Although Wizz Air has a good reputation in Central and Eastern Europe for its low fares and reliability, the airline is struggling in the UK with unreliable operations, sudden route cancellations and problems paying out passenger claims.
Wizz Air: Reliable or not?
The Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air is by far the largest airline in Central and Eastern Europe.
Wizz Air, which at the time of writing has a fleet of 178 planes, has however been expanding massively out of other markets as well in recent years.
Wizz Air has set up new bases at airports such as London Luton, London Gatwick, Rome Fiumicino, Vienna and even in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Although Wizz Air’s operations out of their Central or Eastern European airport bases are generally smooth, the budget airline is having major reliability issues in the United Kingdom.
Wizz Air UK
Since Wizz Air opened its UK subsidiary in 2017, the airline has struggled to make it as successful as their operations out of Central and Eastern Europe.
Hungarian online media even wrote that Wizz Air is “in trouble” as “several popular flights could be cancelled”.
Some Wizz Air flights from London Gatwick and Luton to popular holiday destinations such as Malaga have suddenly been removed from the airline’s booking system and are now showing as “sold out” on all future dates.
This usually is a precursor of these routes being scrapped completely by the airline.
The same counts for Wizz Air flights from London airports to places like Reykjavik, Bari, Funchal, Palma de Mallorca, Porto and Tenerife, all routes which will cease to exist in the coming months.
The upcoming route cancellations won’t be the first of Wizz Air in the UK as the Hungarian low-cost airline has previously cancelled routes almost as fast as they open new ones.
In January, Wizz Air suddenly announced that the airline would cease all its flights from Cardiff.
Wizz Air also withdrew from Doncaster Sheffield Airport, which ended up being the nail in the coffin for the South Yorkshire airport which has since closed down for passenger traffic.
Wizz Air has also dropped plans to set up a base at London Southend Airport.
Perhaps more worryingly for the Hungarian low-cost airline, Wizz Air is also under increased scrutiny in the UK for its woeful customer service.
The sheer number of cancellations has led to a high number of passenger claims for refunds, EC/261 compensation and other incurred costs.
According to British media reports, Wizz Air has failed to pay in 401 cases where a UK court has ruled against the airline.
Unsurprisingly, the difficulty passengers face to get their money back from Wizz Air has not contributed to the airline’s reputation in the UK.
Even the UK Civil Aviation Authority has chimed in and expressed “significant concerns” over the high numbers of complaints from Wizz Air passengers and delays in processing claims.
Given all of this it is no wonder that Wizz Air has a reputation in the UK for being unreliable.
One of the main reasons why Wizz Air’s flight operations are so unreliable in the UK has to do with its presence on the local market.
While low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair are firmly established in the UK and have been running operations out of British airports for decades, this is not the case with Wizz Air.
Although the airline has been trying to get a firm foothold on the UK low-cost market since 2017, it has struggled reaching the same brand recognition and reputation as easyJet and Ryanair.
Wizz Air is quick to open new routes from UK airports, but when flight bookings and load factors are disappointing the airline is equally fast to cancel them.
Moreover, Wizz Air has also been shifting capacity between different hubs across its network.
Wizz Air is one of Europe’s fastest growing airlines although its ambitious plans to expand in different markets are hit by capacity constraints.
Wizz Air has several hundred new planes on order and until they are all delivered the airline needs to choose which new routes and hubs to prioritise.
Because of this, Wizz Air has always been quick to transfer planes between its different bases so the company can utilise them where they make the most profit.
My own Wizz Air experiences
Although Wizz Air is facing problems in the UK, that doesn’t mean that the airline is best to be avoided.
There is a remarkable difference in reliability between flights operated out of Wizz Air’s Central and Eastern European hubs and those from the UK.
With the exception of Vienna (another relatively new hub airport where Wizz Air is yet to firmly establish itself on the local market) the airline generally has a good reputation for its reliability in the markets where it is more firmly established.
In Central and Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Wizz Air has been reliably operating flights for decades and has a strong market position.
Wizz Air wouldn’t have been able to achieve that if their operations from Central and Eastern Europe were as unreliable as those in the UK.
Indeed, I have flown with Wizz Air 74 times in my life and can’t remember a single flight being cancelled or significantly delayed.
Wizz Air UK or Wizz Air Hungary
If you are thinking of flying Wizz Air from the UK you shouldn’t necessarily fear sudden cancellations or big delays.
Some of the Wizz Air flights from UK airports are not operated by the airline’s UK subsidiary but by Wizz Air Hungary, which is much more reliable.
These are usually the flights from the UK to airports in Central and Eastern Europe as these routes are cheaper to operate with crews based in those countries than with UK-based crews.
Almost all of these routes have been operated reliably by Wizz Air for many years.
You can see whether your flight is operated by Wizz Air UK or Wizz Air Hungary by looking at the flight number or flight schedule.
For example, the Wizz Air flight between London Gatwick and Faro is clearly operated by a UK-based crew as the plane makes an immediate turnaround in Portugal.
On the 8th of February, this flight is scheduled to depart from Gatwick at 6.35am and arrives in Faro at 9.45am, flying back from the Algarve’s main airport at 10.30am and landing again in London at 1.15pm.
However, the flight between London Gatwick and Budapest is clearly operated by a Hungarian crew based in Budapest.
On the 8th of February, this flight departs from Budapest at 7.10pm and lands at Gatwick at 8.55pm, while the return flight is scheduled to depart at 9.35pm and arrives in Hungary at 00.55am.
Another way to check whether your flight is operated by Wizz Air UK or Wizz Air Hungary is by looking at the flight number, as Wizz Air UK flights have the IATA airline code W9 while Wizz Air Hungary flights have W6.
The London Gatwick to Faro flight we mentioned earlier has the flight number W9 5731 while the London to Budapest flight has W6 2222 as flight number.
It’s the Wizz Air UK (W9) flights that have been disproportionally hit by sudden cancellations over the last months – not the ones being operated by Wizz Air Hungary (W6).
Wizz Air has faced some bad press in recent months for their unreliable flight operations out of UK airports and their unwillingness to process passenger claims.
In the coming months, newly started Wizz Air routes from London Gatwick and London Luton to destinations such as Malaga, Porto, Tenerife and Bari will end.
Although the airline has been reliably operating flights out of Central and Eastern European airports for many years, its UK operations are not running nearly as smooth.
It’s interesting to see that while Wizz Air has a reputation for low fares and general reliability in Eastern Europe, this is not the case in the UK where the airline is known to be unreliable.
As Wizz Air tries to compete in the UK market against long-established low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, it is regularly shifting around capacity and starting new routes.
However, when these new routes turns out to be unprofitable, the airline is equally quick to cancel them.
It will be interesting to see how Wizz Air’s UK ventures will develop in the coming years and whether the airline will manage to shake off it’s unreliable reputation among Brits.
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