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Wizz Air Faces Massive Payout: Millions in Compensation Owed to Disgruntled Passengers

The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority has told the low-cost airline to reconsider all compensation claims dating back to at least March last year following a high volume of complaints

by Fergus Cole

August 3, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Artur Voznenko / Unsplash

European ultra-low-cost carrier, Wizz Air, may be required to pay out millions of dollars in compensation to passengers. U.K. regulators have instructed the airline to review unresolved claims for outstanding compensation.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)—the U.K.’s aviation regulator—has decided to take action on the Hungarian airline following a considerable number of complaints from passengers over late or failed compensation payments.

During the summer of 2022, Wizz Air experienced significant flight disruptions due to strikes and staff shortages, which affected many passengers. Despite being legally entitled to compensation according to consumer rights laws, many passengers did not receive any reimbursement or assistance from the airline. As a result, there were numerous complaints filed with the CAA.

Photo: Wizz Air, Airbus A320. Courtesy of Artur Voznenko / Unsplash

Some of the most common complaints include the failure of Wizz Air to provide alternative flights when flights were canceled, which is a legal obligation. Rules also state that airlines must provide compensation for any meals and accommodation costs incurred by passengers waiting for a delayed or rescheduled flight.

The CAA said that all claims from March 18, 2022, will automatically be reviewed, and customers with unsettled claims don’t need to do anything just yet. It has also been suggested that the action could result in all claims over the last six years being revisited.

According to Paul Smith, the Joint-Interim Chief Executive of the CAA, the recent enforcement action is a warning to airlines that they must fulfill their obligations to passengers. The CAA will not hesitate to intervene if they believe airlines are not consistently meeting these obligations.

“Passengers have the right to expect their complaints and claims to be promptly and fairly resolved by airlines in accordance with regulations. Last year, the CAA informed Wizz Air that their treatment of passengers was unacceptable,” he said.

The CAA will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure that passengers receive the compensation they are entitled to. Additionally, as noted by Smith, they will ensure that Wizz Air’s policies improve so that passengers have a better experience when things go wrong.

Photo: Valencia Airport, Spain. Courtesy of Rob Wilson / Unsplash

Marion Geoffroy, managing director of Wizz Air U.K., responded to the CAA’s ruling, admitting the airline’s failings during a hectic summer for the air industry last year while promising that the company will ensure that it improves its standards for its customers.

“Last summer, like all airlines in Europe, Wizz Air faced unprecedented operating challenges, driven mostly by the external environment, including ATC (air traffic control) disruptions, airport constraints, and staff shortages across the whole supply chain,” said Geoffrey. “As a result, we were unable to meet our own high standards of service.”

“Flights were too often late or canceled, 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,” explained the airline’s managing director.

“We expect this summer to be challenging for air traffic control, which will impact airlines. While we cannot anticipate every disruption, we have invested over £90m ($115.7m) to prepare for increased air traffic. We are confident that we have taken the right steps to better support passengers this summer season.”

It remains to be seen if Wizz Air will fulfill its commitment to enhancing customer service, as its reputation is currently lacking. This budget airline offers flights to ten airports within the U.K. and has recently been named the lowest-rated short-haul airline in the country by consumer choice magazine, Which?. With an overall customer satisfaction score of only 48%, there is much room for improvement.