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Monday 20 March 2023

Angry passenger takes on shoddy airline behaviour - and wins

An angry airline passenger has gone to court and had bailiffs sent to an airport after being let down by a budget carrier.

Russell Quirk sent bailiffs to Luton Airport to confront Wizz Air over money owed to him after his family's flights to Portugal were cancelled at the last minute, the BBC reported.

Quirk said he was left to to find another route to Portugal which cost him £4,500 ($8,170) and after months of waiting for Wizz Air to reimburse him he went to court and ended up sending in the bailiffs.

Wizz Air paid up, apologised and said its performance "fell short of our own aspirations and our customers' expectations".

The company is one of a number of budget airlines facing county court claims against them, consumer magazine Which? has reported.

The way customers have been treated by Wizz Air has been "shocking, shambolic and shoddy", Quirk told the BBC.

He had booked flights from Luton Airport to Faro, in Portugal,  in January last year for a family holiday with his wife and three daughters.

He awoke early on the morning of their flight to find a message from Wizz Air saying it was cancelled.

"There was no explanation, no alternative offered and no apology," he said.

"I had to wake my three daughters and tell them we weren't going on holiday - they were very upset."

With hotels, transfers and an airport lounge already paid for, he said the only viable option was to find another carrier, with which the family flew the following day.

Those flights, together with money lost on a night in hotel rooms and other expenses, cost him £4,500, he said.

On his return he tried to get recompense from Wizz Air, but he said it took almost two months for the cost of his original flights to be returned along with other legal compensation.

But, he said, Wizz Air repeatedly ignored his claim for "consequential losses" - the £4,500 extra he had spent.

He took his case to the county court but said Wizz Air "ignored" the judgement made against the company, so bailiffs were sent in to the Wizz Air desk at Luton Airport.

"Their option was to hand over the money or the bailiffs would take it in goods - it might have been chairs, tables, computers or an aircraft," Quirk said.

He said taking his case to court cost him about £180 in court fees, plus £60 to send in the bailiffs - although additional costs associated with the bailiff visit would have had to be paid by Wizz Air.

"Increasingly businesses are thinking they can treat customers like dirt and I'm determined to eradicate that," Quirk told the BBC.

"My message is, where big companies stonewall you, if you persevere you can get what is owed to you."

A spokesperson for Wizz Air said: "In the summer of 2022, due to unprecedented levels of disruption across Europe and the UK which affected the entire industry, we fell short of our own aspirations and our customers' expectations.

"When things went wrong, we did not react quickly enough to manage the high volume of customer claims that resulted from this disruption. We are sorry about this and we are working to ensure that our customers' experience with Wizz is better this year."

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