Economy

TONY HEETHERINGTON: Wizz Air gets more court orders

Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s chief investigator. He battles the reader’s corner, reveals the truth that lies behind closed doors, and wins victories for those left out of pocket. Below you can read how to contact him.

TM writes: We read with interest your article on Wizz Air UK from last Sunday. We’re suing too. In May we had a five hour delay at Tenerife airport.

We used the alternative dispute resolution scheme and the airline agreed to pay us €800 (about £690) and asked us for our bank details.

To date nothing has been received so we have taken it to court and have now escalated it to the sheriff’s office.

Pay: A reader won an injunction against Wizz Air UK, which failed to pay the airline

Tony Hetherington replies: You contacted me regarding last Sunday’s report of a reader winning an injunction against Wizz Air UK, which the airline has not paid.

The reader sent bailiffs, who were told that the company had no UK assets that could be seized, and when I investigated, I found documents containing hundreds of court orders against the company. It offered no explanation. Well, last Tuesday the airline sprang into action. The reader whose letter we published was suddenly told, “We would like to apologize for our late response and payment. Please note that Wizz Air will settle the District Court suit and pay £1,757.’

The airline asked for the reader’s bank details so that she could pay both the damages and the court costs, so let’s hope there are no more delays. Disturbingly for you, Wizz Air also sent you an email on Tuesday. After the company itself alerted you to the dispute resolution scheme and you won your case, and after you took it to court and won, the final email reads, “Please note that as we do not alternative decision for your case, we have to close it.’

This makes no sense at all. Wizz Air should shut up and pay.

Complaints have been pouring in since last weekend, but Wizz Air has hit back.

It told me, “The claims made in last week’s article about the number of unresolved district court verdicts are inaccurate.

“While we regret that there are a number of outstanding claims against our company – and we are working to resolve all of them as quickly as possible – there are nowhere near the numbers being claimed.”

Hungary-controlled Wizz Air blames the British courts. It explained: ‘Online court records are not up to date and give a misleading picture.

‘More than a quarter of the outstanding receivables have already been paid; another 20 percent unfortunately never reached us for processing.’

Given that I found over 400 lawsuits against the company, this suggests that the courts themselves failed to register about 100 claims as having been granted, and more than 80 times even failed to tell Wizz Air that it was being sued.

But to get back to basics, why should hundreds of passengers take legal action in the first place? The latest influx of new complaints includes one from customers whose flight from Vienna back to Gatwick was canceled in June while taxiing on the runway. They are over £2,000 out of pocket.

Another told me, “There’s no complaints department, just a brick wall.” His flight from Cyprus was canceled three hours before departure, leaving him stranded. He demands €700. And a passenger waiting at Gatwick for takeoff was told everyone had to evacuate the plane due to engine failure, delaying the flight for hours.

Wizz Air has refused to pay the normal mandatory fee, citing an exemption for ‘extraordinary circumstances’, which mentions things like storms and strikes, but not the failure of Wizz Air’s own jet engines.

A number of readers were shocked when the company told bailiffs that it had no assets to seize because it has no real UK presence. Wizz Air disputes this and claims to have an ‘investment grade’ balance sheet.

But as I write this I have in front of me a letter from the court’s bailiff stating that the airline has ‘no staff, assets or offices at London Luton Airport’ – its registered office.

On paper it has 17 British aircraft, although it is at least suggested that some are leased and not owned.

Readers, including some in the airline industry, say bailiffs can instead seize the plane’s fuel or flight papers, or the safety equipment on board, effectively grounding planes.

I hope this will never be necessary, but the solution is in Wizz Air’s own hands: respond quickly to complaints; stop dodging; and especially respect UK courts if you wish to fly from UK airports.

High costs for failing fund

Mrs. KG writes: I am concerned to see in my ReAssure annual statement that my family’s investment portfolio has fallen from £164,979 to £142,922 in the past year.

In the same year, the cost of ReAssure is £2,212.

The policy is invested in a Janus Henderson Fixed Income fund. Is such a huge drop normal?

Tony Hetherington replies: While ReAssure handles the policy, it doesn’t choose the investments you put into it. That’s a decision for you.

When you and your family originally invested, you chose the Janus Henderson Fund after consulting with a financial advisor, who I believe is now retired.

Reassure told me: ‘If the customer feels that his fund choice no longer matches his investment attitude and/or investment objectives, we will let him switch to another fund free of charge.’

Janus Henderson said: “Financial markets have been particularly volatile this year, with rising inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions from the West.”

A spokesperson declined to comment specifically on your fund, its contents or its management.

I strongly advise you to find a new advisor to switch to another fund or to liquidate the investment.

If you believe you have been the victim of financial misconduct, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Due to the large number of questions, no personal answers can be given. Only send copies of original documents, which unfortunately cannot be returned.

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Jacky

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