2018 turned out to be a very disruptive year for the aviation and travel industry when, for the first time, over 10 million passengers were eligible for compensation in accordance with European passenger law EC 261. Flight travel expert AirHelp predicts that the chaos will continue this year, which might lead to over two billion passengers experiencing some kind of flight problem during 2019!

“The uncertainty of Brexit, further airline strikes, lack of pilots and air traffic control workers, as well as congested traffic schedules at most major European airports – we do advise flight passengers to buckle up for another year of delays. As we expect over 11 million passengers to be eligible for compensation under European law, we hardly call for all passengers to get familiar with their rights and claim what is legally theirs” says Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp.

Last year, over 900 million passengers departed from airports in the United States. For 2019, AirHelp predicts the number will be even higher, increasing to somewhere around 950 million passengers.

The increased traffic threatens to lead to even more flight disruptions, as neither airlines nor airports seem to have taken enough actions to meet the higher demands of increased traffic volumes.

Many airports would need to take action to better serve travelers. Runways could be added and extended, and schedules could be more efficiently managed to avoid air traffic congestion. Smaller airports might also need to add terminals dedicated to international flights, in order to speed up processes for customs and passport controls. Airlines, on the other hand, could focus more on their staff, fight to hire more pilots to battle the industry-wide lack of pilots, as well as improving cabin crew working conditions in order to prevent further strikes. Boeing estimates the demand to be 637,000 more pilots over the next 20 years.

“The airline industry is continuously failing its passengers and it is clear that the airline industry needs to adapt to growing demands. It is no secret that there will be more travelers than ever, and it is disappointing to see so many passengers be let down by the airlines. It is time to take action against the worrying trend of disruptions. Until that is done, we think it is safe to say that major flight disruptions will continuously be a big problem” says Zillmer. “As long as airlines neglect to resolve these issues, modern travelers should read up on their rights, and make sure they get treated in a correct way upon experiencing a disruption.

2019 Predictions in Numbers

AirHelp predicts that nearly 540,000 U.S. passengers will be impacted by flight disruptions every day in 2019. Given the increase in tourism, AirHelp also believes that over 421,000 U.S. passengers will be eligible for compensation claims in 2019.

Thanksgiving will likely remain the busiest travel period of 2019, and passengers may experience the most disruptions when flying the routes below, as these have consistently been the most disrupted routes each year:  

1.   Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

2.   San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

3.   Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

4.   San Diego International Airport (SAN) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

5.   San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → San Diego International Airport (SAN)

6.   Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) → Orlando International Airport (MCO)

7.  San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)

8.   San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

9.  Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

10. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Flight disruptions: These are the passengers’ rights

For delayed or canceled flights, and in instances of denied boarding, passengers may be entitled to financial compensation of up to 700 dollars per person in certain circumstances. The conditions for this stipulate that the departure airport must be within the EU, or the airline carrier must be based in the EU and landing in the EU. What’s more, the reason for the flight delay must be caused by the airline. Compensation may be claimed within three years of the disrupted flight.

Situations deemed as ‘extraordinary circumstances’ such as storms, or medical emergencies mean that the operating airline is exempt from the obligation to compensate passengers. In other words, ‘extraordinary circumstances’ do not qualify for flight compensation.

With AirHelp’s secure app, affected passengers can also check flight eligibility while at the airport. The app will analyze if a flight problem qualifies for compensation and will then register a claim within a few seconds. The AirHelp app is free and is available at the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.