LUTON -- After snow started to fall in Kyiv Monday afternoon, Wizz Air informed 120 Ukrainian passengers that it couldn't get them from here to Kyiv for another 10 days. Until then, they were to fend for themselves in U.K.'s priciest city, 48 km away.
The cancellation came after a marathon of unexplained delays. Passengers were herded back and forth to three gates. The terminal was evacuated because of a cigarette fire. During one move, passengers were corralled in a waiting area for 40 minutes, without seats or access to toilets. At this point, company representatives announced that the flight was cancelled owing to a lack of crew to man the aircraft.
Passengers were then asked to collect their bags at the far side of the airport. Upon arriving at baggage claim they were met by armed police, and were told that the flight was canceled -- not because of a lack of crew, but instead because of bad weather in Kyiv.
Under EU regulations, passengers are entitled to 600 euros of compensation if an airline fails to provide a crew. Bad weather is considered an "act of God." No compensation is required.
After luggage arrived, over two hours later, passengers -- the vast majority Ukrainian nationals -- were told Wizz Air would only seat them on a flight to Ukraine on Dec. 27.
When passengers asked how they'd support themselves in London and what they should do about expiring visas, airline representatives said Wizz Air would pay for one hotel night and travel expenses, upon the presentation of receipts. They declined to say how and to whom the receipts should be presented.
After heated arguments broke out, police officers clarified that Wizz Air had no financial obligation to the passengers under the circumstances.
As today, two days later, most passengers have booked alternate flights to Kyiv -- through Warsaw or the Baltics -- at their own expense and without help from Wizz Air staff.
Asked today to respond to the situation, Wizz Air forwarded an official policy statement.
Meanwhile, the website Flight Tracker shows that, despite the weather, a Wizz Air aircraft left London at 16:40 on Monday, 2.5 hours after its scheduled departure time. But it left without passengers. The passengers, holding their boarding passes, were inside the terminal. The plane landed 3.5 hours later at Wizz Air’s Zhuliany base to reposition itself for the following day's operations.
Posted Dec. 20, 2017