The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has taken unprecedented action against Wizz Air due to soaring complaints about the airline falsely refusing passenger compensation claims for flight disruption.
The CAA said it has ordered Wizz Air to re-look at a string of claims made since 18 March 2022, meaning passengers who had claims incorrectly rejected “will now receive the money they are legally owed.”
Passengers whose flights were before that date can also request that their claim with the airline be reopened, stretching as far back as six years ago, potentially costing the airline millions of pounds.
The CAA said it had “significant concerns” about the number of complaints from customers who believed Wizz Air had failed to meet its legal obligations in ensuring they reached their destination after a cancellation.
Under EU261 legislation, there is a requirement for airlines to offer re-routing and care and assistance services to ensure customers are not left stranded.
Paul Smith, joint-interim chief executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, described the way the ultra-low cost carrier treated passengers as “unacceptable.”
“This enforcement action sends a clear message that airlines must meet their obligations to passengers when they cancel or delay a flight. We will not hesitate to step in if we believe that airlines are not consistently doing this,” Smith said.
“Passengers have every right to expect their complaints and claims to be resolved quickly and efficiently and to be treated fairly by airlines, in line with regulations. We made it clear to Wizz Air last year that the way it was treating passengers was unacceptable,” he added.
In December, the CAA expressed “significant concerns” to Wizz Air over the high volumes of so-called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) complaints and delays in paying passengers what they are owed, with it ranked the worst airline for the number of complaints escalated to ADR schemes.
A Sunday Times investigation then found that Wizz Air still owed the British public nearly £5m in unpaid refunds for compensation claims, with 881 county court judgments still outstanding.
A February report by consumer champion Which? named the budget carrier as the UK’s worst airline for boarding, cabin environment and seat comfort. It is also the UK’s worst major airline for punctuality, with CAA data showing its departures averaged out at 46 minutes and 6 seconds behind schedule last year.
Rory Boland, editor of Which? travel, said the carrier had an “abysmal record on meeting its legal obligations under consumer law, racking up millions in pounds in county court judgments after continually failing to appropriately reroute passengers from delayed or cancelled flights and then refusing to reimburse those passengers for its failure.”
“The CAA should be ready to swiftly take Wizz Air to court if it continues to break the law.”
Responding to the CAA’s action, Marion Geoffrey, managing director at Wizz Air, said: “Last summer, like all airlines in Europe, Wizz Air faced unprecedented operating challenges, driven mostly by the external environment, including ATC disruptions, airport constraints and staff shortages across the whole supply chain.
“As a result, we were unable to meet our own high standards of service. Flights were too often late or cancelled, disruption management overwhelmed our internal and external resources, and claims took too long to process and pay.”