Wizz Air’s Unreliable UK Operations

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.

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A Wizz Air aeroplane at Memmingen Airport in Germany. ©Paliparan

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.

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People waiting in front of a Wizz Air check-in desk ©Paliparan

Prior cancellations

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.

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A Wizz Air Airbus A320 at Bucharest Otopeni Airport (OTP) in Romania. ©Paliparan

Bad reputation

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.

You don’t have to look far to read numerous complaints on review websites and scathing articles in the tabloids about delays and cancellations and atrocious customer service.

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.

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Flying with Wizz Air over the Black Sea. ©Paliparan

Shifting capacity

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.

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Wizz Air is certainly not known as one of the most reliable airlines in the UK. ©Paliparan

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.

It’s therefore unsurprisingly that most of the Wizz Air reviews I wrote on this website have been mostly positive (see for example my experiences flying OTP-KUT, OTP-TRF, TGD-FMM and OTP-CIA).

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A Wizz Air Airbus A321 at Cologne-Bonn Airport in Germany. ©Paliparan

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).

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The cabin of the Wizz Air Airbus A320-200. ©Paliparan


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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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

3 thoughts on “Wizz Air’s Unreliable UK Operations

  • February 7, 2023 at 10:06 am

    Thank you for the article, Koen.

    I was in a similar situation with them last year, in September. My flight has been delayed from LTN to OTP almost 5 hours due to some crew members not being available.

    I have claimed compensation with them, directly on their website, which was confirmed exactly 30 days later, followed by two more months of waiting to be compensated, passing way over the 15 to 20 working days deadline.

    In their message they have apologised and noted that are dealing with a high number of cases that had to be sorted out to, which clearly shows their struggle to this situation.

    Although I tend to feel empathetic towards them, as I have reliably used them for flights to countries such Romania, Poland or Italy… I was not impressed by the way they have handled my case. A huge lack of communication from their side, which honestly felt like a purposely made decision to hold me back. Plus, their means of being contacted in comparison with the competition, is also a controversial one… emails to which they respond after 30 days or premium calls where there is a long waiting time while you’re being charged. easyJet and Ryanair are both present and active on Social Media, like Twitter.

    Overall, following my case, I have avoided them and have chosen Ryanair instead, which served me well but their overall quality is not as good as Wizz Air from my perspective. Therefore, I am reconsidering again to travel with Wizz Air in the near future, and hopefully it will be more stable.

    • Avatar photo
      February 7, 2023 at 11:34 am

      I hope you have more luck flying with them in the future Alex!

      Waiting 3 months for compensation is way too long (on some of my recently delayed/cancelled flights with BA and LOT it was all arranged within 3-4 weeks, to put it into perspective). That said, it could also be much worse with Wizz Air as apparently some people are still waiting for their money even after British courts ruled against Wizz! They can certainly learn from Ryanair, which is nowadays handling refunds and compensations in a quick and efficient manner online.

  • July 23, 2023 at 5:45 pm

    I have flown around 50 time with wizz 2 cancelation and multiple delays I fly out on the early flight and back on the last flight Rome FCO- London Gatwick its always the last flight that is delayed and has been canceled The 1st cancellation was handled quite well but they are refusing to pay compensation as they say bird strike Which I have asked them to prove. 2nd one they handled very badly have offered to pay for my alternate flight which I paid up front to another airline as wizz only offered me a flight for 3 days later. 10 days later still wating and they have still not replied to my compensation claim.


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