Five days after weather delays triggered trouble for Toronto-based Sunwing Airlines, many passengers still haven’t received their luggage.
Mark Pospisil, a real estate agent in Oakville, Ont., returned to Toronto on Sunday from Jamaica aboard a Sunwing flight with his family and is still waiting for three checked bags.
“We waited three hours,” at the airport luggage carousel with others, Pospisil said. Passengers went home when they were told the bags would not arrive until later. The bags never did show up.
“Our team and airline partners are working around the clock to sort and deliver bags to passengers impacted by conditions at Pearson Airport over the weekend,” said Pierre Payette, the company’s vice-president of operations for Toronto.
Swissport acknowledged that over the weekend, about 80 staff members did not show up for work.
Severe weather in Toronto on the weekend caused delays for Sunwing and other airlines. However, only Sunwing passengers have experienced multi-day baggage delays.
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) screens passengers and their luggage on a passenger’s return from outside the country.
The agency told Global News in an email on Friday that “all checked luggage from this flight has been inspected and cleared, and is now with the airline.”
Sunwing has apologized for the delays.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Thursday evening, Sunwing Airlines president Mark Williams wrote: “We want to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt apologies to our customers and acknowledge that we need to do better.
“We are working to improve our contingency planning to ensure that short-staffing on the part of a service provider can never put us in this situation again and to tighten up our internal operations, scheduling and communications around extreme weather events,” the post read.
He continues: “We have also invested additional resources to expedite the delivery of baggage which was not distributed in terminal during the ice storm. Given the number of bags in our possession, it will be several more days before all of the bags are returned to their owners.”
Sunwing confirmed to Global News earlier in a written statement that there were “significant baggage handling delays at Toronto Pearson airport over the weekend. Regrettably many passengers were not able to reclaim their luggage before leaving the airport.”
“All bags are now cleared (by Customs) and in our possession and we have been arranging courier service delivery to affected customers since Tuesday. We expect to have completed all deliveries by Monday at the latest,” the company said.
Sunwing says it was offering travel vouchers to affected passengers.
In fact, air travellers are entitled to compensation for lost or delayed baggage. Amounts vary depending on circumstances. A step-by-step guide can be found here.
George Hamilton was returning on Flight 715 on Sunday with his girlfriend, ending a two-week vacation in Aruba. The Sunwing aircraft sat on the ground at Pearson Airport for six hours after what Hamilton described as “one of the scariest flights in my life.”
The Toronto-area frequent flyer still has not received his luggage.
“We’re never flying Sunwing ever again,” Hamilton said, adding that after what many called forced confinement, the Sunwing flight crew remained behind closed doors on the flight deck. They didn’t address passengers, he said.
Prior to their departure from their resort hotel in Aruba, Hamilton said he approached the local Sunwing representative and said he and his girlfriend were prepared to stay behind and pay extra to extend their trip in order to avoid delays or an incident in Toronto. He says the representative agreed, then couldn’t be located.
“She disappeared after saying she’d get back to us,” Hamilton told Global News.
“She looked us in the eye and guaranteed it, then she vanished.”
Sunwing has declined requests for media interviews.
“I don’t think this is acceptable,” said Pospisil.
“Have a better line of communication. Keep people updated. Be honest with people. Honesty would be great.”
Sunwing told Global News it expected that all passengers would have their luggage by next Monday, more than a week late.