Airlines have to provide significant delay compensation to passengers on flights departing European Union countries, and flights on EU airlines headed to the EU. That’s because of EU regulation 261 (2004).
In fact airlines are required to compensate passengers between €250 and €600 cash for covered flight delays of over 3 hours, for cancellations, and for involuntary denied boardings due to overbooking. The amount depends on the distance of the flight. (It also applies to includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and it applies to award tickets not just paid tickets as well.)
However not all airlines pay what passengers are owed. In the UK passengers have even sent bailiffs to airline offices to collect what’s owed.
There are several services that will do the heavy lifting for you if you’re owed compensation, in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds. Many customers can’t be bothered to deal with compensation on their own, or fight for it when an airline first denies a claim.
One such company is AirHelp, and they have their own ranking of airlines based one third each on on-time performance, their rating of service quality, and how good the airline is at honoring compensation claims. (HT: Bill Murphy, Jr.)
They’ve named Qatar Airways the best airline in the world which – if you knew nothing about their methodology – would seem plausible. The second best is American Airlines and the third best is Aeromexico.
There are really two drivers here:
- A unique view of service quality
- A willingness to pay up (which also, presumably, first requires having the sorts of delays often enough to develop a reputation that they’ll do so)
According to this survey El Al has higher service quality than Qatar Airways and China Southern has better service than Asiana and Korean, and Air China has better service than Garuda Indonesia. (In fact, the survey suggests that Garuda’s service is among the worst in the world.) easyJet, Ryanair, Air Transat and Eurowings are listed as having the worst airline service in the world, with United Airlines just four places above the bottom.
One third of the survey results are based on paying compensation claims, which since that’s also how AirHelp profits may represent something of a conflict. Nonetheless, here are their top five for willingness to pay:
The Airline Passenger Experience Association named American a Five Star Global Airline so they’re on a roll racking up awards.