied boarding, passengers are entitled to financial compensation of up to US$700 per person if the cause of the disruption was in the airline’s control, AirHelp explained.

The law protects US travelers on flights out of the EU and flights to Europe if they are with a European airline, the report said.

Despite the clear European legislation, the research has revealed that only one-third (33%) of people in the US have been informed of their passenger rights during a flight delay or cancellation, said AirHelp.

In addition, more than half have never had an airline communicate their rights to them following a disruption.

“In addition to this lack of transparency, United States passengers have to contend with poor claims handling by airlines,” said AirHelp.

A separate study by AirHelp found that United States airlines reject an average of 25% of claims on wrongful grounds. This shows that even passengers who are aware of their right to claim compensation are facing an uphill battle to obtain that money.

AirHelp said its survey also revealed what it called “a brazen lack of honesty from airlines.”

The survey found that 24% of US passengers facing a significant flight disruption has accepted an airline’s offer of vouchers or food instead of claiming financial compensation.

“This shows how little air passenger rights are understood,” said AirHelp. “What many travelers do not know is that accepting a voucher or cash offer from an airline is often not the best course of action. Taking vouchers may seem easier, however, these can often have expiration dates or terms that make them less valuable than the compensation they are eligible to claim. “

Christian Nielsen, chief legal officer for AirHelp, said passengers are losing out on money they are entitled to because the compensation claims process has become so disheartening.

“Many passengers give up after their initial claim was rejected, highlighting the fact that many consumers feel powerless against airlines,” said Nielsen.

Nielsen added that US passengers already have limited protections against the airlines when compared to European travelers, which makes their lack of faith in airlines is unsurprising.

“EC261 — which protects all travelers on flights departing from the EU and flights to the EU on a European airline — is in place to empower passengers and should not be used by airlines as smoke and mirrors allowing them to shirk their legal responsibility,” Nielsen added.

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