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Sunwing passengers say airline kept them 'in the dark' over 18-hour delays

Last Updated Apr 17, 2018 at 6:12 pm EST

What was supposed to be a trip to a tropical paradise ended up spiraling into a hellish episode for angry Sunwing passengers, who accuse the airline of keeping them in the dark during a weary day and night of delays at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

The airline admits that several flights have been impacted, including Sunwing Flight 436, which was originally scheduled to depart for Punta Cana at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday.

More than 12 hours later, the flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the next morning.

But it’s what happened in between that has enraged many travellers.

Jana Jeffery blamed a lack of communication for the mounting frustration among those who were booked on the flight.

“We have not been told anything,” she told CityNews. “There’s been one delay after another. We’ve been moved from one gate to the next gate and it is disgraceful. We’ve got moms with kids, there was a 90-year-old gentleman in a wheelchair … it’s just utterly disgusting.”

Chandra and his wife Prakash were among those travelling with young children.

“They kept the passengers in the dark and didn’t share any information, and the flight passenger agent, he just turned his back … to all our questions,” Chandra said.

His exhausted wife called it “the worst day of my life.”

“I’m in no mood to go on a vacation now,” she vented. “(My children) have not eaten, they have not slept.”

Passengers say Sunwing offered them vouchers to take a limousine home, but by the time they received them it wasn’t a feasible option for some.

Full refunds were also offered to those who decided not to proceed with their vacations.

John, who was travelling with his wife, accepted the refund, saying they no longer feel comfortable flying with Sunwing.

“We opted for the refund,” he said. “We just don’t want to honour customer service like that with our business.”

John also claimed the inclement weather wasn’t the main issue. He said he was told that Sunwing had inadequate staffing levels.

“At around 4:10 p.m. several of us had been kind of demanding some answers from one of the Sunwing employees and he kept telling us that there was no crew here,” he explained. “He said, ‘There’s no flight crew.’ I said, ‘How could there not be a flight crew for a scheduled flight that was supposed to have left several hours ago?’

“If this was purely just a weather situation, who could fault anybody for that? That’s not what the issue is here.”

In a statement to CityNews, Sunwing admitted weather and staffing issues merged to create a perfect storm that led to the delays.

“Regrettably we have experienced significant flight delays due to the extreme weather event across Ontario this weekend,” the airline said. “The ongoing weather conditions impacted airport operations and have been compounded by staffing issues on the part of Swissport, our baggage handling contractor.

“Several flights were postponed until the next morning which led to departure times 18 hours beyond the originally scheduled times.”

Frustrations peaked when passengers on a delayed flight refused to get off a shuttle bus that was supposed to return them to the airport. Peel police confirm they were called to keep the peace, but no charges were laid and no one was escorted from the property.

Some took to social media to express their disgust with the situation.

Passengers on Sunwing flight WG302 to Santa Clara, Cuba, ended up stuck on the tarmac for several hours.

“After a 90-minute delay in the queue for de-icing, the aircraft pulled into the in-flight terminal for refueling. There was no option to deplane passengers in this area,” Sunwing said.

“The aircraft went on to experience a rolling delay for the departure queue but was not able to secure a gate to deplane either. Our management team escalated the matter with Swissport and the Airport Authority. The flight crew provided regular updates to our customers and complimentary beverage service during this period.

“Unfortunately we were not able to secure permission to land past curfew in Cuba and the flight was re-scheduled to this morning. It departed at 7:30 a.m.”

“We are extremely apologetic for the inconvenience of the delay. Taxi and meal vouchers were provided as well as compensation in accordance with our Passenger Care Commitment.”