The many canceled and delayed flights at Schiphol and Eindhoven Airport, among others, are sour for holidaymakers, but these are golden times for claims agencies. 38-year-old Tom van Bokhoven from Helmond is co-owner of Vlucht-verraagd.nl and sees the number of refund requests going through the roof. “This is crazy, we’ve never been so busy.”
These are tropical months for Van Bokhoven and his company. Over the past four months, the company has submitted around 70,000 claims from injured travelers to the airlines. Total value: 23 million euros, of which more than a million from airlines at Eindhoven Airport. The number of injuries is two to three times as many as in the same period in 2019, before the corona crisis. “Incomprehensible”, says Van Bokhoven.
The top 5 airlines where the company has made the most claims in recent months:
- TUI Flights
By law, travelers are entitled to compensation if the flight is delayed or canceled for three hours or more. The airlines are therefore obliged to reimburse additional costs, such as a hotel stay or food and drink.
“The airlines have entered the gap with their eyes open.”
Everyone probably immediately thinks of the long queues of people waiting at Eindhoven Airport and Schiphol during these summer months, but according to Van Bokhoven, the chance of these people ever getting their money back is zero.
“Airlines do not have to pay out if the fault is not with them, but with the airports. So if you missed your flight because you stood outside in a queue, you have actually lost your money,” explains the co-founder. He sees that the airlines are increasingly dependent on ‘force majeure’ and try to place the blame on the airports.
“Disgraceful”, says Van Bokhoven. “The airlines drove into the canyon with their eyes open. They just kept selling plane tickets when they must have seen that they would never have enough staff for all those planes.”
“We’ll see what kind of gold mine this turns out to be.”
With 35 employees, his company Vlucht-verraagd.nl has grown to become the market leader in aircraft complaints:
- The Swedish Claims Agency works on a no cure no pay basis, so you only pay if the claim is approved.
- If the company “wins” for you, you pay 29 percent of the payment to the Claims Agency.
- If it goes to court, you pay an additional 15 percent if you win.
Scrooge McDuck scenes, you might be thinking. But Van Bokhoven sees it differently. “We have yet to see if this is going to be a gold mine. Not all claims are approved. I can’t complain, I’m being honest, but apparently 70,000 people need our help to get what they’re entitled to.”
“That airline will be very disappointed now, it has now cost them a lot of money.”
Masse is a cash register, but Van Bokhoven says he didn’t start the company with that idea. “I didn’t start this business to get rich. I’m also sorry for the airline’s problems.”
He started the business with two associates in 2010. He was 26 at the time and was tricked along with his family. “I was on holiday in Greece with my parents. We were in a small airport. It was sweltering hot and the delay kept getting longer. I then accidentally found out that I could ask for a refund.”
When he got home, he sent a request. “The delay turned out not to have been long enough, so I didn’t get anything back.” But that was the foundation of his business. “That airline will be very disappointed now, it has now cost them a lot of money.”
Van Bokhoven also expects the number of requests to continue to flow in the coming period. According to him, it is leveling off, but remains high. He believes that the problems with the airlines have not been resolved by the autumn.