The UK Civil Aviation Authority has taken enforcement action against Wizz Air following significant concerns over high volumes of complaints about the airline not paying passengers what they are owed.
The regulator has been in contact with Wizz Air for several months after complaints by passengers that their rights had not been met when flights were cancelled or delayed.
Passengers were left frustrated because they believed the airline had failed to meet its passenger rights obligations – particularly around providing alternative flights to enable passengers to get to their destinations when their flight had been cancelled.
This is likely to have contributed to a large number of County Court Judgements (CCJs) which have been found against Wizz Air over the last nine months.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority has now instructed Wizz Air to make changes to its policies and procedures to ensure consistent compliance with its re-routing and care obligations.
Wizz Air has engaged with the regulator and has committed to introduce changes to its policies, procedures and passenger communications. The airline has also committed to re-look at claims it received for replacement flight costs, transfers when replacement flights were via different airports, and care and assistance (typically hotel costs) following flight disruptions.
This will make sure passengers who made claims to Wizz Air in the past, but had their claims incorrectly rejected, will receive the money they are legally owed.
The action by the regulator will cover claims made for flights due to depart from or arrive into a UK airport on or after 18 March 2022. No action is needed on the part of passengers to ensure these claims are reviewed. Passengers whose flights were due to depart from or arrive into a UK airport before 18 March 2022 can also request for their claims with the airline to be reopened, as long as their flight was no more than six years ago.
Wizz Air has agreed to sign undertakings to formalise these commitments with the regulator. The airline has launched its own commitments to reduce cancellations and create a better experience for customers. These include aiming to resolve all customer claims within 45 days. The airline has also pledged to make 120% credit refunds within 24 hours and process 100% ticket refunds within seven working days.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority will monitor the airline for compliance with its revised policies and procedures over the forthcoming months. As part of the enforcement action, Wizz Air will also be required to provide information to the UK Civil Aviation Authority about its review of closed expenses claims.
The regulator will also review a sample of the claims that Wizz Air relooks at, so it is satisfied that passengers receive what they are owed.
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.”
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 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,”
“We have learned from this experience and have taken significant steps to make our operation more robust and customer-centric.”
Article updated to include comment from Wizz Air