Gee Wizz!

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Was Wizz Air really a take off airline for Cardiff Airport?

A Hungarian budget airline has been condemned online as a “shambles”, with “abhorrent” practices, and travellers have said they will ‘never’ use it again, but its arrival at Cardiff Airport (CA) was heralded by some in the mainstream Welsh media as ‘good news’, we can reveal.

Other more recent reports added to the controversy about Wizz Air (WA), and different mainstream media articles in recent days have given more alarming news.

You can check in but never leave!

One item in the South Wales Echo (SWE) last week, was headlined: “Passengers wait hours for flight that never left”, and told of how holiday-makers boarded, then disembarked, from a WA service bound for Corfu, TWICE before it was cancelled altogether!

The prominent article stated: “Passengers on a Wizz Air flight from Cardiff to Corfu were left waiting at the airport for hours only for the flight to never take off”.

Last week, came further bad news.

It emerged that WA was suspending flights from Cardiff to NINE popular winter sun resorts including Corfu and Tenerife, until next spring.

The suspensions will start from September 19, with the airline saying the routes are not commercially viable, and in all it will now not offer tickets to Alicante, Corfu, Heraklion, Faro, Larnaca, Lanzarote, Palma de Mallorca, Sharm el-Sheikh or Tenerife.

Was Wizz Air for the ‘bucket and spade brigade’?

Passengers are to be informed by email if they are affected.

Yet the coming to CA of WA, which has been described as a “bucket and spade” outfit, and has featured on Channel Four’s Current Affairs series ‘Dispatches’, was earlier praised glowingly in WalesOnline (WO), which is the internet version of the SWE.

It said at the time, that there was: “Good news for holidaymakers as a budget airline has announced a new permanent base at Cardiff Airport providing flights to destinations across Europe and Egypt. Wizz Air will also create 40 jobs as it brings nine new routes in a much-needed boost for the airport”.

That ‘permanent base’, though, actually only meant ONE aircraft, which catered for those at the cheap end of the market, and (like the SWE), it has now admitted that tourists were abandoned on a holiday island when WA scrapped (as happened at CA), two flights back to Cardiff.

‘This is a different sort of news’

It reported: “WizzAir passengers were left “stranded” on a Greek island for days after the airline cancelled two return fights to Cardiff in the space of a week…”.

Yet the media organisation may have known that the airline had already faced huge numbers of unwelcome headlines in the past.

WA posted an 81 per cent dip in passengers during January last year (more than many airlines) against over 3.1 million in the same month of 2020, while capacity was cut by 73 per cent to 940,410 seats.

WalesOnline said passengers were left ‘stranded’

People on social media have also been sceptical, with one onlooker saying:  “Wizz is a low-cost disruptor airline”, and unions have also questioned its methods.

Eoin Coates was extremely concerned

 

For example, Eoin Coates, the head of aviation at the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), was utterly scathing.

He told AeroTime News (ATN)“Our biggest concern is that the company (WA) has both the money and the time to pick up all domestic routes that are now open in Europe”.

The alarming report about WA in ATN included allegations from a former pilot with the airline, that some of his colleagues had been sacked, as well as other flight crew having their salaries cut by 25 per cent, after letters were sent to them, signed by managers at the company headquarters in Budapest. 

But it seemed that many people were reluctant to take WA to court as they were hoping to get their positions back in the cockpit, after an ‘assessment’.

Meanwhile, more recent disturbing events appear to confirm these worries, along with the fact that they were lured to CA in the first place.

Comments on the airport’s online forum from aggrieved passengers castigate WA.

One said that she: “Will never fly with Wizz air after cancelled flights while at airport… really poor customer service… Cardiff Airport please stop these cowboys from using your Airport”.

Another said ironically: “… Thanks Cardiff for attracting the lowest possible transport for Wales, and dressing it up as new and exciting”.

A further remark was: “We tried to claim compensation but had an immediate response that we weren’t entitled… “.

A different onlooker wrote: “… this airline should not be allowed to exist on many levels and their practices and conditions are abhorrent.. “.

An aviation critic has also told The Eye in the past:  “The reality is that this (the WA service) is just one 200 seater Airbus 321 serving the bucket and spade brigade”.

But the firm appeared upbeat about its prospects, when the flight from CA was revealed.

Managing Director Owain Jones said: “This (move to Cardiff) reflects Wizz Air’s continued commitment to serving the UK market and generating economic growth, as we create local jobs, stimulate the tourism and hospitality industries and deliver on our promise of providing affordable, direct flights to exciting holiday destinations”.

Apart from damning remarks concerning WA, announcements online about the general performance of its “permanent base” (CA – which was bought by the taxpayer for £52 million, when Glasgow Prestwick cost £!) have been highly critical as well.

For instance, a former worker at CA, who said he had been at the airport for 19 years declared that he was sad to see the direction it has now taken.

Andrew Smith said on Facebook (FB) that CA was “Once a thriving airport with many overseas carriers”.

Passengers at Cardiff Airport – it’s not thriving now…

He added:  “Now they have 3 or 4, which are just bucket and spade flights…….sad times”.

Another FB message was sent directly to CA and also highlighted problems there, stating angrily:  “I resent flying from Bristol..”.

There may be resentment now as well, that an airline described publicly as a “shambles”, with passengers saying they will ‘never’ use it again, and appearing in a report about passengers getting on and off a flight, before it was scrapped altogether, had been lauded in parts of the mainstream Welsh media that coming to CA, was Good news for holidaymakers”

 

 

Will the lights go out for Wizz Air and Cardiff Airport?

The memories of our Editor Phil Parry’s extraordinary 38 year award-winning career in journalism and 23 years at the BBC (including stories about major events at troubled institutions) as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in the major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!

Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.