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Wizz Air forced to refund flyers over wrongly rejected claims

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Wizz Air has been ordered to re-visit refund claims made by flyers from March 2022 onwards which it incorrectly rejected, as part of enforcement action taken by the aviation regulator.

The budget airline has been on the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) watchlist for months due to “significant concerns” over high volumes of complaints about Wizz Air not paying passengers money they were legally entitled to.

Passengers were left frustrated and angered by the airline’s treatment, particularly when it came to providing alternative flights to enable them to get to their destination.

Wizz Air’s re-routing and care obligations fell short as many customer claims for costs incurred following a flight disruption were rejected.

The CAA said these claims were likely to have contributed to a large number of County Court Judgments (CCJs) which have been found against Wizz Air over the past nine months.

Indeed, according to consumer champion Which?, which ranked Wizz Air as the UK’s worst airline (it scored just 48% in its annual airlines survey), it also accounted for almost half of CCJs in March this year out of six airlines in the UK. It was also recorded as owing £2.2m to customers.

Enforcement action against Wizz Air

The CAA said it had taken enforcement action against Wizz Air and ordered it to make changes to its policies and procedures to “ensure consistent compliance with its re-routing and care obligations”.

Wizz Air has committed to re-look at claims it rejected over replacement flight costs, transfers and care and assistance costs such as hotel stays so people get back what they are legally owed.

This covers claims made for flights due to depart from or arrive into a UK airport on or after 18 March 2022.

The CAA said passengers need not take any action to ensure these claims are reviewed. If your flight was due to depart from or arrive into a UK airport before 18 March 2022, you can also request that your claim with the airline is reopened, as long as it was no more than six years ago.

Wizz Air will be monitored to make sure it complies and revises its policies and procedures over the coming months. It will be required to provide information to the CAA about its review of closed expenses claims.

Further, it will also review samples of claims “so it is satisfied that passengers receive what they are owed”.

‘Wizz Air displayed unacceptable treatment of passengers’

Paul Smith, joint-interim chief executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:  “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.

“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.

“We will continue to watch the situation closely to check that passengers receive what they are owed and that Wizz Air’s policies have improved, so that consumers have a better experience if things go wrong.”

Wizz Air: ‘We know we have to rebuild trust’

Wizz Air said it had made several commitments to the regulator regarding customers claims and had invested more then £90m to improve operations.

It said it aims to resolve all customer claims within 45 days and will make 120% Wizz credit refunds within 24 hours and process 100% ticket refunds within seven working days.

Wizz Air added it completed 99.57% of its flights in the first half of 2023, which is “well above the industry average”. Further, it said it had paid more than 70% of  CCJs present in online records. Another 10% are in progress and the remaining 20% are being identified and processed.

Marion Geoffroy, managing director at Wizz Air UK, said: “Last summer, like all airlines in Europe, Wizz Air faced unprecedented operating challenges, driven mostly by the external environment, including air traffic control 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.

“We have learned from this experience and have taken significant steps to make our operation more robust and customer-centric.”

Geoffroy added: “We know that we need to rebuild trust, and we want to show our customers how serious we are about making improvements for the future. Helping our customers reach their destination is our number one priority and we will continue to invest in our service to ensure they get there on time.”