‘Wizz Air denied me a refund – so a court sent bailiffs to Luton airport’
Court bailiffs were sent to Luton airport to retrieve money for a Wizz Air customer, as shocking figures revealed the lengths consumers go to for compensation.
Wizz Air cancelled Russell Quirk’s flight to Portugal last year, three hours before it was supposed to take off and suggested he book a new flight which would be refunded. The last-minute flight for him and his family cost £2,500.
Despite the commitment, Wizz Air did not refund him until he had successfully lodged a court claim and bailiffs attended Luton Airport to recover the money. He was eventually paid £4,500 in December, seven months after the original flight.
Furious flyers have racked up £4.5m worth of court claims against airlines for delays and unpaid refunds, with thousands forced to escalate complaints after struggling to get their money back, it has emerged.
Nearly half of these claims were made against Wizz Air, despite the airline carrying fewer passengers than its rivals, according to court data gathered by consumer group Which?. Some 1,600 customer claims worth £2.2m were taken out against the company.
EasyJet had the second highest number of claims against it, with 884 complaints worth £611,400 escalated to the courts. Ryanair customers submitted 840 court claims worth more than half a million pounds, Which? found.
It said the findings laid bare how passenger protection schemes were failing and branded existing dispute resolution “dysfunctional”.
Air passengers experienced a summer of chaos last year as they faced a range of issues, including widespread delays, cancellations and long waits for luggage.
A spokesman Wizz Air said it has settled more than 400 county court judgments since December and said the “unprecedented level of disruption due to the pandemic” meant that it had fallen short of expectations for some customers.
“Regrettably there are outstanding cases that we are working to resolve as quickly as possible,” she said, adding the process of receiving information from courts was complicated and time consuming.
“We are taking this matter extremely seriously. Customers can contact us directly using our website or app to provide information about an outstanding judgement.”
Wizz Air was named the worst airline for short-haul flights in a survey ranking providers in a separate Which? in February.
The claims figures, obtained from county courts, are subject to a delay as they are only marked as “satisfied” when court records are updated. EasyJet said it had cleared all claims against it highlighted in the investigation, saying it currently had no outstanding claims. Ryanair did not respond to a request for comment.
Rocio Concha, policy director at Which?, said that the current system means “the odds are stacked against passengers and airlines feel empowered to routinely ignore their legal obligations”.
She said that the Civil Aviation Authority, the airline watchdog, should consider reviewing the licences of the worst offenders.
“To avoid a repeat of this mess in future, the Government must also prioritise reforms that put passengers first, which means giving the regulator powers and resources to require information from airlines as to their compliance with the law and to directly fine rogue operators that do not comply,” she added.