CANADA Sunwing flights delayed, passengers feeling stranded amid network-wide issue

Sunwing flights delayed, passengers feeling stranded amid network-wide issue

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Passengers in Montreal line up while waiting for Sunwing flights to resume. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

A technical issue has delayed a number of Sunwing Airline flights, stranding some Canadian travelers as the issue hampers check-in and boarding.

In a statement Monday, a spokesperson for Sunwing Travel Group said the airline’s systems provider is experiencing a network-wide system issue, affecting carriers globally, including Sunwing flights.

Sunwing’s website shows virtually all flights scheduled for Monday – more than 40 – have been delayed, some by more than 12 hours.

“We sincerely regret the impact this is having on our customers’ travel plans and are working diligently with our technology provider to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” the statement reads.

Jean-Hugues Demers from Boucherville, Que. has been waiting in the lobby of a Cuban resort with his girlfriend and friends.

The group left Montreal on April 6 for a week at the Paradiso resort in Varadero, Cuba. They were supposed to return to Canada by the end of the long weekend, until Demers learned their flight had been delayed.

Jean-Hughes Demers says he’s disappointed with Sunwing’s crisis management. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

“I just texted my boss this morning, telling him I’ll be in tonight, but now I don’t know,” he said.

“The hotel has been very good to us…, but it’s still hot, and we want to know what happened.”

Demers says he will continue trying to get some answers.

‘The information doesn’t change’

Anne Estabrook said she and her children had been waiting at a Mexican airport for an hour before employees first told them the system had crashed. They were supposed to fly back to Vancouver early Monday.

“That turned into about six hours of sitting on the floor at the Mexico airport with no knowledge of what was going on whatsoever,” she said.

“Every time they give us an update, [they say]’I’ll tell you in an hour,'” she said. “That’s happened six or seven times, and the information doesn’t change after that hour.”

Six hours of sitting on the floor at the Mexico airport with no knowledge of what was going on.– Traveler Anne Estabrook

Estabrook says her family’s vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico was her first time traveling by plane.

“We tried to do something fun as a family and get away … so it’s been something,” she said. “I think I’d still [travel] again, just maybe not with Sunwing.”

Meanwhile, the airline says “best attempts are being made” to inform passengers of how their flights are affected and it’s encouraging passengers with trips scheduled over the next day to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

It says it is also co-ordinating hotel accommodations and airport transfers with its destination management company.

Knowing your rights

Maintaining a computer system is the airline’s own responsibility, said Gábor Lukács, a passenger rights advocate.

“There can be some truly exceptional responsibilities like being hacked like internet cables being cut accidentally, but airlines have to have contingencies,” he said.

When a passenger is delayed or a flight is cancelled for reasons within the carrier’s control, he said, the passenger is owed not only meals, accommodation and swift transportation to their destination, but also up to $1,000 in financial compensation for the inconvenience.

“If other airlines are unaffected, then Sunwing has to buy you a ticket at its own dime on other carriers’ flights,” he said.

Gábor Lukács, an air passenger rights advocate, says passengers are entitled to up to $1,000 in financial compensation if they are delayed or their flight is cancelled for reasons within the carrier’s control. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

He also urges passengers to be aware of airlines’ lack of transparency about passenger rights.

“You don’t ask the airline about your rights, you tell them about your rights,” he said.

“You inform yourself independently of what your rights are and then, you present an informed demand to the airline, telling them these are the things you owe me.”

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