Wizz Air says sorry and pays up after overnight delay in Jordan – but denies Brexit was to blame

Exclusive: Flight to Luton postponed by almost a day after problems getting repair signed off

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Friday 10 May 2024 18:06 BST
Homeward bound: Wizz Air plane at Luton airport
Homeward bound: Wizz Air plane at Luton airport (Simon Calder)

Wizz Air passengers who arrived back in the UK from Jordan almost 24 hours late claim a technical delay was compounded by post-Brexit red tape.

The airline rejects the assertion but says it will pay delay compensation.

Flight W9 5304 from Amman on 5 May was due to depart from the capital at 3.45pm local time and arrive at Luton airport at 7.45pm.

On the previous flight the Airbus A321 had suffered a burst tyre, which had been repaired.

But as passenger Nick Smith describes, the schedule soon unravelled.

“We boarded as normal and took our seats, but then waited on the tarmac for far longer than usual.

“After around 40 minutes the pilot announced they were still waiting on authorisation to fly – due to the fact a UK-based technician or engineer needs to sign off the approval for the plane to depart. But there is no one available to do so at this time. He explained that it needs to go via Dubai then back to us.

“Two more hours passed with passengers in their seats while the plane waited by the terminal. My partner was chatting to staff and was told of a ‘post-Brexit issue’ of needing a UK-based engineer’s approval. They said this had never happened to them before – in the past they have been able to seek approval from any EU-based engineer.”

Because of the delay, the pilot then announced the aircraft would have to fly via Budapest, the home of Wizz Air, to change crew – who would otherwise to exceed their legal working hours.

But three hours after the scheduled departure time, passengers were told the plane would have to stay overnight in Amman.

The process of finding hotels was complicated by the need to go back through immigration to get exit stamps voided.

Finally, at 9.30pm, a scrum of around 200 people queued for buses to the main airport hotel, where some queued for over an hour to be assigned rooms.

Under UK air passengers’ rights rules, the stranded travellers were entitled to an evening meal – but had problems getting food. “It had been six hours at this point,” Mr Smith said. “Hotel staff directed us towards a cafe which only had three people working and not enough to deal with a sudden influx of guests. We had to use our own money – no vouchers or anything like that was given to passengers. And many people did not have any local currency left due to the fact they had not budgeted to spend an extra night in Jordan.

“Only breakfast was offered the following day,” said Mr Smith. “The plane then departed an hour late, bound for Luton.”

On the subject of post-Brexit engineering credentials, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, says: “A maintenance organisation approved by an EASA Member State or EASA cannot perform any maintenance on UK-registered aircraft.”

But a Wizz Air spokesperson rejected the suggestion that Brexit had played a part in the delay.

They said: “Due to a technical issue, we unfortunately had to reschedule the flight in question to the following day. All passengers were informed of the change and provided with overnight accommodation.”

Wizz Air will pay £350 per person in flight delay compensation, as specified by UK air passengers’ rights rules.

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