Passenger sues Sunwing over lack of 'champagne service' to Cuba

When Daniel MacDuff boarded a Sunwing flight to Cuba in February 2017, he expected the "champagne service" that was advertised. Instead, he was served sparkling wine in a plastic cup. Now he's suing.

Charter airline passenger Daniel MacDuff claims he did not get what he paid for

Daniel MacDuff of L'Ancienne-Lorette, Que., is suing Sunwing after the airline failed to serve him champagne on board, as advertised. (Sunwing)

When Daniel MacDuff boarded a Sunwing flight to Cuba in February 2017, he expected champagne service, as advertised.

Instead, he was served sparkling wine in a plastic cup.

Now he's suing.

MacDuff is filing a class-action lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court against the carrier, accusing them of misleading marketing practices in violation of the Quebec Consumer Protection Act.

The resident of L'Ancienne-Lorette, a suburb of Quebec City, claims he could have chosen one of two other airlines on his trip to the resort of Cayo Coco.

"Sunwing had a mention that said service au champagne," said MacDuff's lawyer, Sébastien Paquette. "That attracted his attention, given that the price point seemed to be the same for all three options."

Paquette told CBC Radio's Quebec AM the suit is not just about the lack of champagne.

"It's more about Sunwing's marketing practice of advertising the word 'champagne' in various ads, billboards, written documentation," he said.

Paquette also said the billboards prominently feature flute glasses containing a sparkling liquid that most reasonable people would associate with champagne, especially in conjunction with the words advertised.

Sunwing says the use of the word 'champagne' in ads such as this one relates to the quality of service, not the actual drink. (Region of Waterloo International Airport website)

Lawsuit without merit: Sunwing

In an emailed statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Sunwing Airlines said the suit is frivolous and without merit.

"The terms 'champagne vacations' and 'champagne service' were used to denote a level of service in reference to the entire hospitality package from the flight through to the destination experience and are not a reference to beverages served inflight or in-destination," wrote Jacqueline Grossman.

The statement went on to say that Sunwing accurately itemizes its inflight services on all relevant marketing materials and even announces them on the flights.

The court is expected to decide at a hearing in March whether the suit can proceed.

Paquette said his client is seeking punitive damages for the alleged wrongful practice, as well as compensation for the price difference between sparkling wine and champagne.

He said it's too early to put a dollar figure on the amount.

If approved, Paquette said about half a million Quebec travellers who have taken trips with Sunwing since February 2014 could be eligible for compensation.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.