‘It was hell’: stranded air passengers outraged by Sunwing

Five days, three hotels and dozens of phone calls later, Jesse Cody finally arrived home on Tuesday in Prince George, British Columbia from Cancun, Mexico, ending his role in the ongoing fiasco. from Sunwing that has left hundreds of people stranded in vacation destinations.

Cody’s original return flight with his wife and two children, aged five and seven, from Cancun to Edmonton had been booked for December 22, but they received a notification from the low-cost airline that their flight had been delayed for a day. He soon was in constant communication with customer representatives from NexusTours, who acted as an intermediary between Sunwing customers and the airline, trying to arrange the return trip.

The family’s flight kept getting delayed and they couldn’t get in touch with any Sunwing customer representatives.

« If you try to call, they instantly hang up, » Cody said.

The reason given for the flight delay was the winter storm, he added, but flights were coming and going at the Edmonton airport.

“We managed to stay at the hotel another night on the 22nd, but from there it was hell,” Cody said. The family was taken to various hotels, some of which had leaky ceilings and windows. Hoping to be back in time for Christmas, the children were devastated when they learned that would not be the case, he said.

Faced with a public relations disaster as its backlog entered its second week on Thursday, Sunwing said it would send dozens of recovery flights this week to bring home passengers stranded in Mexico after winter storms disrupted its operations.

Reached by the Star for comment, Sunwing representatives provided a statement that « we have scheduled 40 recovery flights for this week, of which 24 have already operated or will be fully booked » by the end of Thursday. The airline added that « we continue to work around the clock to overcome the operational challenges caused by the recent severe weather disruptions and to get (passengers) home in the coming days. »

Airline president Len Corrado said in a separate statement that « we deeply apologize for the impact on our customers’ travel plans this holiday season. »

Some of these customers have regrouped. During Cody’s stay at a hotel, he met 25 other Canadians who said they, too, were being stranded by Sunwing. They all created a WhatsApp group, feeding each other airline updates.

Because the airline is also denying passengers any compensation, Cody said he thinks lawsuits « could happen. » A Facebook group, with more than 800 members, has been created to help those affected by the Sunwing cancellations.

Cody’s family managed to catch a flight to Edmonton on December 27, spending the night in a hotel there – the first « real night’s sleep » in days – before heading to British Columbia.

The Sunwing app, which continually showed its flights departing and arriving on time, without acknowledging delays and cancellations, was particularly infuriating, he said.

Michelle Heglin shared her frustration. The flight from Cancún to Calgary with her 12-year-old son on December 22 was also delayed. Like Cody, she dealt with NexusTours and was unable to get in touch with Sunwing – only to find the airline’s app showed flights departing and landing on time.

« The app showed that our flight had landed successfully in Toronto, but we were still stuck in Cancun, » she said.

She finally caught a flight home on December 27. Curiously, the plane was empty – « There were maybe four passengers and three flight attendants on leave, » Heglin said.

At least she’s home. Thursday, Brent Adams is still stuck in Cuba. His flight back to Regina was scheduled for Dec. 27, but he said it was canceled with no new departure time.

At his resort, Adams said, more airline horror stories are coming — families from Toronto arrive without luggage, including an 18-month-old child without clothes or diapers and an elderly man without his meds. the cancer.

Adams’ problem escalated on Thursday: Sunwing announced that due to « extenuating circumstances » it was suspending operations from Saskatoon and Regina entirely until Feb. 3, 2023.

According to Sunwing, since the root cause of the flight delays was last week’s storm, the cancellations and delays are « outside the airlines’ control » under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations and, therefore, no compensation is due to passengers.

When passengers attempt to file a claim to receive compensation for a delay or cancellation, Sunwing’s website states that claims for flights from Dec. 18 cannot be processed at this time due to operational issues.

The airline is offering $450 compensation for lost baggage, but Gabor Lukacs, consumer advocate and founder of Air Passenger Rights, notes it should be closer to $2,300, according to the Montreal Convention, a treaty multilateral agreement which establishes the liability of airlines.

« Sunwing has systematically misled passengers of their rights and circumvented its responsibilities to passengers, » Lukacs said, adding that Sunwing’s actions make all Canadian airlines appear unreliable.

« Sunwing is the subject of public outcry…however, we have also received many complaints about WestJet and Air Canada, » Lukacs said.

To restore some confidence in airlines, Lukacs said issuing and collecting multi-million dollar fines three times in a year from airlines « would probably send a strong enough message to restore confidence. »

“The Canadian airline industry is facing significant challenges and is cutting the tree from under itself. It can contribute to a downward spiral,” he said.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement on Wednesday that the situation at Sunwing was unacceptable and that airlines should keep passengers informed.

For many affected Sunwing passengers, the damage has already been done, with many customers telling the Star they would never fly with the airline again.

Heglin said she had lost a few days of work due to the delay and her son was now « absolutely terrified » to travel with Sunwing again. At the very least, she wants to be compensated for extra expenses such as taxis and food.

Although Heglin acknowledges that the storm disrupted travel, Sunwing’s lack of information was unacceptable: « If their communication was different, my feelings about the situation would be different. »

“I am a business owner and I missed five days of operation. My kids missed Christmas. The way they treated us was madness,” Cody said. « My kids will remember this forever. The negativity and stress overshadows the whole trip. Our sanity is totally in the trash. We will never use Sunwing again.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not share these opinions.

CA Movie

Back to top button