Bureaucracy busters: Claiming travel-related compensation just got easier

Identifying under- or unserved niches is increasingly difficult in the travel space. Refund.me has carved out their own place in the travel ecosystem by offering a streamlined refund service for travelers that experienced refund-eligible delays in the EU.

According to EU Regulation 261/2004, consumers are entitled to certain refunds for delays and other challenges (such as diversions, cancellations, missed connections and overbookings) during the course of a trip.

However, these refunds can be onerous to redeem, with paperwork and potential court appearances discouraging many consumers from attempting to file. Other consumers are not even aware that they qualify for a delay-related refund.

The company employs an Advanced Business Logic technology that allows the company to automate the claims search process, both via their web portal and mobile app.

A user simply puts in their flight information, and the system tells them whether or not the specific flight qualifies for a refund. If the flight qualifies, the user can put in for a refund – with the company taking care of the nitty gritty.

And, as the video below attests, “air travel can still be fun if you know that there’s money coming your way.”

The company has secured pre-seed VC money from US-based investors, and has a team has 8 on staff with about 20 people working as subcontractors.

Refund.me also recently showcased at the Sabre conference in New Orleans, and saw significant traction: the service was chosen as the winner of the Sabre Red Appy Awards, which was a branded-program for agent-facing apps.

Refund.me founder and CEO Eve Buechner took some time away from securing sought after refunds to speak with Tnooz.

Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.

Working for many years as a TV anchor, presenter, moderator at e.g. n-tv , N24, it was time for me to move on the next chapter in my life.

I always had the desire not just to report about events in life, but to get actively engage and be part of exciting developments of the Zeitgeist. Already back in 2007, I founded switch.me and took my first steps as an Entrepreneur.

Today, I am fully committed and see Entrepreneurship as an ideal fulfillment of my personal goals at this stage of life. It also allows me to maintain a flexible schedule so that I can combine my duties at work with being a Mom of two and soon 3 boys.

 What is the competitive landscape for your product?

There are competitors but generally speaking we stay focused on our own schedule.

We love competition and welcome it as it makes our service and technology even better and stronger.

We are different in that we are consequently addressing a worldwide market, not just a national segment. Our approach is a short processing time due to the highly automated workflow and the talk about other companies is not our mission. We leave that to others.

Our center of attention is the air traveler who is entitled to certain rights and we want to be the ones to make that possible in a convenient, elegant and fast way. We are global but local to the people.

What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?

25% Commision. Our backend infrastructure (a.k.a. “ABL System”) is completely cloud based and can easily be scaled.

Our claim processing is almost completely automated, that we can process many more claims without necessarily hiring skilled people at the same rate.

Also, due to our cloud-based infrastructure we do not need to rent office space as our team can essentially work from anywhere anytime. We actually take advantage of some people being localized in different time zones, which is an essential prerequisite for offering worldwide service.

Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves (differently to what is already out there) and for whom?

We are an easy to use claim processor for compensations. With our advanced technology we are able to cover flight passengers from all over the world. The service is backed up by a pan-European network of legal experts and a state-of-the-art-platform and technology (ABL System). The claim processing offer is now extended to affected passengers traveling by bus, train or ship.

Why should people or companies use your startup?

Because you get the compensation you are owed to by law. What makes us at refund.me happy is to have a business model that goes well hand in hand with the social component to enable people to get their rights to which they are entitled as of EU Regulation 261/2004. That’s why our slogan and mission statement is “Claim your Right” and our approach is that, with us, that becomes as easy as 1-2-3.

Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?

Just perfect customer care, 24//7. 

How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?

The process of claiming your right is cumbersome and time consuming if done as an individual.

We saw that as a good chance to build a great customer oriented service that takes away the hassle and dazzle of filing a claim. There was no other option.

The field of startups is very crowded. My first advice to founders is, to come up with a solution for a real problem; don’t create a solution and then look for the problem. A real solution lends itself to a natural 30sec-elevator pitch and everyone will understand why your startup makes sense and is needed. And to your last question: you need the mindset of someone for whom failure is not an option.

Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?

In three years we want to cover India, US, UK, Russia, Brazil and all the countries with high travel statistics. We want to be the “traveler’s best friend,” global, but local to the people.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?

Nothing is wrong with the travel hospitality industry. We are here to make it more convenient for the customer to claim their right granted by European Passenger Rights law.

Tnooz view:

Refund.me offers an intelligent service that will help travelers capture refunds previously difficult to collect – and reap a generous 25% commission per refund. This is a clever business model that is sure to make airlines and other travel service providers cringe, given the additional potential bite out of the bottom line of consumers actually received legally-owed refunds.

The primary hurdle here is simply getting more people to use the service. By focusing on the customer experience, and actually delivering on their promise, the company will benefit from significant word-of-mouth. Many travelers are extremely price-sensitive, and are proud to spend less on a particular trip with others.

For business travelers, and corporate travel managers, the ease-of-use as far as determining eligible flights will likely see quick uptake. Less money left in the travel providers’ pockets means a redistribution of a slice of the travel pie – now will the airlines and other providers sit idly or somehow try to mount a legal challenge to Refund.me’s position as consumer representative?

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.

 

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