Air passengers may be more likely to get payouts if their flights are delayed after a landmark ruling against budget airline Wizz Air.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) made it clear that it will take enforcement action against companies that fail meet passenger obligations.
The unprecedented intervention means that thousands of passengers could be entitled to compensation.
The CAA demanded that Wizz Air pay back holidaymakers whose claims over cancelled flights were wrongly dismissed.
In April, it emerged that Wizz Air was the worst major airline for delays from UK airports for the second year in a row.
Air passengers may be more likely to get payouts if their flights are delayed after a landmark ruling against budget airline Wizz Air
The tough stance comes after investigations found several occasions where passengers were not being awarded compensation when they should have been.
The aviation regulator also concluded that Wizz Air failed to find alternative flights for passengers if there were cancellations, leaving them completely helpless.
How can YOU lodge a claim?
How do you know if you are owed money?
Passengers who have flown with Wizz Air in the last six years may be entitled to compensation if their claim was initially rejected.
Which claims does this relate to?
The compensation claims cover cancelled or delayed flights, replacement flight costs, transfers when new flights were from a different airport and care or assistance costs for things such as hotels after delays.
What if your flight was on or after March 18, 2022?
Passengers on flights on or after March 18 last year can simply hang tight. Claims in this period will be reopened and no action is required. The airline will contact you.
What if your flight was before March 18, 2022?
Passengers who made claims before March last year can contact Wizz Air to have their case reviewed. This covers flights ‘no more than six years ago’ – i.e any time from July 27, 2017.
How do you actually reopen a claim?
Passengers wanting to have claims reviewed should reply to their previous email exchange with Wizz Air to make it as clear as possible. If you can’t find or access it, you can call the airline.
Wizz Air says: ‘Customers should try and provide as much information as possible, including the booking number, case number, flight date and route and the names of the passengers.’
Is compensation guaranteed?
The short answer is no. Wizz Air has been forced to review claims but this does not guarantee compensation. Passengers will only receive money if claims were incorrectly dismissed.
Will I receive compensation for reorganised transport?
If your flight was cancelled, you can book onto the next Wizz Air flight free of charge. But if no flights are available, passengers can book through a different airline, or other appropriate transport, and expense the costs.
Will I receive compensation for hotels?
If your reorganised flight is the day after you were due to take off, passengers should be entitled to accommodation and transport for free.
If they fail to do that, Wizz pledges to ‘refund the costs of meal, hotel accommodation and the transport between the airport and place of accommodation.’
Passengers who had claims wrongly rejected across the past 15 months for flights arriving or leaving the UK will have their cases looked at again. It’s understood some 15,000 people could have claims reviewed.
Those who feel they were unfairly treated for claims before March 18 2022 can also request for their case to be reviewed, going back as far as six years.
Paul Smith, joint-interim chief executive at the CAA, 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.’
Action was taken by the CAA following widespread anger from passengers over getting compensated by the airline.
But Wizz Air came under more heat when the CAA found several county court judgments against Wizz Air in the last nine months.
The Government has got behind the landmark ruling, with aviation minister Baroness Vere warning other ‘rogue operators’ should understand the severity of the decision.
She said: ‘I hope today sends a clear signal to operators that the UK Civil Aviation Authority is watching and will take action to protect passengers.’
When Wizz Air were announced as the worst airline for delays earlier this year, Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, called on the Government to ‘give the CAA effective powers to clamp down on poor airline behaviour’, including the ability to hand out hefty fines.
Claims that can be reviewed include those made for replacement flight costs, transfers when new flights were via different airports, and care and assistance which covers things such as hotel costs incurred after delays.
The CAA is now working with Wizz Air, which has agreed to change its policies.
The aviation authority will be keeping an eye on the airline’s movements and if it finds failures are continuing, it has the option of taking legal action.
Wizz Air’s UK managing director, Marion Geoffroy, said: ‘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.
‘As a result, we were unable to meet our own high standards of service.
Wizz Air’s UK managing director Marion Geoffroy (pictured) said they have made significant steps to make our operation more robust and customer-centric
‘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.
‘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.’
Wizz Air said its flight reliability was ‘well above the industry average’ in the first half of 2023.