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Investigation launched against Wizz Air over ‘possible breaches of consumer protection laws’

22 Aug 2022 3 minute read
Wizz Air. Photo by Oskar Ferm, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Hungary’s government has ordered an investigation of domestic low-cost carrier Wizz Air over what it calls possible breaches of consumer protection laws.

It is the second such investigation it has launched against an airline since June.

The probe, ordered by Hungary’s Ministry of Justice, comes after the ministry said it received an increase in complaints against the Budapest-based airline over its failure to provide information and assistance to customers whose flights are delayed or cancelled, according to Hungary’s state news agency MTI.

Other complaints included Wizz Air failing to provide accommodation and rebooking for affected passengers, failure to respond to consumer complaints within 30 days and operating a paid customer service line, which violates Hungarian law and consumer rights, the ministry said in a statement.

Last month the operator announced plans to axe flights to nine destinations from Cardiff Airport.

Wizz Air said that it will stop flying to nine destinations from Wales this winter – Alicante, Corfu, Heraklion, Faro, Larnaca, Lanzarote, Palma de Mallorca, Sharm el-Sheikh and Tenerife, because the routes were no longer “commercially viable” to fly over winter despite being popular over the summer.

Windfall tax

The new probe is the second investigation against an airline launched by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government since June, when it announced it would impose windfall taxes on industries from banking to insurance to airlines that have enjoyed “extra profits” arising from soaring demand after the pandemic — a claim some companies have contested.

Earlier this month, Hungary accused budget carrier Ryanair of consumer protection violations and fined it more than 750,000 euros (£635,720) after the company raised ticket prices to cope with the new tax, which Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has called “highway robbery” and “idiotic”.

The government hopes to raise 815 billion forints (£1.7 billion) from the tax policy to see the country through a period of soaring inflation and energy prices, and budget shortfalls from pre-election handouts earlier this year in which Mr Orban won a fourth consecutive term.

In a statement, Hungary’s Ministry of Justice said the aim of the procedure is to “detect, stop and sanction any possible illegal behaviour, since all businesses must comply with the law”.

Wizz Air set up a new base at Cardiff Airport in December 2020, creating 40 new jobs, with the aim of increasing the airport’s yearly seat capacity by 350,000.

However, it reported growing losses of £381 million in the first quarter of this year, which it said was down to the effect of fuel costs and recent airport disruption.

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