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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jack Simpson

Wizz Air pays out £1.2m to passengers after refund claims were rejected

A Wizz Air aircraft
Wizz Air was named the UK’s worst airline last year by the consumer body Which?. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Thousands of passengers have been awarded a total of £1.2m in compensation from Wizz Air as part of a landmark action against the budget airline after years of complaints by passengers.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) revealed on Wednesday that about 6,000 passengers had received payouts – equivalent to more than £200 each – since it launched the enforcement process in July last year.

The first-of-its-kind action led to the air industry regulator forcing the Hungarian carrier to pay back holidaymakers whose refund claims over cancelled flights had been wrongly rejected.

Paul Smith, the consumer director at the CAA, said the scale of successful claims validated its decision to act, and the outcomes would improve the experience for WizzAir customers in the future.

The enforcement action followed months of complaints by passengers, who reported missed refund payments as well instances of Wizz Air failing to meet other obligations such as finding alternative flights after cancellations.

It meant passengers who felt that they had not been properly recompensed could request reviews of cases stretching back as far as 2016.

The CAA said so far more than 25,000 claims had been re-examined, with just under one in every four being successful. This is well above the 15,000 cases the CAA expected could be reopened when launching the action last summer.

Sample checks were carried out by the aviation watchdog on claims to ensure that passengers were receiving what they were owed. It said these checks gave it reassurances Wizz Air has met its air passenger rights obligations for these claims.

Wizz Air was named the UK’s worst airline last year by the consumer body Which?, and has been frequently criticised over its customer service.

As well as being left stranded when flights were cancelled, passengers complained about being charged fees at the airport by the airline when they had been unable to check in due to technical problems with its website.

Smith said: “Passengers have every right to expect their claims to be resolved quickly, efficiently and in line with the regulations. These outcomes will now provide Wizz Air’s passengers with a better experience.”

A Wizz Air spokesperson said: “We are pleased the Civil Aviation Authority has recognised the significant steps Wizz Air has taken to improve performance for our customers.

“Like all airlines in Europe, we faced unprecedented operating challenges in the summer of 2022 but the improvements we put in place have led to a better customer experience and our performance in 2023 was among the strongest in the industry.

“We are seeing a significant uptick in our customer satisfaction scores and we remain fully committed to continuing to improve our operations in 2024 and beyond.”

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