A planeload of Mexico-bound passengers is demanding answers from Sunwing after more than 24 hours of flight delays out of the Edmonton International Airport.
The Sunwing flight from Edmonton to Cancun was originally scheduled to take off at 9 a.m. Wednesday. After a number of delays, passengers say the flight was eventually cancelled and they were sent home.
“They did provide $20 food vouchers and then taxi vouchers to get back home and back to the airport. As well, if we wanted to stay in a hotel they would have covered that,” said Herc Magnus, who is scheduled on the flight with his wife and four-year-old son.
Travellers said they were then told their flight would take off at 9 a.m. Thursday, only to show up at the airport to find out it was once again delayed.
“We were told there’s no problems, you’re going to be flying out this time on time,” Magnus said Thursday from YEG. “And within an hour they had another five-hour delay.
“The hard part for us is just delay after delay after delay. And while they’re treating us OK here at the airport, I want to know what’s going to happen with the length of my trip. Is it going to be extended? Am I going to be compensated? And that information is hard to find right now.
“Even leaving now, we’re not going to get there until late at night because we still have to travel down another hour to get to our hotel destination. So yesterday’s gone, today’s gone and we don’t know if they’re going to extend the trip or not or if we’re just going to come back home and have a shorter stay in Mexico.”
Cindy Bodner is from Edson, Alta., and made the drive to YEG early Wednesday through the snow and ice.
“It’s not a case that we can just go home and come back when these delays (happen).”
Magnus said he was told the Wednesday delays were due to software issues and Thursday’s delays were due to a lack of a flight crew. But other passengers say it’s been tough getting a straight answer.
“Every time we go to that little window, the people are very nice, but they have a different story every time. Yesterday it was technical issues. Today they tell us that yesterday was weather. Well, all the other planes flew yesterday,” Bodner said.
“Today they said that their flight crew was sick.”
Fellow Cancun-bound passenger Will Bondy said it’s been a frustrating experience.
“There’s been no consistency in anything that they’ve been telling us thus far,” he said. “Everything sounds so shifty. For a company of that size, they should be able to have something in order to keep us updated with real information. I honestly think they’re making it up on the fly.
“The experience hasn’t been that great.”
Global News reached out to Sunwing for more information on the delays and the passengers’ claims of the lack of communication.
The airline replied with a statement saying it sympathized with its customers and understands their disappointment.
“We are doing everything we can to keep them up to date, comfortable and fed with provided meal vouchers. Since recovering the ability to dispatch our flight plans, our teams on the ground at Edmonton International Airport are working tirelessly on securing additional planes for all affected passengers and resuming regular flight schedules as soon as possible,” the statement said.
“Sunwing has employed an all hands on deck approach at all airports affected by this outage, including Edmonton International Airport, to ensure customers can return to their planned travels as quickly as possible.”
On Twitter on Wednesday, the airline also said it was “experiencing a system outage with our third party provider affecting select flight plans. Your flight may experience some delays as this issue impacts multiple carriers in North America.”
The airline directed travellers to send questions to its Sunwing Cares website.
In an update on social media Thursday morning, Sunwing said it recovered the ability to dispatch flight plans and operations were beginning to normalize. However, the airline said customers can still expect delays as it works on recovery flights and resuming regular flight schedules.
“It’s a lot of delays and not a lot of answers,” Magnus said. “So it’s hard. We have a kid — a four-year-old kid — and he’s been really great with all this because he doesn’t truly understand. But it’s just heartbreaking to have him entertained for this long and just sitting in an airport. There’s nothing to do and he wants to go to Mexico.
“That’s the bummer for us. There’s worse problems in the world, but it’s hard when it’s your kid.”
On top of that, Magnus said this is the last trip the family was planning to take for a while because his wife is pregnant.
“We really wanted to go. It’s been four years for us since we’ve gone on our last vacation and this is our oldest child’s first vacation. So for us, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on there and it’ll be very disappointing if it either doesn’t work out or it turns into a really negative experience.”
Magnus believes there should be a better system in place for getting timely information from Sunwing, including if or how he will be compensated by the airline for the delays.
“We have to open a claim once we get to Mexico and that’s not the kind of thing we want to be doing when we go on a vacation. We want to be vacationing, not doing paperwork,” he said.
“We’ve been treated good in the airport. The only thing is, it’s been hard to get information that feels like it’s accurate and it’s definitely hard to get that information about compensation, which right now is the biggest point on my mind and probably a lot of people’s minds here.”
Passengers on the flight have created a Facebook group so they can keep in contact with each other about what type of compensation, if any, others might be getting from Sunwing.