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Delays, cancellations, luggage... the fruitful business of airline compensation policy

Besides the DGAC and Tourism Mediator, costly players


Delays, flight cancellation, baggage loss: many websites offer to guide travelers in their efforts to receive compensation from airline companies. Besides these costly services, the mediator of tourism and the site of the DGAC offer the same type of service ... but free. TourMaG.com provides an update on the various ways to help clients obtain compensation.



Many websites offer to guide travelers in their efforts to receive compensation from airline companies. Besides these costly services, the mediator of tourism and the site of the DGAC offer the same type of service but for free. © Unclesam - Fotolia.com
Many websites offer to guide travelers in their efforts to receive compensation from airline companies. Besides these costly services, the mediator of tourism and the site of the DGAC offer the same type of service but for free. © Unclesam - Fotolia.com
26 million bags were lost in 2012. And 2.2 million travelers experienced flight delays in French airports.

With such statistics, it is difficult to pass through the cracks.

One day or another, every traveler is bound to encounter this type of inconvenience.

And sometimes looks to the travel agency where the ticket was bought to get help for compensation.

While the agency has no legal obligation to compensate it however has a duty to inform the traveler of his or her rights.

But helping a client recover a few hundred dollars for a delay or lost baggage guarantees business loyalty.

"I urge agencies to offer assistance, demonstrating the added value of their services" says David Sprecher, a lawyer specializing in air travel.

He also consults with the CEDIV regularly at seminars to teach sellers the legislative bases on the topic.

Assistance in exchange for a commission on compensation

Several private operators have jumped on the bandwagon of the traveler compensation business.

This is the case of Transindemnité, a French company founded in 2007.

Its founder, Stéphane Nakache, prefers to remain discreet about his figures, but ensures the company is growing in the double digits.

A dozen employees assist him in processing passenger requests who pay only in the case of success.

The website then takes a 30% commission on the compensation paid by the company.

It also deals with searching for luggage, but does not wish to develop this service. "This is a fairly complex process to handle, it is not the heart of our business."

Indeed, there are two compensation schemes for lost luggage: the Montreal Convention 1999 - the most favorable to passengers - and the Warsaw Convention.

Stéphane Nakache ensures us that he works with travel agencies, sometimes white label ones.

But without sharing with them his commission, unlike one of his competitors: the German company Refund Me.

The international platform handles approximately 10,000 claims per year, for a total value of $4 million, of which 15% come from the French market.

Its efficient technology has allowed the company to reduce its commission from 25% to 15%, to which we must add 19% ex VAT on the amount of compensation received.

A technology that is also opening the doors of travel agencies.

"We offer them to automatically track the flights booked by their clients and to be notified if one of them should claim compensation," says the director, Eve Buechner.

This solution has attracted Sabre, which will soon offer the application to all its members using the "Sabre Red Workspace" platform.

"The flights booked by a Sabre agent are automatically monitored. Our system will then generate an alert if the flight is eligible for compensation.

The seller can then contact the customer to help claim his due, "
continued Eve Buechner .

Another website, “Vol Retardé” has been around since May 2012 and also remains discreet about its figures.

Unlike the previous two, it does not work on commission based on the results, but requires an advance fee to start an investigation.

It will cost €16.50 for a pro account in exchange for the creation of a complaint letter to the airline company.

Those who opt for a premium account have to pay €24.50 and leave it up to the website to manage the entire case for them.

The passenger can then make a donation if he or she is satisfied with the result.

Lawyers to handle non-European companies

All these operators base themselves on the Regulation 261/2004.

This regulation deals with the delays of all European companies as well as any company leaving a European airport.

But without the help of a lawyer, these operators are powerless to deal with a dispute concerning a flight between Tunisia and France for instance, via a non-European company.

Lawyers are also many to offer their services. And they should not cost more according to David Sprecher. "Do not hesitate to contact a firm for a quote. Play on the competition," he advises .

Besides these costly services, there are free websites that help customers, always in the context of the Regulation 261/2004.

On the DGAC platform, one simply needs to fill out an online form that the organization will send out to the airline company as a reminder of its legal obligations regarding compensation.

The site received 4,000 complaints in 2013, 41% of which where aimed at French companies. The most filed complaint concerned delays (46%) and cancellations (27%), and finally baggage loss or damage (7%).

Another organization helping clients for free is the tourism mediator.

It was created in 2012 by the SNAV, the SETO and FNAM, later joined by the SCARA, easyJet and Airports of Paris.

It examined 1,413 cases last year, 45 % were about air transport.

"I want consumers to avoid confusion between our mediation efforts and all those of private operators who sell their services," says Jean-Pierre Teyssier, the mediator.

He also expresses that the FNAM does not appreciate the development of the private companies mentioned at the beginning of the article, but does not have the legal means to stop them.

In the end it remains the customer’s freedom to choose.

Written by Laury-Anne CHOLEZ translated by Joséphine Foucher the 14/04/2014
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