Delta compensates passengers for systems meltdown - a sign of things to come?News / TechnologyBy Marisa Garcia | August 9, 2016Share This article was originally published on After attributing a massive worldwide failure of its systems on Monday to an overnight power outage, Delta faces ongoing delays and flight cancellations.The airline resumed services by late morning Monday, local time. On Monday evening, Delta reported that it had regained full control of its systems, but by then it had cancelled 450 flights.Delta advised customers to expect further delays and cancellations while it restored normal service and offered customers most severely affected by the systems failure (with delays over three hours or cancellations) $200 in travel vouchers which can be applied to future travel on Delta and Delta-Connection flights.This is an unusual move for a US airline, which is only obliged by the US DOT to refund tickets or rebook flyers, and it helps Delta address negative consumer sentiment.It also fits the age of digitally savvy travellers finding new ways to claim compensation from international airlines.Help YourselfAirHelp currently offers passengers in the EU and US legal assistance to make flight disruption claims against airlines using a simplified mobile app. The company charges 25% of recovered compensation for the service, with a zero-fee policy for unsuccessful claims.AirHelp chief executive and founder Henrik Zillmer explains: “The laws are very confusing and difficult for your average traveler to understand. “Not only are the laws too complicated though, but what we found when we started AirHelp is that the whole process of filing for compensation was completely broken. "When we first started out back in 2013, one airline used to have a policy where you could only file for compensation on a Friday between 2-4 PM and that you could only fax your claim in. This is a perfect example of how we knew that there was an urgent need here to help people get the compensation they were entitled to.”Share this quote For example, while passengers in the US might not expect to benefit financially from systems failures, counterparts in the EU could expect to receive as much as Euro 300 for a delay of three hours. The minimum delay for a Delta passenger to claim compensation is also three hours but the airline is not paying out more for longer delays. EU flyers on the other hand can earn up to Euro 600 for a delay in excess of four hours.And EU travellers get cash compensation, not travel vouchers, and airlines are also expected to accommodate passengers with meals and hotel stays during extended disruptions, which US airlines do, albeit voluntarily.The recent Brexit vote could also result in more complex passenger rights protections. There are questions whether the UK will continue to support the existing EU passenger rights legislation, EC261.Zillmer says: “To be honest, it's hard to tell what's going to happen. At least for a few years though nothing is really going to change, so we're not really worried about it."Share this quote Disruptions DisruptedA company representative speaking to us on the rights of passengers after the Delta systems failure said a judge in the EU facing similar claims might rule that airlines are fully responsible during massive computer failures, regardless of the cause.The startup recently raised $12 million in Series A funding, the largest financing round to date for any “Justice-as-a-Service” company.Since its founding in 2013, AirHelp has helped 900,000 passengers worldwide recover a total of $85 million in compensation. AirHelp employs 230 people worldwide, and offers services in 19 countries with support in 13 languages. While its primary claims markets are equally balanced between the US and EU, the company has recently launched services in Brazil.Beyond claims, the company uses its data to publish AirHelp Score airline rankings which compare airlines based on a combination of factors: Quality & Service, On-Time Performance, and Claim Processing.The ranking, updated last week, features no US airlines among the Top 10. Delta rival Qatar Airways takes the #1 spot with a score of 8.7. Among US airlines, United ranks marginally higher than Delta (7.6 vs 7.5) and American comes in third (7.2).These metrics, AirHelp claims, differentiate it from new entrants in the claims space. It adds that it is helping to shape consumer habits as digital travellers are increasingly encouraged to make bookings decisions based on this type of third-party populated data.As consumers become more aware of digital claim systems, airlines should respond by making even more of an effort to avoid inconveniencing passengers. If more people start claiming what they are entitled to, then the costs to airlines will go up.In the UK alone, consumer watchdog Which? thinks that "up to a million passengers" could be in line for compensation based on its analysis of UK-departing flights between April 2015 and March 2016.For now, Delta has been proactive. The $200 in-flight vouchers may not compare to the compensation in the EU for a similar breach of service, but it could cost the airline a significant sum.NB: Image by NMCandre/BigStock.