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U.S. Air Passengers Suffer as Airlines Wrongfully Reject More Compensation Claims

AirHelp research exposes a flight compensation merry-go-round as the number of compensation claims that are rejected by airlines on wrongful grounds increases.

A 2019 investigation by AirHelp, the world’s leading air passenger rights organization, reveals United Airlines rejects 40% of claims that have been identified as eligible, and American Airlines and Delta each reject 27% of valid claims. These wrongful rejections directly contradict the European law EC261, which covers passengers on flights that took off in the EU on any airline or that landed in the EU on an airline that is headquartered in the EU.

If a flight has been cancelled, delayed for over three hours, or in an instance of denied boarding, passengers on flights covered under EC 261 would be eligible for financial compensation of up to $700 per person if the cause of the disruption was under the airline’s control. However, many airlines intentionally apply delaying tactics or pay passengers less than what they are entitled to.

For example, in 2018 United Airlines rejected 23% of valid compensation claims, compared to 40% in 2019. This revelation adds to a long list of woes for United passengers after one of the most disruptive years in air travel to date. Due to mass cancellations and delays along with the threat of strikes, airlines left thousands in turmoil across the globe.

Johnny Quach, air passenger rights expert at AirHelp, said: “Yet again research shows airlines aren’t playing fair, and it is no wonder that 73% of U.S. passengers give up on the compensation they deserve after their initial claim was rejected. AirHelp’s investigation into the reckless claims handling by airlines exposes their blatant attempts to shirk their legal responsibility and reveals how much support passengers need to exercise their rights.”

“It is wildly unfair for airlines to reject compensation claims as a tactic to avoid giving passengers what is rightfully theirs,” Quach continues. “On average, airlines have rejected over 30% more claims this year than in 2018. EC261 is in place to empower passengers and to prevent airlines from using smoke and mirrors to trick customers and avoid their legal responsibility, and AirHelp is here to provide critical assistance to millions of people who are owed flight disruption compensation from airlines.”

Of the airlines investigated, Tunisair rejected the highest amount of claims in the first instance (99.9%), followed by Vueling (99.9%) – a 35% increase compared to 2018 – and Ernest Airline (99.9%).

Quach continues: “Approximately 169 million passengers have been affected by flight disruptions in the U.S. in 2019, thousands of whom will now be embroiled in legal battles and who are continuing to face an impossible struggle to claim the money they’re entitled to. With an alarming 55% of U.S. air passengers unaware of their rights, AirHelp will continue to educate consumers and give them the resources and knowledge they need to ensure the law is working in their favor.”

“If passengers believe their claim has been wrongfully rejected by an airline, our advice is not to give up. Passengers should keep hold of all travel documents as these are crucial if their claim needs to be escalated with legal assistance. Affected travelers should also note that they have three years following a flight disruption to file a claim.”

AirHelp is the world’s largest organization specializing in air passenger rights, helping travelers get compensation for delayed or canceled flights and in instances of denied boarding. The company also takes legal and political action to support the growth and enforcement of air passenger rights worldwide. AirHelp has aided more than 16 million people, is available in 35 countries and has more than 750 employees. To find out more, visit:

  • United Airlines rejects 40% of valid compensation claims, up from 23% in 2018
  • American Airlines rejects 27% of valid compensation claims, up from 20% in 2018
  • 55% of U.S. passengers do not trust airlines to handle compensation claims fairly*
  • AirHelp empowers millions of people around the world to claim flight disruption compensation from airlines


Wrongful rejection: % of normal claims (no legal assistance) that were identified to be eligible and got rejected by airlines after first assessment.

AirHelp analyzed hundreds of thousands of its own claims from January 1 – October 31 of each year – threshold: min 1000 claims sent

*Unless otherwise stated, the data used is based on an online survey conducted between June 26, 2019 and July 3, 2019 by YouGov Deutschland GmbH in which 10,429 people participated, from Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, France, Spain, Canada, and Brazil.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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