Sunwing ordered to compensate 16,255 passengers after delays during 2018 ice storm

The transportation watchdog said the carrier’s control centre ‘took a relatively hands-off approach’

A Sunwing Boeing 737-800 passenger plane prepares to land at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, August 2, 2017. The Canadian Transportation Agency has ordered Sunwing Airlines Inc. to compensate more than 16,000 passengers and pay a $694,500 fine due to widespread service problems sparked by an ice storm that hit Toronto one year ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The Canadian Transportation Agency has ordered Sunwing Airlines Inc. to compensate more than 16,000 passengers and pay a $694,500 fine due to widespread service problems sparked by an ice storm that hit Toronto one year ago.

The transportation watchdog said Monday that blizzards and high winds triggered problems on 96 Sunwing flights between April 14 and April 18, 2018, but that the low-cost carrier’s control centre “took a relatively hands-off approach” to managing the disruption “as the situation on the ground deteriorated and the backlog of flights grew.”

READ MORE: American Airlines extends Max-caused cancellations to June 5

The Toronto-based airline failed in many cases to provide meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, refund or cancellation options, or food and drinks during tarmac delays that, in one case, lasted more than six hours, the agency said.

On 15 flights, Sunwing also breached rules that require it to give passengers the opportunity to disembark after 90 minutes on the tarmac. Other flights were plagued with “systemic communication breakdowns” between the airline and its baggage agent, Swissport, and Sunwing failed to provide “consistent” updates on their flight status, the regulator said.

In contrast to other carriers, Sunwing did not cancel any of its flights in or out of Toronto and Montreal, a choice the agency blamed in part on the company’s “business model,” which focuses mainly on vacation destinations. Toronto’s Pearson airport saw about 600 flight cancellations in 48 hours.

“To my knowledge there was no such drama for other airlines,” said passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs. “It was rather nasty.”

Lukacs welcomed the agency’s findings, but said he was “disappointed by the slap-on-the-wrist penalty,” questioning why the airline was fined $2,500 per flight instead of per passenger for each type of violation.

Sunwing has apologized to the 16,255 affected passengers and said it has taken steps to improve its ground-handling, scheduling and communication during disruptions.

“While Sunwing’s charter business model differs from scheduled airline carriers in that we delay flights instead of cancelling them so that we can fulfil our obligation to pick up customers in destination, we have taken measures to lessen the customer impact by proactively delaying flights when disruptions are anticipated so that people can rest in the comfort of their home or hotel instead of the airport,” the company said in an email.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Purple Light Nights committee of Chilliwack is rolling out exciting new events starting Oct. 1

Key message is still that intimate partner violence has no place in our community

Agassiz administrator to teach ‘psychological first aid’ course

ACE principal Sandy Balascak will be sharing how to help others deal with a mental health crisis

Shandhar Hut of Chilliwack wins bragging rights for best Indian cuisine in B.C.

The popular family restaurant saw an outpouring of testimonials and voting from adoring clientele

Vokes range in Chilliwack River Valley reopens to military marksmenship training

The rifle range shut down last summer due to safety concerns about richochets, according to DND

Armed ERT officers respond to firearm report near Chilliwack middle school Friday

School put in hold-and-secure in the afternoon as incident was resolved

VIDEO: “How dare you?” Greta Thunberg addresses UN climate summit

‘We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and yet all you can talk about is money.’

Pettersson has 4 points as Canucks dump Ottawa 6-4

Vancouver wins NHL pre-season tilt in Abbotsford

British man returns to Yukon to tipple his own toe in long-running tradition

So-called sourtoe cocktail is a shot of whisky with a mummified human toe in it

Poll suggests Canadians concerned about fake news, but struggle to spot it

56 per cent of respondents admitted to reading or sharing inaccurate news

Province announces $3.5 million in funding for community solutions to overdose crisis

Grants up to $50,000 will be available for municipalities working with a regional health authority

Conservatives’ plan to ease mortgage stress-test rules may raise debt and prices

Andrew Scheer vows to loosen rules around stress test and remove it altogether for mortgage renewals

B.C. mom urges patience after rude comments while out with toddlers

People asked to be better and to help each other

U.S. wrestler says viral speeding ticket video was staged

WWE wrestler Lacey Evans says she does not condone disrespecting law enforcement officers

‘Own a piece of history’: Beachcombers location Molly’s Reach up for sale

‘This is one of B.C.’s most photographed buildings’

Most Read