Flight delays and cancellations can give you some extra bucks
refundme.in is a company that helps air fliers in India with securing refunds from airlines in case of flight delays and cancellations.
Last November, Akshay Johri reached the Ranchi airport well in time for his 8.30 PM IndiGo Airlines flight back to Delhi. But, it was cancelled.
India’s airline regulator prescribes passengers be provided meals and refreshments in case of delays and even a hotel stay in certain instances of flight cancellations.
None of that happened. The airline asked Johri to check with his booking agent about compensation for the cancellation. “I was travelling for the first time to Ranchi and had to face difficulties in the night because of the sudden cancellation. I had to travel back to the city with my luggage and had difficulties before I could board the flight next morning,” says Johri.
“We analysed the entire case and started communicating with the airline with the exact facts and figures. They agreed to give the due compensation amount” — Akanksha Anshu, co-founder and MD of refundme.in
Enter refundme.in, a company that helps air fliers with securing refunds from airlines. Johri had read about refundme.in on the internet and approached it to help him with the compensation for the difficulties he faced. Seven days later, Johri received Rs 2,340 as compensation. His ticket had cost had him around Rs 3,195. Refundme kept 25% of the compensation amount as commission.
“We analysed the entire case and started communicating with the airline with the exact facts and figures. They agreed to give the due compensation amount,” says Akanksha Anshu, co-founder and managing director of refundme.in.
Refundme.in is an extension of Potsdam, Germany-headquartered Refund.me Gmbh (referred to as refund.me), and helps fliers get compensated for flights that either got cancelled or delayed beyond a certain duration. While refund.me has global competition from companies such as RefundMyTicket and ClaimCompass, in India the operations are one of its kind.
Anshu says refundme.in is not a subsidiary of refund.me and that the Indian company only borrows its name from the global company, She declines details of the relationship between the two saying they are confidential. An internet search shows that Eve Büchner, founder and CEO of refund.me is a director
of the Indian company along with Anshu, who is referred to as general manager
of India operations.
Once a passenger files a complaint, the settlement team runs it through an automated process to figure out the actual reason for the cancellation or delay and the legal team checks it if there are complications, and then forwards it to the airline
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Back to refundme.in. It was incorporated in India in July 2016 and has settled over 100 claims, with another 300 in process. The company receives 10 to 15 complaints every day, says Anshu.
The company uses a proprietary technology and data from aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on weather, flight details, runway conditions, technical details of the flight, time of take-off and landing. Once a passenger files a complaint, the settlement team runs it through an automated process to figure out the actual reason for the cancellation or delay and the legal team checks it if there are complications, and then forwards it to the airline.
“We are trying to reduce manual intervention,” says Anshu. “If a manual intervention is required the system flags off a notification.”
Refunds, mostly unclaimed
Anshu says that people don’t know about compensation entitlement in case of delays and cancellations, and airlines evade paying compensation, even though the compensation policies are detailed out by the aviations regulator. Carriers get away with ticket refunds or at times book the passenger on another flight.
“Almost all airline companies try and save money on compensation. Delays and compensation are caused by multiple factors like fog and heavy rains, which we don’t have control over,” says a spokesperson at an airline who did not wanted to be named in this article.
“Almost all airline companies try and save money on compensation. Delays and compensation are caused by multiple factors like fog and heavy rains, which we don’t have control over” — a spokesperson at an airline
Apart from force majeure conditions (events like natural calamities, riots, war etc.), DGCA also allows airlines not to pay any compensation for “cancellations and delays clearly attributable to Air Traffic Control (ATC), meteorological conditions, security risks, or any other causes that are beyond the control of the airline”.
This is where subjectivity kicks in and interpretations by airline staff may differ with a passenger’s. And with good reason — the penalties are stiff, as per the DGCA directive:
- up to 400% of basic fare and fuel charge of a ticket (subject to a ceiling of Rs 20,000) if a passenger is denied boarding due to an overbooked flight,
- up to Rs 10,000 or basic fare and fuel surcharge, whichever is lower, for cancelled flights of duration more than two hours, and hotel accommodation
- The burden of proof rests on the airline
Every year, the compensation amount for delays and cancellations can be in the up to Rs 100 crore or more, estimates a DGCA official. However, the total compensation that was paid in 2016 was Rs just 21.60 crore
The number of cancellations will only continue to go up as airlines add more flights and no substantial addition to capacity of airports. Every year, the compensation amount for delays and cancellations can be in the up to Rs 100 crore or more, estimates a DGCA official. However, the total compensation
that was paid in 2016, according to the DGCA, was Rs just 21.60 crore — Rs 5.79 crore for cancellations, Rs 6.35 crore for boarding denials, and Rs 8.92 crore for delays. That hasn’t changed much in 2017. In April, the total compensation given was Rs 1.91 crore.
Refundme.in has settled 100 claims, and 300 more are in the pipeline. “In the next few months there will proprietary tool based on internally developed algorithms that will directly calculate the compensation the moment a complaint is registered,” says Anshu.
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