June 5, 2023

“Hundreds” of Canadians stranded in Mexico for days after Sunwing cancellations

Hundreds of Canadians are stranded in Cancun, Mexico, not knowing how to get home after their Sunwing flight was canceled last week.

Passengers say they have been shuffled from hotel to hotel after sleeping on airport floors and lobbies, saying there is no end in sight to their ordeal.

“We just want to go home,” said Tess Friedenberger, who was scheduled to fly home to Calgary Dec. 22 on a Sunwing flight from Mexico. “I never expected us to be in this situation, I never thought it was even possible. We are writing to the consulate, we are writing to hire lawyers, we are ready to do anything.”

Friedenberger said in an interview that Sunwing’s information has been insufficient and inaccurate, noting that many of his fellow passengers are angry and beginning to feel desperate. Video seen by The Canadian Press, captured by a Sunwing passenger, shows dozens of people at Cancun airport shouting “Liars!” and “Get us home!”

“There’s no help and no one we can really rely on at this point,” he said. “We pretty much play ourselves.”

Friedenberger left Calgary on Dec. 15 for a Sunwing vacation to Cancun. He was supposed to return home a week later, but he was notified that his flight was delayed. Over the next few days, announcements kept coming, which pushed the flight to a week later.

Eventually, he and his companion were told their flight would leave on Christmas Eve, he said. But when the time came, he said, a Sunwing representative said the flight didn’t exist.

They haven’t heard anything since when they might be able to go home, he said.

In the meantime, Sunwing has shuffled him and his fellow passengers between hotels in Cancun and paid for taxis to get there himself, he said. Another hotel they arrived at didn’t know they were coming and didn’t have rooms reserved for them, he said. People slept in the hotel lobby until they were finally given a bed.

“There were elderly people who needed medication,” he said. “There were children in the lobby who were screaming, crying and trying to sleep.”

When Sunwing directed them to another location on Christmas Eve, some were so suspicious that they ended up sleeping in the lobby again until they got proof that a room was waiting for them, he added.

Sunwing said in tweets on December 22, 23 and 24 that it had canceled flights due to severe winter weather across the country. Friedenberger said he understands that bad weather can wreak havoc, noting, “We’re Canadians.”

“It’s a lack of communication and not knowing what’s going on and bouncing around,” he explained. “If you know we won’t get home until December 28th, that’s fine. Tell us and put us in a room at the same hotel.”

Friedenberger said he had met other Canadians who had been stranded in Cancun on other Sunwing flights, and he said they were coping with the same strangers.

“There’s a lot more than just us,” he said. “I’d say hundreds at this point.”

Cristina Oppedisano says her Sunwing flight home from Cancun to Toronto on Dec. 21 was also canceled. Like Friedenberger, Oppedisano said in an interview that he and his family don’t know when they’ll be able to go home.

He also said that he and his family group of 10, which includes four children, have been sent from one unprepared hotel to another, sleeping all the time on the floors of the airport and lobby. He and his family are among a group of about 100 passengers who were scheduled to be on the canceled Sunwing flight, he said.

“We’re trapped here,” he said, adding that he, too, has received no word from Sunwing about when they might return home.

Sunwing said in an emailed statement Sunday afternoon that “several northbound flights” remain delayed as severe weather hampers its ability to transfer aircraft and crew to other airports.

The company did not say how many flights would be affected.

“Our teams are working hard to accommodate customers with sub-services on planes where possible, in addition to arranging alternative hotels and transportation for overnight delays,” the statement said, adding that customers should check their flight status online.

“Our teams locally and at the destination continue to proactively manage the situation and do everything possible to return customers home in the coming days,” the company said.

Sunwing did not immediately respond to a follow-up message asking when those stuck in Cancun would get home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 25, 2022.

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