A family who had their holiday flights cancelled at the last minute got their money back plus expenses after sending bailiffs to Luton Airport.
Russell Quirk, 55, took action after Wizz Air pulled his family’s scheduled trip just three hours before take-off. They were left out of pocket after being forced to buy new, last-minute flights to Portugal when his original tickets were cancelled just as he was about to leave home.
The dad-of-four was forced to splash out over £2,700 on next day flights, quadruple the original £700 fee, despite booking his original seats four months in advance. He feared his family would miss their much-needed summer holiday back in May 2022 and that he would lose out on roughly £6,000 for hotel and travel costs.
Russell, who was travelling with his three daughters and his wife to Faro, only found out his flights with Wizz Air had been cancelled on an email sent to him three hours before they were set to fly. He was reimbursed two months later for his initial ticket price but demanded the airline pay for the excess costs they had caused him which had mounted to roughly £3,900.
He came up with the figure after totting up the cost of the new flights, a night at the hotel and other expenses were added in and lodged a claim in county court.
“No alternative” but to buy expensive replacement flights
He claims Wizz Airlines ignored his emails and letters and communication from the county court. He then applied for bailiffs who attended the Wizz Air desk at Luton Airport - saying they could take goods including chairs, tables, computers or an even aircraft.
Wizz Air then handed over the £4,500 after additional fees were added. Russell, who owns a property PR agency, said: “I had no alternative. I could either take the best available alternative or lose out on £6,000.
“I booked the flights in January 2022 for the flights on May 30, 2022. They were to Faro in Portugal. We go there a lot, we’ve been there several times.”
Family woke up at 4am to discover flights were cancelled
Russell continued: “We choose an airline on the availability and the price. We locked in what we thought would be our flights.
“Then they cancelled it three hours before we left the house. We got up at 4am, to leave at 4.30am. I checked my emails and low and behold it was a very bland, standard email saying that our flights were cancelled.
“We were all ready, the bags were downstairs and the cabs were called. I don’t know how airlines work, neither do Wizz Air it seems. It’s utterly ridiculous that they couldn’t see the demand.
“The only flight I could find was out from British Airways which cost roughly £2,700, four times as much as the original flight. We flew back easyJet.”
He expected his refund within seven days
He explained: “When I got back the saga started again. The initial tickets were £700 roughly. They have a statuary job under EU law to refund in seven days. We got it about a month later.
“Then there’s the question about EU compensation. If a flight cancels and it’s their fault they have to compensate you. It took another five or six weeks. It was shoddily handled.
“I lost a day in Portugal, the hotel which was roughly £1,000, all the cabs to the airport and the lounges. It was £3,900 in total. At this point in July or August I’ve had the refund and the EU compensation I’m still out of a pocket. I managed to get hold of the managing director through LinkedIn in and she replied.
‘’I sent her an email with my out-of-pocket expenses and she just didn’t bother replying.”
Wizz Air “ignored” court order for refund
Russell, of Shenfield, Essex, took his claim to the county court but Wizz Air ignored the judgement so Russell applied for Bailiff action.
He added: “I lodged a claim in the county court with Wizz Air as the respondent. They incredibly ignored the court. I didn’t know if they thought it would go away. I have now a county court judgement which is not good for business.
‘’I looked and Which said Wizz Airlines had over 1,000 county court judgements against them. The court then serves on Wizz Air where the court says you’ve got to pay and then they ignored it.”
Wizz paid the money after visit from bailiffs
Russell explained: “I thought the only alternative was to send the bailiffs. I filled out a form and paid the fee. I gave them the address of Luton Airport and said off you go. They banged on the door and said to pay the £4,500.
“Their option was to hand over the money or the bailiffs would take it in goods, whether that be chairs, tables, computers or an aircraft. Wizz Air have paid the money, a fortune in the costs, it’s probably cost them a grand in extra costs.
“My message is these big corporate entities that can hide behind being busy, this kind of arrogance and inability to provide customer’s a service, is just go for it. Go through the courts, these companies cannot be allowed to get away with it. The service that Britain is receiving is shoddy and shambolic. Even if you do fly Wizz Air, do expect it to be full of stupidity and incompetence.”
How have Wizz Air reponded?
A spokesperson for Wizz Air told the BBC: “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. Since December, Wizz has paid all CCJs [county court judgements] where it received the judgment, and is continuing to work to settle all other outstanding claims as quickly as possible.”