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.
Grievances over compensation
The UK CAA has been in communication with Wizz Air for some time following numerous complaints from passengers whose rights were allegedly not met when their flights were canceled or delayed.
Passengers were particularly frustrated with the airline’s perceived failure to provide alternative flights and assistance to reach their intended destinations after cancellations.
As a result of these grievances, there has been a notable increase in County Court Judgements (CCJs) against Wizz Air over the past nine months. This indicates that a substantial number of passengers resorted to legal action to seek the compensation they believed they were owed.
Enforcement action and policy changes
To address the situation, the UK CAA has issued specific instructions to Wizz Air, urging the airline to make necessary changes to its policies and procedures. The main focus of these changes is to ensure consistent compliance with re-routing and care obligations towards passengers affected by flight disruptions.
In response, Wizz Air has actively engaged with the regulator and committed to introducing amendments to its policies, procedures, and passenger communications.
The airline has also pledged to review and reconsider claims for replacement flight costs, transfers via different airports, and care and assistance (such as hotel costs) incurred due to flight disruptions.
Ensuring passenger compensation
One significant outcome of this enforcement action is the assurance that passengers who previously had their claims incorrectly rejected will now receive the compensation they are legally entitled to.
This will apply to claims for flights scheduled to depart from or arrive at a UK airport on or after 18 March 2022.
Importantly, passengers do not need to take any action themselves to ensure that their claims are reviewed. The CAA will handle the process, guaranteeing that eligible passengers receive the compensation they deserve.
Additionally, passengers whose flights were scheduled to depart from or arrive at a UK airport before 18 March 2022 can also request a review of their claims with the airline. However, such requests must be made within six years of the flight date.
Wizz Air commitments
As part of the enforcement action, Wizz Air has agreed to sign undertakings that formalize their commitments to the regulator. These undertakings serve as a binding agreement that the airline will abide by the revised policies and procedures.
Wizz Air has already launched its own commitments to reduce cancellations and create a better experience for customers. These include going above and beyond to operate its flights on time and aiming to resolve all customer claims within 45 days.
The airline will also make 120% WIZZ credit refunds within 24 hours and process 100% ticket refunds within 7 working days.
Significant improvements have already been made. Wizz Air completed 99.57% of its flights in the first half of 2023, which is well above the industry average. The airline has also paid more than 70% of County Court Judgements (CCJs) present in online records. Another 10% are in progress and the remaining 20% are being identified and processed.
“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,” explains Marion Geoffroy, Managing Director at Wizz Air UK.
“We have learned from this experience and have taken significant steps to make our operation more robust and customer-centric.”
Geoffroy added, “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 £90 million to prepare for increased air traffic. We are confident that we have taken the right steps to better support passengers this summer season.”
The UK regulator is determined to ensure that passengers receive what they are owed and that Wizz Air’s policies are significantly improved to provide a better customer experience during disruptions.
Paul Smith, Joint-Interim Chief Executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, emphasized that airlines must meet their obligations to passengers and that the enforcement action sends a clear message in this regard.
“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 said.
The UK CAA’s intervention signals that it will not hesitate to take action if airlines fail to consistently meet these expectations, with Mr Smith concluding:
“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”
The UK CAA will closely monitor Wizz Air’s compliance with these new policies over the next few months. Additionally, the airline will be required to provide information to the CAA about its review of previously closed expenses claims.