Doncaster Sheffield Airport: Wizz Air refuses to comment over closure threat

Budget airline Wizz Air has refused to comment following the announcement that Doncaster Sheffield Airport has been earmarked for closure by bosses.

By Darren Burke
Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 3:50 pm

The airline’s decision to pull out of Doncaster last month has widely been seen as key factor for the strategic review into the airport’s future, which has been met with shock and disappointment from travellers, politicians and travel experts, with campaigning already under way to keep DSA open.

A bitter war of words erupted between Wizz and airport chiefs last month, with DSA bosses saying the airline had ‘sacrificed’ Doncaster to prop up its operations at other UK airports.

Asked for a response to the news, a spokesman said: “Wizz Air will not be commenting on this occasion.”

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Wizz Air has refused to comment on the closure threat to Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

It was in June that the budget airline took customers and airport bosses by surprise when it announced it was permanently cancelling flights to a number of holiday hotspots out of Doncaster.

Angry passengers were left stranded and holiday plans thrown into chaos with Wizz blaming the decision on DSA being ‘unable to guarantee the terms of its commercial agreement’ with the firm.

But DSA chiefs said they only found out about Wizz’s decision to ditch Doncaster after the firm released a statement to the media and in a fresh and fierce attack, airport bosses blasted back at Wizz, accusing the airline of failing to reciprocate on its commitments to the airport.

In a scathing attack, a spokesperson for Doncaster Sheffield Airport said: “Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) is disappointed that Wizz Air has, without prior notice, permanently cancelled 13 summer and winter routes, effective from 10 June 2022.

"It is particularly distressing for our passengers that so many flights and bookings have been axed at such short notice.

"Although the Wizz Air announcement undoubtedly has substantial impact on DSA, our priority remains on minimising the impact of the Wizz Air decision on our passengers, wherever possible.

“Airlines, under pressure to stabilise their post-Covid operations, are consolidating resources at fewer airports to improve resilience in their strained networks. Wizz Air acknowledged this as a significant factor in their decision when they stated that “this decision stabilises our operations at other UK bases to help minimise disruption and delay as much as possible”.

"Unfortunately, it appears that DSA services have been sacrificed in order to support routes at other UK airports.

“Whilst the extraordinary circumstances currently faced by the industry are recognised, DSA has been a long-term supporter and sponsor of Wizz Air in the UK market, and for its part, has fulfilled in whole its obligations within the Commercial Agreement, including investing heavily in financial incentives and terminal upgrade works in support of a multi-year deal signed only last year.”

“It is regrettable that performance by Wizz of its own commitments has not been reciprocated.”

Just last October, DSA and Wizz claimed a the deal would bring more flights, destinations and hundreds of jobs to the region.

But relations between the airport and airline soured spectacularly – with both blaming the other over the cancellations of scores of flights.

In a statement issued earlier this year Wizz said: “It is with deep regret that we have had to take the difficult but responsible decision to cancel a large number of Wizz Air flights to/from Doncaster Sheffield Airport from 10 June 2022.

"Passengers with bookings affected by this will be contacted via email with advice on all their options, which include: rebooking, a full refund, or 120% of the original fare in airline credit.

“This decision is unfortunately a result of Doncaster Sheffield Airport indicating that it is unable to guarantee the terms of its commercial agreement with Wizz Air.

"Our priority is to minimise the overall disruption to our UK customers and protect the employment of our crew.

"As such, Doncaster Sheffield Airport based pilots and cabin crew have today received notification of this news, and have been offered the opportunity to fly out of another base in the UK.

“Given the current challenging operational environment in the travel industry, in particular with staff shortages within air traffic control and at airports, this decision also stabilises our operations at other UK bases to help minimise disruption and delay as much as possible.

“Despite unprecedented difficulties in the travel industry over the past two years, Wizz Air remains committed to long-term growth in the UK, creating hundreds of direct jobs while also stimulating the tourism and hospitality industries. We sincerely apologise to our customers in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire for the inconvenience this has caused.”

Passengers say they were left in the dark and facing disruption to their holiday plans while bosses at Doncaster-Sheffield Airport were blindsided by the announcement from Wizz, saying the first they knew of it was when the airline released details of its decision to the media amid the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Wizz however says that DSA bosses were informed ahead of the announcement.

Neither Wizz or DSA has clarified what the terms of the commercial agreement are.

Asked to further clarify its statement, a spokesman for Wizz said the firm had been dealing with “multiple enquiries” and added: “As a result there is not much more we can add to the statement already circulated beyond the following responses from Wizz Air.”