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TONY HETHERINGTON: Wizz Air braced for more court orders

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Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

T.M. writes: We read your article last Sunday about Wizz Air UK with interest. We are also suing it. We suffered a five-hour delay at Tenerife airport back in May. 

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 up: A reader won a court order against Wizz Air UK, which the airline failed to pay

Tony Hetherington replies: You contacted me in the wake of last Sunday’s report about a reader winning a court order against Wizz Air UK, which the airline failed to pay. 

The reader sent in bailiffs, who were told the company had no UK assets that could be seized, and when I investigated I found records showing hundreds of court orders against the company. It offered no explanation. Well, last Tuesday the airline swung into action. The reader whose letter we published was suddenly told: ‘We would like to kindly apologise for our belated response and payment. Kindly be advised that Wizz Air will settle the county court case and pay £1,757.’ 

The airline asked for the reader’s bank details so it could pay both the damages and court costs, so let’s hope there are no more delays. Disturbingly for you, though, Wizz Air also emailed you on Tuesday. After the company itself pointed you to the dispute resolution scheme and you won your case, and after you sued it in court and won, its latest email says: ‘Please note that as we cannot offer you an alternative decision for your case, we have to close it.’ 

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

Complaints have flooded in to me since last weekend, but Wizz Air has hit back. 

It told me: ‘The claims made in last week’s article about the number of unsettled county court judgments are inaccurate. 

‘While we regret that there are a number of outstanding claims against our company – and we are working to resolve all of these as quickly as we can – there are nowhere near the numbers being alleged.’ 

Wizz Air – which is Hungarian-controlled – blames the British courts. It explained: ‘Online court records are not up to date and present a misleading picture. 

‘More than a quarter of the claims shown as outstanding have already been satisfied; another 20 per cent unfortunately never reached us for processing.’ 

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

But getting back to basics, why should hundreds of passengers have to take legal action in the first place? The latest crop of fresh complaints include one from customers whose June flight from Vienna back to Gatwick was cancelled while it was taxiing on the departure runway. They are more than £2,000 out of pocket. 

Another told me: ‘There is no complaints department, just a brick wall.’ His flight from Cyprus was cancelled three hours before departure, leaving him stranded. He is claiming £700. And a passenger who was awaiting takeoff from Gatwick was told that everyone had to leave the aircraft due to engine failure, which then delayed the flight for hours.

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

A number of readers were startled that the company told bailiffs it had no assets they could seize as it has no real UK presence. Wizz Air contests this and says it has ‘an investment grade balance sheet’. 

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

On paper, it has 17 UK aircraft, though there are suggestions at least that some are leased and not owned. 

Readers, including some within the airline industry, say bailiffs could seize the aircraft’s fuel or its flight papers, or the onboard safety equipment instead, effectively grounding planes. 

I hope this will never be necessary, but the solution is in Wizz Air’s own hands: reply to complaints promptly; stop being evasive; and above all, respect British courts if you want to fly from British airports. 

High fees for failing fund 

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

In the same year, ReAssure’s charges are £2,212. 

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

Tony Hetherington replies: Although ReAssure provides the policy, it does not choose the investments you put into it. That is a decision for you. 

When you and your family originally invested, you chose the Janus Henderson fund after consulting a financial adviser, who, I believe, has since retired. 

Reassure told me: ‘If the customer feels their choice of fund no longer meets their attitude to investment and/or investment objectives, then we will allow them to switch to another fund free of charge.’ 

Janus Henderson said: ‘Financial markets have been particularly volatile this year, with surging inflation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the resulting sanctions from the West.’ 

A spokesman declined to say anything specifically about your fund, its contents or its management. 

I strongly suggest you find a new adviser with a view to switching to a different fund or liquidating the investment.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

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