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Sunwing flight delays, cancellations continue to frustrate holiday travellers

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Sunwing passengers remain frustrated over continued flight delays and cancellations that have left many stranded down south.

Hundreds of Canadians remained stuck in popular sun destinations over the Christmas holidays, left to sleep on airport floors or shuffle between hotels, as the airline blamed severe winter weather back home.

Travellers have accused Sunwing of providing incomplete or inaccurate information about the status of their flights and say they have been forced to pay out-of-pocket expenses.

Kody Thorne has been stuck in Cancun since Christmas Eve after spending a week there for a family reunion.

Although the vacation went great, he told CTV News Channel on Wednesday that the "nightmare" started when he tried to fly back home.

"It was chaos. People were sleeping on the floor, and to try and cut a long story short, we stood in line for approximately six hours. No movement, no information from the Sunwing representatives," Thorne said.

"Eventually, we were advised that the flight was cancelled and that they were arranging transport for us back to the hotel."

Since then, he has gone through "a daily cycle of checking out at noon and then waiting by the lobby for information that's either not forthcoming or when it does come through it's inaccurate, and even in some cases it's false."

The hotel staff has been "fantastic" at trying to make them as comfortable as possible, Thorne said.

While he managed to book another flight out on Thursday through WestJet, he knows many others have not been as lucky.

"So unfortunately, they're at the mercy of Sunwing resolving the issue and getting them back home," he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Thorne's situation mirrors the experiences of other Canadians trying to return home, whether it's the back-and-forth trips to the airport or what they call poor communication on the part of Sunwing.

Another traveller, Paul Dhami, emailed CTV News to say he was supposed to fly out with Sunwing on Christmas Eve from Los Cabos, Mexico, but the flight was cancelled.

He received email notifications from Sunwing over the next couple of days telling him the flight was revised, but it kept being cancelled, he said.

"Eventually these updates stopped and now we are only getting updates from the hotel who gets flight notifications and put out a sign. But every day this flight gets cancelled," Dhami wrote. "We've been here now four days and counting and no clue when we will get home."

On top of the travel delays, Toronto Pearson International Airport has experienced a severe baggage backlog, which officials have blamed on weather-related flight disruptions and frozen loading equipment.

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday, Len Corrado, President of Sunwing Airlines, said: "We know this past week has been frustrating for many of our customers as we continue to navigate unprecedented operational challenges, resulting in a number of ongoing flight delays.

"We deeply apologize for the impact to our customers’ travel plans over the holiday season, and in particular for our customers delayed in destination seeking an update on their rescheduled return flights. Our teams locally and in destination continue to proactively work through the backlog of flights in order to return our customers home as soon as possible."

Sunwing said it had 40 recovery flights planned for this week, 18 of which have already taken flight.

"For our customers awaiting updated flight times, information on rescheduled flights will be communicated as they are confirmed, through flight alert notifications and through destination representatives. Please know that we continue to work around the clock to overcome operational challenges and return our remaining delayed customers home in the next few days,” Corrado added.

Travellers who choose to book an earlier return flight with another carrier "can do so at their own cost" and make a refund request for their unused Sunwing flight, the airline said in an earlier statement Tuesday.

Meanwhile, passengers' rights advocate Gabor Lukacs, who founded the group Air Passenger Rights, says stranded travellers should consider legal action if their airlines won't offer compensation.

A number of rules exist for when an airline must compensate a traveller for delays or cancellations, with the situation depending on whether the issue is within or outside of the airline's control.

With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Megan DeLaire, CTV News Calgary Multimedia Journalist Nicole Di Donato, CTVNewsEdmonton.ca Digital Producer Brittany Ekelund, CP24 Web Content Writer Jordan Fleguel and The Canadian Press

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