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Wizz Air Scam – Being Cheated By The World’s Worst Airline

I was charged $180 to check in.

ATHENS, Greece- The airline waited until the very last moment to open check-in. At approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to departure their service agents filed in behind the counters. I took a gamble on flying Wizz Air — a Hungarian budget airline that’s known for one thing: their unconventional and shockingly brazen ways to extort money out of passengers.

I watched as the girl in line in front of me was handed a little slip from the check-in agent and then pointed over to the row of airline ticket offices that lined the rear of the departures hall. I overheard her being told that she would need to pay an airport check-in fee.

I was called up to the adjacent counter.

“Do you have your boarding passes?” the thin blond woman asked.

“No. That is why I’m here at check-in.”

“That is a problem. I see that you are a Priority customer but that you also said that you would check-in online.”

I paid like twice the amount of money to fly “Priority” to limit the possibility of having some kind of “problem” that would inhibit me from getting on the plane. But it was clear that this preventative measure was about to backfire.

The check-in attendant then broke out the same little slip of paper that the girl in front of me had received and wrote my name on it.

“You need to go there and pay the check-in fee and then come back here to get your boarding passes.”

“How much is this going to cost?”

“It’s 35 euro each.”

I was rattled. 35 euro X 4 = 140 euro.

$180.

Whatever explanation that I was about to hear, $180 is far too much money for an airline to charge a family just to check in to the flight that they already purchased tickets for. $180 was over 50% of the total booking cost — even with the additional “Priority” fees added in.

This was especially true because even if I had printed out the “online check-in” confirmation I still would have needed to stand in line to, apparently, be checked-in a second time — as the printed boarding pass did not permit passengers to go straight to the gate, as it does with other airlines. So, basically, the only additional service that I would require for not checking in online would have been the physical printing of the boarding passes — which perhaps would have cost the airline somewhere in the ballpark of what? Ten to fifteen cents?

I began protesting the fee.

“Everybody else here knew that they had to check-in online except for you,” the woman behind the counter tried to reason.

“What about the girl in front of me? She was given the same slip of paper and told that she had to pay.”

“Everybody except you and her.”

I looked to the counter to my left. Another guy was being given the 35-euro check-in slip.

“What about him?”

The attendant didn’t respond.

I continued arguing my case.

A couple was next in line at the counter next to me. They too were given the slip.

“What about them!?!”

They were nailing everybody for the additional fee. If I was the only idiot here I would of had to suck it up and admit that I made some kind of error, but as passenger after passenger had apparently committed the same oversight there was clearly something not right about this. This was something systematic — either a massive error on the part of the airline or a trap that was intentionally set up to extract a little more money out of a relatively large number of passengers.

I’ve been traveling for 19 years and have taken hundreds of flights on budget airlines all over the world. I’m aware of how they operate — especially in Europe, where regulation on them appears to be non-existant. So with all of this experience how did I manage to get caught like this?

It’s simple, really. The airline provided no information or instructions on how to check-in online. There was no email informing me that online check-in was open, there was no directions on how to check in online in the fine print of my itinerary, there was not anything on the webpages when I purchased the tickets that told me how to actually perform an online check-in.

“Can you explain to me how I could have checked-in online?” I asked the girl behind the counter.

“You just use the Wizz Air app.”

“There was nothing that said I needed the Wizz Air app to check in to this flight when I bought the ticket.”

“Then there was something about it in your confirmation email.”

I handed over my phone with the confirmation email open and asked her to point out where the online check-in link was, as yet another passenger at the counter next to me got the slip.

“If all of these people weren’t able to check in online then there seems to be something wrong with how your airline is communicating this message.”

She scrolled the confirmation email up and down and admitted that she found nothing about checking in on it. I showed her all of the emails that I had received from Wizz Air. There wasn’t a single one that said anything about online check-in.

All of my emails from Wizz Air. Notice that none of them are about online check-in.

These are the instructions on the Wizz Air website for online check-in:

“You will receive an email with a link to online check-in. Click it and follow the instructions provided. You will be then asked to complete the personal details of all the passengers flying Wizz Air with you.”

This email with the check-in link was never sent. It seems as if it was really not possible to check in to this flight without the app.

“It’s the company policy. There is nothing that I can do about it.”

It was pointless to argue that most airlines now have kiosks where passengers can print out their boarding passes and baggage tags themselves for free … or that passengers can just walk up to the check-in counter and hand over their identification without needing anything else … or that paper print-outs are an archaic hold over from another area of air travel, as this type of modernity and convenience would more than likely have cut into Wizz’s profit margin.

In all, at least 17 passengers out of the 60 or so that were on my flight got nailed for the extra 35 euro fee. People were angry. The check-in counters were awash in arguments. The people in line behind this continuous battleground were either filled with rage because they had to wait for so long, filled with apprehension that they were going to miss their flight, or filled with trepidation because they knew that they would be next to receive the dreaded slip.

Is this the experience that Wizz Air wants its passengers to have?

Apparently.

Wizz Air is bad. Real bad. A simple review of their reputation online turns up pages entitled ScamAbusive, fraudulent airline, Wizz Air Baggage Check ScamWizzAir, you don’t do business like that! 🙁, and even an entire website dedicated to sharing all the ways that Wizz Air sucks.

European budget airlines are an interesting breed. They act as if they are churn and burn businesses — they try to take as much money as they can for today as if they don’t expect to be around tomorrow. They don’t seem very interested in building a clientele, in keeping customers loyal, or providing an enjoyable flying experience. While the North American and Asian budget airlines can sometimes be slightly annoying to fly with, they don’t explicitly try to rip you off and are more often than not the best value.

Wizz Air doesn’t seem to get that air passengers have choices and that our final decisions are often based on experience: what happened the last time I flew with them? What have I heard other people say? Are they that airline I read that negative blog post about?

You have to kind of laugh at this scenario. You have these companies who presumably spend large amounts of money in advertising to get prospective passengers to feel good about their brand and what they offer and then these guys on the business end who completely sabotage these efforts by trying to scam a little extra money out of their customers. Now, when I see those billboards for Wizz showing happy, partying air passengers I’m not going to be able to hold back a scoff: those are the bastards who cheated me.

Each time Wizz scams a passenger they are essentially saying, “we never want you to fly our airline every again” and they often get what they apparently wish for.

We have to think for a moment about who really loses the most here. Sure, I’m out $180, but I’m a frequent flier who very regularly takes flights in Europe — where Wizz Air operates. Oftentimes, when I fly I’m buying full price fares for four passengers and I have three check-in bags. I’m a cash cow for airlines. If I wasn’t scammed out of that $180 I would probably happily fly with Wizz again and again and again. But now that’s simply not going to happen.

“The only thing that we can do is not fly their shitty airline ever again,” a fellow scammed passenger said as we waited in line together to pay the fee.

When I returned to the check-in counter I asked the lady working there if it was like this every night. She shyly looked away and nodded her head yes.

Angry passengers refusing to step away from the check-in counters.

Some of the passengers who were extorted 35 euro for not checking in online when it wasn’t possible without the app. Swissport airlines handled the transactions for a 5 euro per passenger fee because Wizz doesn’t have representation at this airport.

The pile of extortion slips.

Doing the deed. You actually had to pay Swissport airlines the fee because Wizz doesn’t have representation at this airport. They pocket a 5 euro per passenger.

140 euro to check in.

Filed under: Air Travel, Greece, Travel Diary

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3413 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech Republic

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  • LUBOMIR TCHERVENKOV August 29, 2018, 10:06 pm

    We were nailed today 70 Euro in exactly the same scam. Nowhere, even in the small print does Wizzair inform their clients that they must check in online. We will try to contest this charge with the Australian fair trade commission. Too bad I read your article AFTER the incident. A girl in front of us in the queue had to pay triple that amount! It is simply outrageous!

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    • Wade Shepard August 30, 2018, 1:22 am

      It’s insane. They make a massive amount of their revenue from passenger penalties. Scamming is their business. More about it here: https://www.businessinsider.com/cheap-flights-not-cheap-with-fees-2018-8. Europeans seem incredibly weak about such things and they don’t have the laws to protect them. If that happened in the USA or China on my flight there would have been riots. If you need any help just let me know.

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      • Stefan Gospodinov September 11, 2018, 11:15 pm

        Hi Wade. So I have a very good review for you, fresh from this week. I am a seasoned wizzair flyer and I thought that I had gotten used to their hidden fees and tricks. I am fully aware that you need to check in online in advance, and print their boarding passes to avoid extortionate fees for example. Also you need to be really mindful of their 1 boarding bag policy and dimensions. I have flown with them about 20-25 times over the past 4-5 years and have never been overcharged and they do offer possibly the lowest fares on some routes. However, not even I expected what happened yesterday. I was booking a RT ticket from Sofia,Bulgaria to London Luton (think 50 miles north of London) for my father. I selected the flights, entered the passenger info (in the case Entcho Gospodinov), and even opted for priority boarding. I passed all of these stages, negating their additional offers, such as car rentals, travel insurance, seat selection etc. Prior to being routed to the payment page, the website asked for a login and registration (most airlines let you continue to your purchase as a guest, without going through the hassle of a registration). However, having used the airline often over the past 5 years (I no longer do as I have moved to Lima, Peru), I thought, how convenient that I have my old login. I will just use that. BIG MISTAKE. I logged in, and the site rerouted me to the payment page where I proceeded to paying the RT tickets using one of my fathers credit cards (as he was the passenger and I was just doing him a favor booking the ticket). The tickets were the same as I had selected, the price as well but low and behold I received a confirmation on your booking STEFAN GOSPODINOV. In other words, by prompting me to log in, the system automatically changed my father’s details that I had input earlier, but without warning me, directly routed me to the payment page with the same flights and same prices. Now here is the catch. I immediately saw this and called them. They politely said they understood, but that they can not do anything about this and that I would need to pay 45euros per flight for the name page. In other words 90 EUROS, when the entire RT flight price was roughly 240 Euros. All of this is INTENTIONAL. I am pretty used to European budget airline tricks but this goes beyond anything I have seen. I will pay the 90 euros as otherwise my father will lose his flights, however I have already started appeal with the European Aviation Commission board of appeals. My recommendation is that all customers who intend to use wizzair triple check their ticket details prior to processing the payment of their tickets, as if you ever happen to hit the back button, or use a login, all of your previously entered information will be amended and the website will not warn you. This is all done intentionally to mislead customers and ultimately make them pay additional fees whenever they can get away with it.

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        • Wade Shepard September 12, 2018, 2:54 am

          I agree with you that this is intentional. This is really how this airline makes their money. Maybe they are smart and know what they are doing??? Maybe they know that we are really so dumb that we will keep selecting them because their fares appear to be the cheapest like stupid little mice baited into the trap for the cheese. More seriously though, what they are doing should be illegal — and in other countries it would be. For some reason that I don’t understand, Europe seems to be lax on these airlines. It would seem to be that it should be the opposite, given all of the other consumer protections that the EU provides.

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  • Paul Eastabrook September 6, 2018, 12:00 am

    Why is this company still in existence? I was subjected to a similar scam by them in July 2009. There was no reference at the time of booking, not afterwards, of purchasing baggage to go into the hold. I scrutinised all paperwork before leaving, and decided to double check at Luton Airport immediately prior to departure, so that I could take last minute action if necessary. At the airport I was told that everything was in order and that I had guaranteed hold luggage and there was nothing further to pay. The return leg of the flight from Prague, however, was very different. EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the return flight with luggage (in excess of 200 passengers) had to pay additionally for hold luggage at the airport. The airport cashier did not accept credit nor bank cards, allegedly because of a machine fault and non-payment was not an option. I proved that nothing was payable from my paperwork as no option was available to buy hold luggage, but the airline staff just shrugged. I complained to the online booking company once I’d returned, but was merely referred to Wizz Air whose customer services merely responded that its terms and conditions stated (14.1.1) “We will charge a handling fee for each piece of Checked Baggage”, even though nobody that I spoke to had booked their flight through the airline itself, so had no sight of these terms and conditions. I suggested that the airline tells its own staff this, since those at Luton Airport certainly weren’t aware of them. Yet, here we are NINE YEARS LATER, and Wizz Air is still scamming its paying customers with impunity.

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    • Wade Shepard September 12, 2018, 2:57 am

      That’s very true. They’ve been scamming people for over a decade and they are still going strong. It’s scary to think that they may have figured something out …

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  • Velissaris October 21, 2018, 1:20 pm

    I couldn’t agree more!!!
    The most hateful experience. Ever. After travelling for well over 20 years.
    I protested the fee of 35 euros I was FORCED TO PAY if I wanted to fly. They told me I should have read the terms and conditions. I told them I did. On the emails and on the website. I kept protesting in loud voice. Then they called security. Then I payed – as if I had another option- and when I kept protesting while leaving for the gate, they went on to cancel my flight saying I’m a problematic passenger. So they rob me and I’m supposed to be happy. Bastards. Scammers. It makes me sick.

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    • Wade Shepard October 22, 2018, 9:31 am

      They are the worst. No, really, they are the worst. This isn’t subjective — you can look up how much of their revenue is made up by tricking, cheating, and scamming people. They formed a business model on this alone. No joke. Avoid them at all cost.

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  • jen November 14, 2018, 7:24 pm

    Yes, me too, flying from Vienna to Bari. I had actually tried several times to check in online, and via the app but a) online check in was open for about 48 hours and i was away on a retreat with no phone and b0 the app crashed and forgot my password… about 3 times i had to password reset. I feel like this is somehow against some law or trading standards or something. It seems ridiculous that this is allowed to happen over and over again. At least Ryan air has the decency to remind you by email and text to check in online to avoid fees. What can we do to stop this happening to others? any ideas?

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    • Wade Shepard November 15, 2018, 7:07 am

      If this was the USA I believe there would be consumer protection agencies that wouldn’t allow this to happen, but this is Europe and people seem more comfortable with being powerless and more willing to accept being scammed. It was interesting, some other passengers who were scammed along with me got upset with me for protesting it rather than at the airline. There seems to be a different mentality about these things. I say the only thing we can do is not fly them and to tell everyone we know to do the same … However, they know that with the lowest “price” in flight searches means an endless source of business … and passengers will keep flying them even though what they ultimately pay in unexpected illegitimate fees brings the price up to just as much, if not more, than a real airline.

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