'Anxiety we don't need right now': Kenora woman left in lurch by Sunwing delays

It took more than two years for Tania Cameron's vacation to Varadero to finally happen, and now it's lasting longer than planned.

Thousands of passengers stuck after outage hit company that operates Sunwing's check-in systems

Tania Cameron can’t say she misses the snow in Kenora, Ont., but would like to get home from Cuba soon so she can get back to her job and volunteering obligations. (Submitted by Tania Cameron)

It took more than two years for Tania Cameron's vacation to Varadero to finally happen, and now it's lasting longer than planned. 

The Kenora, Ont., woman is stranded in Cuba and isn't sure when she'll get home. 

A system outage has affected the company that operates Sunwing's check-in systems, the airline says, leaving thousands of passengers in the lurch.

"I am concerned. My husband drove in from Kenora [to the Winnipeg airport, a more than 200-kilometre drive], fully expecting me to arrive, so he's kicking around the city waiting," said Cameron.

"I've got work obligations I got to get to. I also have a volunteer thing that I do on Thursday nights, so my schedule is in flux right now.

"I'll manage. But still, it's a little bit of anxiety we don't need right now."

The Toronto-based airline was hit with the network-wide system issue on Monday.

"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," Sunwing said in a Monday statement.

On Tuesday, the airline said its staff "are manually processing as many flights as possible but anticipate further delays."

Cameron was originally set to go to Cuba on March 13, 2020, but that was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared March 11.

That left her with a Sunwing credit, which she and her sister-in-law used to take the trip this year.

They flew to Cuba on April 12 and were scheduled to return on Tuesday evening. But around noon, Cameron got an email saying the flight was delayed to 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Further delays pushed that to Wednesday afternoon.

A Sunwing rep at the hotel told them not to check out of their room and that the airline would cover another night. 

As it turns out, the flight did leave 12:30 a.m. but Cameron ignored the text from Sunwing, thinking it was a mistake, based on what the rep at the hotel told her. As a result, her afternoon flight home is through Calgary then to Winnipeg.

Despite all of the aggravation, Cameron considers herself fortunate.

Tania Cameron, left, and her sister-in-law Brenda Cameron are among thousands of passengers impacted by a network-wide system issue that began affecting Sunwing Airline flights on Monday. (Submitted by Tania Cameron)

"I've been reading people's social media posts that they're stuck at airports for hours and hours. And I was really concerned that I would be stuck at the airport all night," she said.

"I'm grateful that Sunwing did allow for another night stay at the resort, so it was more comfortable this way."

She's also thankful she received the email and was able to speak to someone. Others haven't been so lucky.

"I saw people posting that they spent hours on end, some with their children, and oh my goodness, I just can't imagine how uncomfortable and how tiring that would have been," Cameron said

No one she knows has been given any reason by Sunwing for the delays, she said, adding she learned about the technical glitch through social media and then mainstream media reports.

"So not a lot of information, which is very frustrating. Our Sunwing rep doesn't know a lot," she said.

Cameron is hopeful she will be notified if her currently scheduled departure gets changed again, but is not taking any chances.

She posted a message on Twitter to reach out to other passengers headed to Winnipeg — on any Sunwing flight — to alert her "if/when your plane is boarded" so she is aware that things are happening.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson