A new global study investigating the extent to which consumers understand their air passenger rights has revealed a worrying level of distrust in airlines. Over half of US passengers don't trust airlines to abide by air passenger rights laws, according to the study.

Tired female passengers at the airport lounge waiting for flight
A new study has revealed a worrying level of distrust in airlines © Izusek/Getty Images

With an alarming 81% of US passengers unaware of their rights, the research by air passenger rights organisation, AirHelp, found that 55% of passengers don't trust airlines to handle compensation claims fairly. One quarter of global passengers have not filed a compensation claim because they don't believe the airline would listen, and of those who did, 73% gave up after their initial compensation claim was rejected by the airline.

Man in a suit looks at an airplane preparing for a flight.
169m US passengers have been affected by flight disruptions © Guvendemir / Getty Images

According to the study, 169 million US passengers have been affected by flight disruptions, and many are entitled to compensation under the EU law EC 261, which protects US travellers on flights out of the EU and flights to Europe if they are with a European airline. If a flight is delayed by more than three hours, cancelled or if passengers are denied boarding, passengers are entitled to financial compensation of up to $700 (€636) per person if the cause of the disruption was in the airline’s control.

Businessmen watching airplanes on tarmac in airport
Only 33% of people have been informed of their passenger rights during a delay or cancellation ©  Blend Images - John Lund/Marc Romanelli

Despite the clear European legislation, the study found that only 33% of US people have been informed of their passenger rights during a flight delay or cancellation, and more than half have never had an airline communicate their rights to them following a disruption. A separate study by AirHelp found that US airlines reject an average of 25% of claims on wrongful grounds, and 24% of US passengers have accepted an airline's offer of vouchers or food instead of claiming financial compensation. Taking vouchers may seem easier, but Airhelp says that they often have expiration dates or terms that make them less valuable than the compensation passengers are eligible to claim.

Passengers on devices while delayed in an airport lounge
Passengers are often not informed of their rights during a flight delay © Wundervisuals / Getty Images

“Passengers are losing out on money that is rightfully theirs because airlines are dishonest about their own passengers’ rights," says Christian Nielsen, chief legal officer at AirHelp. "The compensation claims process has become so disheartening that many passengers give up after their initial claim was rejected, highlighting the fact that many consumers feel powerless against airlines. United States passengers already have limited protections against the airlines when compared to European travelers, so their lack of faith in airlines is unsurprising,”

For more information, visit Airhelp here.

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