‘There’s no information whatsoever’: Sunwing travel woes weigh on Manitobans
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For some Manitoba holiday travellers, escaping to — and from — paradise has become a logistical nightmare.
Hundreds of stranded Sunwing Airlines passengers have taken their concerns to social media after being left in the dark about travel itineraries.
Yasamin Asbaghi and her husband were scheduled to jet home to Winnipeg from the Dominican Republic on Christmas Day. Instead, they remain stranded at their Punta Cana resort.
On Tuesday morning, yet another rescheduled flight was cancelled.
“We were waiting in the lobby since 9:30 (a.m.) because we were supposed to leave at 9:45,” Asbaghi told the Free Press. “The bus never showed up.”
Aside from notifications of her first flight cancellation, Asbaghi said there has been virtually no communication from the Toronto-based Sunwing. Even airline staff appears to be in the dark, she said.
“There’s no information whatsoever. You don’t know if it’s cancelled or not even.”
What was meant to be a relaxing vacation has culminated into three days of stress and uncertainty. Her husband is scheduled to go back to work. Her medication bottle is nearly empty and Asbaghi worries her health will soon suffer.
“What’s going on? Why is this happening?” Asbaghi said. “People keep coming from Canada but no one is leaving.”
Not everyone is getting out of Canada either.
It’s not the first time Phyllis Rita So has been the victim of lousy travelling luck. In 2017, So and her husband were rescued by emergency airplanes when Hurricane Irma struck Cuba.
This year, the pair booked a last-minute Sunwing vacation package to Cuba in hopes of reversing their misfortune. This time, they didn’t even make it past customs.
After two days of delays, So headed to the airport on the morning of Dec. 26.
“There were around 20 families there,” she said. “Some family members approached (the airline representatives) and asked what was going on. They just told them, ‘Oh, it was cancelled.’”
No formal announcement was made to passengers about the cancellation at the time, So said Tuesday. When she asked why, she was told it was because of staffing shortages.
So understands weather conditions are out of an airline’s control, but believes staffing shortages should’ve been predicted before the holiday rush. “Why would you guys delay the flight for 40 hours and after that just tell me to cancel?”
Meantime, Abby Heathcote landed in Winnipeg on Monday evening after spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in shambles.
While in Cancun, Mexico, on Dec. 23, Heathcote received an email notification from Sunwing stating her flight had been delayed for 24 hours.
“We spent… about 12 hours in the lobby, hoping we would hear something. We didn’t hear anything,” Heathcote said. “We ended up having to pay for a room that night out of pocket, which is about US$500.”
In the following days, more delays and cancellations ensued, until her flight got rebooked Dec. 28. However, on Monday, a representative told them they could leave that day.
“He said to us, ‘You have 20 minutes to get to the airport,’ which is 35 minutes away from my resort, to make a flight at 3:00 p.m.,” Heathcote said.
By a minor miracle, she was able to get on the plane. While she missed having Christmas dinner with her family, Heathcote’s glad to be home.
“I’m just praying for all the other people that are still stuck wherever.”
Sunwing issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, which reads, in part:
“A number of return flights continue to be impacted by delays due to displaced crew and aircraft resulting from the aftermath of severe weather disruptions across Canada. We are working hard to reaccommodate customers in destination by subservicing aircraft, and arranging alternate hotels and transfers for those with overnight delays… We have completed two recovery flights so far this week, have planned another eight recovery flights… Our teams continue to do everything possible to get passengers home. We deeply apologize for delays during the holiday season, and thank our customers for their understanding while we work through the backlog of flights stemming from recent weather disruptions.”