Passenger sends debt collectors to London airport for flight refund

·2-min read
Mr Quirke described Wizz Air’s treatment as ‘shocking, shambolic and shoddy’ (Getty Images)
Mr Quirke described Wizz Air’s treatment as ‘shocking, shambolic and shoddy’ (Getty Images)

A passenger sent bailiffs to Luton Airport to collect money owed to him by Wizz Air after his family’s flights were cancelled at the last minute.

Russell Quirk said he was left “out of pocket” after a family holiday to Portugal was cancelled on the day of departure by the Hungarian carrier in 2022.

He had booked flights from Luton Airport to Faro in January 2022 for May half-term, but awoke early on the morning of the scheduled departure to find a message from the budget airline saying it had been cancelled.

Mr Quirk claimed he had little choice but to find another route to Portugal for himself, his wife and their three daughters; the last-minute flights, losses and expenses totalled £4,500.

Despite being told that the replacement flights would be refunded, Mr Quirk said he was still waiting to be reimbursed seven months later.

Mr Quirk took the case to court, which upheld his complaint and sent debt collectors to the airline’s offices at Luton Airport in December.

The property expert and occasional TalkTV host from Essex described Wizz Air’s treatment of passengers as “shocking, shambolic and shoddy”, in an interview with the BBC.

“I had to wake my three daughters and tell them we weren’t going on holiday – they were very upset,” he said.

“Increasingly businesses are thinking they can treat customers like dirt and I'm determined to eradicate that.

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

A recent report by Which? consumer magazine found that UK passengers have amassed more than £4.5m in court claims against airlines including easyJet, Ryanir, Tui and Wizz Air, with Wizz Air accounting for almost half of these.

Which? has called on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and government to take a tougher stance on airlines who fail to pay passengers money they are owed.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “The scale of court judgments piling up against major airlines is a result of a system where the odds are stacked against passengers and airlines feel empowered to routinely ignore their legal obligations to pay out refunds and compensation.

“The CAA must get tough with airlines and make clear that it will consider using all the powers at its disposal – which may include reviewing the licences of the worst offenders if appropriate.

“To avoid a repeat of this mess in future, the government must also prioritise reforms that put passengers first, which means giving the regulator powers and resources to require information from airlines as to their compliance with the law and to directly fine rogue operators that do not comply.”

The Independent has contacted Wizz Air for comment.