Sunwing flights delayed, passengers stranded amid network-wide issue

Sunwing Airlines travellers are taking to social media for information on their delayed flights, as the company struggles with a network-wide system issue.

Sunwing 'working diligently' to resolve the issue as soon as possible, airline says

Passengers in Montreal line up while waiting for Sunwing flights to resume. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

A technical issue has delayed a number of Sunwing Airline flights, stranding some Canadian travellers as the issue hampers check-in and boarding.

In a statement Monday, a spokesperson for Sunwing Travel Group said the airline's systems provider is experiencing a network-wide system issue, affecting carriers globally, including Sunwing flights.

Sunwing's website shows virtually all flights scheduled for Monday — more than 40 — have been delayed, some by more than 12 hours.

"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," the statement reads.

Jean-Hugues Demers from Boucherville, Que., was stuck waiting in the lobby of a Cuban resort with his girlfriend and friends for several hours as a result.

The group left Montreal on April 6 for a week at the Paradiso resort in Varadero, Cuba. They were supposed to return to Canada by the end of the long weekend, until Demers learned their flight had been delayed.

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"I just texted my boss this morning, telling him I'll be in tonight, but now I don't know," he said.

"The hotel has been very good to us…, " he said. "But it's still hot, and we want to know what happened."

By around 4:45 p.m. ET, Demers said he was on his way home.

'The information doesn't change'

Anne Estabrooks aid she and her children had been waiting at a Mexican airport for an hour before employees first told them the system had crashed. They were supposed to fly back to Vancouver early Monday.

"That turned into about six hours of sitting on the floor at the Mexico airport with no knowledge of what was going on whatsoever," she said. 

"Every time they give us an update, [they say], 'I'll tell you in an hour,'" she said. "That's happened six or seven times, and the information doesn't change after that hour."

Six hours of sitting on the floor at the Mexico airport with no knowledge of what was going on.- Traveller Anne Estabrooks

Mario Marcil said he and his wife had been waiting since around 3 a.m. Monday at Toronto's Pearson International Airport to board their flight to Cuba. 

The pair bought their tickets for a Sunwing flight at 8 p.m. yesterday in the hopes of seeing Marcil's mother-in-law before she dies. 

Marcil said he'd been getting numerous calls from Cuba amid the delay asking when they would be arriving. At one point, he was told by a family member that she had only hours left to live. 

"We don't know if we're going to make it on time," Marcil said through tears.

Mario Marcil choked back tears, saying his delayed flight to Cuba might mean he and his wife won't make it in time to see his mother-in-law before she dies. (CBC )

Meanwhile, the airline says "best attempts are being made" to inform passengers of how their flights are affected and it's encouraging passengers with trips scheduled over the next day to check their flight status before heading to the airport. 

It says it is also co-ordinating hotel accommodations and airport transfers with its destination management company.

Knowing your rights

Maintaining a computer system is the airline's own responsibility, said Gábor Lukács, a passenger rights advocate. 

"There can be some truly exceptional responsibilities like being hacked like internet cables being cut accidentally, but airlines have to have contingencies," he said. 

When a passenger is delayed or a flight is cancelled for reasons within the carrier's control, he said, the passenger is owed not only meals, accommodation and swift transportation to their destination, but also up to $1,000 in financial compensation for the inconvenience. 

Gábor Lukács, an air passenger rights advocate, says passengers are entitled to up to $1,000 in financial compensation if they are delayed or their flight is cancelled for reasons within the carrier's control. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"If other airlines are unaffected, then Sunwing has to buy you a ticket at its own dime on other carriers' flights," he said.

Joaquin Chanchan, a Montrealer travelling to the Dominican Republic for a family reunion, said he's going to make sure he submits all the paperwork necessary to be reimbursed for losing a day of his trip. 

"We were going to arrive at noon, now it's at seven in the evening, so the first day of our vacation is lost," said Chanchan. 

"I do expect compensation for it." 

Joaquin Chanchan, centre, says he's been waiting at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport with his family since around 3 a.m. He says he will take the necessary steps to be reimbursed for losing one day of his trip. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

Lukács says this is well within passengers' rights, and he urges them to be aware of airlines' lack of transparency about them. 

"You don't ask the airline about your rights, you tell them about your rights," he said.

With files from Kwabena Oduro, Nisha Patel and the Canadian Press