Angry Sunwing passengers say they spent 8 hours stuck on tarmac
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, December 29, 2015 10:18PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 31, 2015 12:15AM EST
A flight from the Dominican Republic to Calgary that was supposed to land before midnight on Monday didn’t touch ground until dinnertime Tuesday, after repeated delays, including some eight hours spent sitting on an a tarmac in Ontario, angry passengers say.
The Sunwing flight left Punta Cana around dinnertime on Monday, and landed around 9 p.m. EST in Hamilton, Ont., to refuel and change crews.
But instead of disembarking for the final leg to Calgary, the plane sat on the tarmac in Hamilton for about eight hours, according to passengers.
Passengers said there was little food offered, toilets couldn't be flushed and there was no clear explanation for the delay.
Passenger Pauline Lamoureaux, who was on board with her husband and five-year-old daughter, said they were given only cookies and juice in the final hour before they were let off the plane. She said passengers became so frustrated that they called 911.
It wasn’t until about 6 a.m. EST that passengers were bussed to a hotel, where they were able to get a couple of hours of sleep before being brought back to the airport around 9 a.m. EST for the final leg of the flight.
That flight didn’t end up leaving until the afternoon, making the passengers even more miserable and exhausted by the time they got to Calgary around dinnertime Tuesday.
The airline apologized for the inconvenience and has offered each passenger $150 off future travel.
It also issued a statement Wednesday blaming bad weather and equipment failures for the delay.
The first 90 minutes were spent waiting for the airport to clear the runways, Sunwing said.
“During this time conditions rapidly deteriorated with significant precipitation in the form of ice pellets and freezing rain,” the airline added.
“After push back, the aircraft needed to be de-iced and issues were compounded due to a technical issue with the de-ice truck.”
After the de-icing problem was fixed, the plane “attempted to taxi to the runway but was unable to do so due to the accumulation of snow and ice,” according to the statement.
After that, two different airplane “tugs” were unable to “get the necessary grip” on the plane to pull it to a place to safely let passengers off, the airline said.
“Air stairs were requested, however the ramp conditions were unsafe for deplaning and had to be de-iced and a walkway had to be cleared between the aircraft and the terminal,” the statement went on.
According to Sunwing, “customers received regular communication updates as well as drink and snack service,” before finally getting off at approximately 4 a.m.
Robert Hansen, who was also on the flight, said he would like “some more rights as a passenger.”
The NDP introduced a private member’s bill in 2013 that would have required passengers grounded for more than one hour on tarmacs be allowed to get off planes, or get compensation of $100 per hour. It was blocked by the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois.
Travellers can also complain to the Canadian Transportation Agency if they feel their agreements with the airlines, known as tariff provisions, have been breached.
However, the CTA recently dismissed the complaint of a traveller whose Sunwing flight was delayed by more than six hours in January. The adjudicator wrote in his ruling that “as pointed out by Sunwing, the Agency has determined, in previous decisions, carriers should have the flexibility to alter their schedules to respond to commercial and operational obligations, and that tariff provisions reflecting such flexibility are therefore just and reasonable.”
With a report from CTV’s Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks