Manitoba

'They completely abandoned me': Winnipegger left to sort things out after Sunwing accidentally rips passport

A Winnipeg man says he's being forced to find a way out of Cuba after a Sunwing Vacations agent accidentally ripped his passport and left him alone to deal with it.

Daniel Hince says Sunwing won't cover costs associated with replacing ripped passport, or help him leave Cuba

Daniel Hince said before boarding a flight to Varadero, Cuba, a Sunwing Vacations agent in Winnipeg accidentally ripped his passport on Thursday. Hince said at first the company said it would cover the costs associated with the mistake, but he is now being told he is on his own. (Submitted by Daniel Hince)

A Winnipeg man says he's trying to find a way out of Cuba after a Sunwing Vacations agent accidentally ripped his passport and left him alone to deal with it. 

Daniel Hince, 32, decided to book a last-minute trip to Varadero last week, and found a really good deal on an all-inclusive package through Sunwing Vacations. Fifteen hours later he was at the James Richardson International Airport checking in for his flight — but things didn't get off to a smooth start.

Hince said while waiting to board the plane he noticed the Sunwing agent appeared to have trouble scanning his passport, but she kept trying to get it to work.

"I suddenly saw a piece of paper fly off into the garbage. I didn't think it was my passport or anything but then after she was having problems I noticed that there was a tear in the passport," said Hince.

Hince said he dug through the garbage can and found the missing piece, but was told he might not be able to get on the flight because Cuba requires all travellers to have scannable passports.

Hince, 32, said a Sunwing Vacations agent in Winnipeg accidentally ripped his passport while scanning it then taped the torn off piece to the back of his passport. (Submitted by Daniel Hince)

After waiting about two hours, Hince said the Sunwing agent told him he could make the trip to Varadero with the other passengers but that someone would meet him at the airport in Cuba to make sure he got into the country.

Hince said the agent also told him the Sunwing representative would drive him to the Canadian Consulate to get a letter authorizing him to leave the country so he won't have any problems flying back to Winnipeg.

"When I landed in Cuba there was literally no one there for me. They completely abandoned me. I had to deal with the authorities myself," said Hince.

Hince said he had to talk his way into the country on his own, and explain to the agent in Cuba how his passport could have been ripped in the first place.

"It's hard because you're trying to explain to the Cuban authorities why is your passport ripped and how were you even allowed to get on the plane and leave Canada with a ripped passport?"

Hince spoke to CBC News about the ordeal through Facebook Video Call from his hotel in Varadero on Sunday. (CBC)

'You are on your own'

When Hince got to his hotel, he found the Sunwing rep and told him what had happened. Hince said the rep called his boss and said there's nothing he could do.

"He said, word for word, 'you are on your own.'"

Hince said he now has to figure out where the Canadian Consulate is and get there on his own.

He'll also have to return 48 hours later to pick up the required documents, and pay whatever it costs. 

"I should not have to pay for any of this or any extra costs to this vacation 'cause that was not the deal when I first booked this trip," said Hince. 

In an email to CBC News late Sunday, Sunwing said it has contacted the Canadian Consulate on Hince's behalf after hearing from him earlier in the day.

The company said it had made arrangements for a letter detailing how the damage to Hince's passport happened to be delivered to his hotel and will have a representative at the airport to help Hince when he leaves Cuba.

Sunwing said it will also pay any costs Hince may encounter while replacing his passport.

"We remain sincerely apologetic for the damage to his passport and subsequent misunderstanding and regret any inconvenience this incident may have caused him," reads the email in part.

Low expectations

Hince said he's flown to Asia, the Caribbean and Mexico and has never even experienced a delay. He said he believed the agent in Winnipeg when she said Sunwing would look after him.

"I think everyone has kind of a negative opinion about airlines already so the expectations are fairly low already. I thought they would at least do a little bit but they didn't," said Hince.

He said thankfully the Cuban authorities were great to deal with when he arrived in the country. Hince flies back to Winnipeg late Thursday evening and hopes he won't have any trouble getting home.

"I'll probably get out. Cuba probably doesn't want me anyway," said Hince, laughing.

On Monday, after this story was originally published, a representative from the Canadian Consulate visited Hince at his hotel. Hince said she will accompany him to the airport when he departs Thursday, and the consulate assured him he won't have to pay for the cost of the replacement passport.

A Winnipeg man says he's trying to find a way out of Cuba after a Sunwing Vacations agent accidentally ripped his passport and left him alone to deal with it. 1:43

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca