The airline flying above the law...

Tony Hetherington



dmg media (UK)

Wealth & Personal Finance

J.F. writes: I am sending you a copy of a county court claim against Wizz Air UK Limited, which was sent to its registered office at Luton Airport. It ignored the claim and did not reply to the court, so judgment was awarded against the airline for £1,542.68. However, the company has ignored this too, saying it has no presence in the UK. FOR an airline that feels able to turn its back on a court judgment by saying it has no presence in this country, Wizz Air UK does a pretty poor job of concealing itself. The UK company was set up in 2017 as an offshoot of the original Wizz Air in Hungary. The ultimate parent company is Wizz Air Holdings, registered in Jersey, whose shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange. The group has more than 170 Airbus aircraft, 17 of which belong to Wizz Air UK. This airline with no presence, even gets UK publicity. In August, figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority showed it was the worst airline of all for flight departure delays. It also grabbed headlines in June when it encouraged its employees to work even when fatigued, so Wizz could avoid cancelling flights. It was a cancellation that led you to sue Wizz. You and a friend were booked to fly from Gatwick to Faro in Portugal. Wizz cancelled your flight with just three hours’ notice, while you were already on your way to the airport. You were not offered seats on any alternative flight so you rebooked with a different airline, paying all over again. After you won, Wizz failed to pay up so you put the matter in the hands of the court’s bailiffs. They failed to collect a penny, telling you that, ‘Wizz Air has no staff, offices, or assets in London Luton Airport.’ I thought perhaps the bailiffs had been chasing the wrong company, even though the airline’s recent letter to you is headed with the name of Wizz Air UK Limited. Then I did some digging and the results are a scandal. I checked to see whether anyone else had sued Wizz Air UK, and had won but not been paid. Working back, I found a judgment for £1,009 on October 5, and then two on October 3, one for £1,280 and another for £913. Then more, and more, and more until I was staring at a list covering 111 pages. In all, I found 456 county court judgments against Wizz Air UK. It had paid 55 of these, leaving 401 unsatisfied. I asked the company to explain its failure to pay you, and its apparent refusal to obey hundreds of other court orders. Should passengers be concerned? Is Wizz just ignoring orders to pay up, or should customers worry that it simply might not have the cash? Just as bad, is this the airline’s deliberate policy? The group’s recent accounts showed it lost about £336million last year, and had borrowings totalling almost £4billion. The questions are mounting up, but Wizz Air UK failed to answer a single one. It confirmed it received my questions. It said it would supply answers. But it didn’t. I wonder how long the Civil Aviation Authority will be happy to let it fly in and out of UK airports, operating as a British business, while ignoring British courts? Passengers may start voting with their feet first.