Airlines ‘routinely ignore’ compensation rules, with one carrier worst of all
New research has revealed the continuing problems faced by travellers trying to enforce their rights over delayed and cancelled flights.
The last resort for passengers with claims against airlines is to take their cases to the County Court. But the consumer watchdog Which? says that, even when judgments are made in favour of travellers, some airlines are failing to pay up.
It found official records showing County Court Judgements worth more than £4.5 million were outstanding against airlines, including EasyJet, Ryanair, Tui and Wizz Air. Despite flying fewer flights than some of its rivals, Wizz accounted for almost half the total amount with 1,601 “outstanding” CCJs worth almost £2.2 million.
This information comes from the Registry Trust, which maintains the official statutory register of judgments, orders, and fines for England & Wales on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. CCJs stay on the record for six years and are shown as “outstanding” until a company updates the file to confirm it has been paid.
Which? stated: “The register also shows that both EasyJet and Ryanair have high numbers of ‘outstanding’ judgments. EasyJet has 884, amounting to £611,436 and Ryanair has 840 worth £549,892. Tui has fewer, at, 313, but they are worth almost £1.3 million.”
A measure of how hard it can be to extract money from airlines in default of a court judgment was revealed by one case against Wizz. A customer claimed expenses after he was forced to book new flights with another airline when his Wizz flight to Portugal was cancelled. When the airline didn’t respond to the case in the small claims court, he was awarded a judgment by default, but still did not get his money. Eventually court bailiffs visited Wizz at Luton Airport to enforce the order. Wizz paid more than £4,500, which included costs.
The overall situation may have improved since the research was undertaken, as Which? concedes that the register may not be fully up to date. For example, EasyJet said it now has no known unpaid CCJs. But Which? believes that the extent of the problem reveals fundamental flaws with a system which should be helping passengers enforce their rights.
It says that airlines are effectively empowered to ignore their legal obligations because of weak regulation and “a dysfunctional dispute resolution system”.
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.” She called for the CAA to get tough with airlines and for the Government to give it more powers and resources to help passengers uphold their rights.
When Which? asked the airlines to respond to its findings, a spokesperson for Wizz said it was sorry it had fallen short of expectations. It said: “We are taking this matter extremely seriously, doing all we can to fix these issues and settle all outstanding cases as quickly as possible. Customers can contact us directly using our website or app to provide information about an outstanding judgment.”
A Tui spokesperson said: “Whilst the register shows a number of judgments against Tui Airways, this does not mean that all of these amounts are owed. In most cases it is indicative only of the record not having been updated to show payment. Tui Airways would like to assure customers that we are addressing these issues. Our delay claims team is currently working through any outstanding cases with customers directly.”
Ryanair and British Airways declined to comment to either Which? or Telegraph Travel on the report.