Please store your judgment in the overhead compartments.
Wizz Air’s general counsel has blamed the post for a giant backlog of unsatisfied County Court Judgments.
Online records state that as at the end of February, 977 unsatisfied CCJs were registered against the budget airline, with a total value in excess of £1.7 million.
The judgments were won against Wizz Air UK Ltd and Wizz Air Hungary Ltd, the two entities through which Wizz Air operates in the UK.
RollOnFriday analysed 395 pages of records which indicated that hundreds of judgments had been outstanding for months and, in many cases, years, with the oldest unsatisfied CCJs dating back to 2018. They ranged in value from under £100 to over £10,000.
Wizz Air's troubling collection began a year after the airline launched in 2017, when an England and Wales-qualified solicitor took the reins as the UK operation’s Managing Director.
Owain Jones, who trained as a pilot after leaving his position as an aviation partner in legacy Denton Wilde Sapte, is now Wizz Air’s Executive Vice President and Group Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, reporting to Hungarian CEO József Váradi.
In an interview in 2021, Jones described how he learned to fly in Cardiff and had intended to become a commercial pilot after obtaining his licence in New Zealand.
“But I got a call from the Wizz recruiting team saying, ‘we’ve got a job going in Geneva, you fancy it?’", he said.
Jones was less effusive when RollOnFriday asked for a comment about all the CCJs over LinkedIn, deleting his profile in response.
Tizz Air: before and after a request for comment.
Wizz Air’s approach to its legal troubles drew criticism from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority in December last year.
Anna Bowles, the CAA’s Head of Consumer Policy & Enforcement, said “the volume of complaints and claims received by ADR in respect of Wizz Air is far higher than those seen for other airlines. This, alongside the delays in processing and paying claims and the large number of County Court Judgments made against Wizz Air, has raised significant concerns for the CAA".
She added, “We have made it clear to Wizz Air that its behaviour is unacceptable and that we expect overdue complaints and claims to be resolved in advance of Christmas”.
According to the registry records, the airline had settled just 166 CCJs as at 24 February.
However, a spokesperson for the CAA told RollOnFriday that “the Civil Aviation Authority understands that the backlogs of claims before Christmas have been cleared and that claims are now being processed more quickly”.
In correspondence with RollOnFriday, Wizz Air general counsel Nora Rabe disputed the figures shown on the register of CCJs.
Rabe said that the number of unsatisfied CCJs “has never been anywhere near as high” as the hundreds listed in the online records, which she said “do not yet reflect all the work that has been done recently to settle CCJs”.
She said Wizz Air had satisfied more than 400 CCJs since December. (An unsatisfied CCJ in favour of a ROF team member's relation was raised with the airline as an example of its flawed processes, and was satisfied within days of Rabe’s response.)
The General Counsel said Wizz Air was also "not aware" of the number of unsatisfied CCJs because “many CCJs had been addressed to the wrong parties" and "therefore never came to the Company's attention”.
Although records indicated that the vast majority of unsatisfied CCJs displayed the correct address for Wizz Air, Rabe maintained that the airline “has only received copies of a small fraction of the CCJs through the post".
She said "the majority have never been received, leading to delays in processing and payment. We are investigating why this is the case and working to ensure this does not happen in future”.
Rabe said “Wizz Air is deeply sorry for the inconvenience and financial difficulty that this oversight will have caused customers. To be absolutely clear, however, there has never been any decision 'not to satisfy CCJs'”.
The airline's handling of hundreds of CCJs has brought it to the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. An SRA spokesperson said, "We are looking in to the information we have before deciding on any next steps".