Georgian Passengers Stranded in Milan Reveal Big Wizz Air Fail

Exclusive Interview

Last week, Georgians headed en masse to Florence, Italy, to watch the Georgian rugby team play Italy- friends, work colleagues and families, of all ages. Social media came alive after the match with the news that 25 Georgians expecting to fly home on a Wizz Air flight to Kutaisi had been left stranded at Milan airport. Some of those passengers now wish to sue the airline. We spoke to one of them, Natia Amiridze, Producer of ‘Welcome to Georgia- The Musical,’ to find out more.

“We were a group of nine friends who went to Florence to support the Georgian rugby team. The game was on November 10. We planned to fly back on November 12, but they wouldn’t let us on the plane and left us stranded at the airport without information or assistance. More than 25 other people were left in a situation like ours: families, friends, work colleagues, all travelling for leisure or work.”

Tell us what happened.

We got to the Milan Malpensa airport two hours before the flight, some of us by bus, others by train. We all met up at the airport. The queue was huge and there were just two Wizz Air employees at the registration desk. We all had online boarding passes, so we just had to check our luggage in. The process was super slow, the employees were talking on the phone all the time. Then they ran out of boarding pass paper, so they stopped the check-in process while one of them went to the office to get the paper, but it took 20 minutes. Once we’d checked in our luggage, we went to the gate through security and passport control. None of us spent any time in the duty-free shops: we were in a rush. When we arrived at the gate, we were met with total chaos. Two women, airport employees, told us that they had to close the gate, speaking in Italian. There were around 30 people at the gate asking what to do. Some of our friends got on the flight, then the Italian staff asked if there were any infants with us and when we said no, they closed the gate, telling us that our luggage would be taken off the plane. They were angry about the situation and asked us to complain directly to Wizz Air because it was, as they said, “a very common situation with this airline.” No other explanation, nothing. Then we were told that our luggage was being removed from the aircraft and we had to re-enter Italy.

So, you were essentially left stranded?

Yes. After getting our luggage back, we were left in the departure lounge looking for someone who could help us get new tickets or just to answer our questions about what had happened. But it appeared Wizz Air has neither an office nor a contact person at Milan airport. We tried to reach the company on the phone, but no-one picked up. We asked the airport administration if we could get a “denied boarding paper” so that we had proof, but this paper has to be issued by the airline. We heard several versions of what had happened from airport staff:

1. A new luggage regulation at Wizz Air is prolonging the check-in process. But instead of getting more employees on the desk, they still had just two, making it impossible for them to manage everything in time.

2. Overbooking.

What inconvenience did this cause you?

We got no response from Wizz Air, which I find a totally inhumane attitude towards so many people. No meal or water vouchers were offered, no accommodation was offered, no guidance was given about what the next steps should be or about possible flights. Most of us had to buy new tickets for the next flight. Each ticket cost us around 400 Euros. But the ones who couldn’t afford it went into Milan. I heard some got home only a few days ago because they had to buy cheaper tickets.

We spent more than 12 hours at the partly-closed airport with no contact persons. We tried to contact Wizz Air on the morning of our new flight, but still silence. We were late for work, some of us had left cars at Kutaisi airport, my husband and I had the Welcome to Georgia - The Musical show on Tuesday with 132 guests, that might have been cancelled because of us missing it....

How has Wizz Air handled the issue?

Horribly, in a totally inhumane way. They work for people, but they have no people talking to people. And no assistance in a crisis, which is very insulting. I’m happy we have a low-cost airline in Georgia, but this doesn’t mean that they can treat us like animals. Why is it so difficult to show responsibility and respect by at least responding to us?

What next?

We have the contact details of the 30 people who were left stranded at Milan airport waiting for an official response from the company. But this never happened. We saw several articles in Georgian media initiated by a PR agency that works for Wizz Air in Georgia. The response is stupid: they claim we got lost at the airport or refused to pay for our luggage, which is insane as we had all checked our luggage in long before the flight was due (and we have proof of this). And we were definitely not lost. So, this makes us even angrier, and when we heard this had also happened to others, we became more motivated to bring this case to a conclusion. Now we’re getting ready to sue the company for compensation.

What action have you taken so far?

We contacted some “Air Help” companies and lawyers, tried to get a boarding denial paper from the airport; basically, collecting proof of what we’d all been through (videos, photos, interviews, numbers, etc.). Now we’re getting ready to sue Wizz Air. We’ve talked to several Georgian broadcasters which are ready to cover the story.

If Wizz Air continues to lie to passengers and not take responsibility for what happened, together with legal procedures, we will have to start a media campaign to cover the stories of other people who have suffered at the hands of this company. Many of them have already reached out to us and said they are ready to talk about their experiences. We hope the company will take responsibility and change its attitude.

Comments from other passengers:

Iveri Chelidze: “Me and my friend were at the airport at 15:45. We were standing in line for a very long time. Wizz Air staff was on the phone several times trying to stop the registration procedure… We had to rent an apartment in Milan for two more days, we flew back home to Kutaisi with Wizz Air, but had to buy tickets and we were not able to contact the company. When we checked in on that day [November 14], there were five employees manning the Wizz Air check-in desks, so it seems they changed their procedures after we all got stranded.”

Sofi Todadze: “My father and I had to stay in Milan for two extra days. We flew to Georgia with Wizz Air, but we had to buy tickets on our own. There were eight other people with us who were stuck. None of them heard anything from the company.”

Paata Beltadze: “My son and I were at the airport four hours before the flight. The line was huge. At one point, they ran out of boarding pass paper, so they couldn’t print the passes. We were waiting for someone to bring this paper to the desk and asking for more staff to be brought to the registration desk, but they were saying it was all ‘fine.’”

By Amy Jones & Katie Ruth Davies

15 November 2018 17:08