Nova Scotia

Sunwing customers frustrated over response to flight delays

Four couples trying to get back to Halifax after a week-long trip to Jamaica were delayed after weather, a malfunctioning flight app and unanswered calls to Sunwing — only to be told they'd have to find their own way to Halifax after they reached Toronto.

After delays leaving Jamaica, travellers told they'd have to find own way from Toronto to Halifax

After CBC News contacted Sunwing, the company said the passengers would be looked after in Toronto. (Eddie Maloney)

Four couples trying to get back to Halifax after a week-long trip to Jamaica were delayed after bad weather, a malfunctioning flight app and unanswered calls to Sunwing — only to be told they'd have to find their own way to Halifax after they reached Toronto.

But after a request for comment came in from CBC News, the company changed its tune and informed the passengers they would be looked after.

"It shouldn't have to be reported to the media and be a possible PR nightmare for us to get sent back [to Halifax]. That's not customer service," said Krista Oliver on Wednesday, after three days of delays on her trip home.

"I'm exhausted. I can't wait to get home and get a shower and see my baby."

Oliver and her husband, Chris, who are from St. John's, bought a $4,000 all-inclusive package out of Halifax with Sunwing for a week in Jamaica.

They flew south on April 9 with another couple and were supposed to return home on April 16.

Flight disappeared from app

But on Monday, the flight was delayed due to weather in Ontario. They stayed at their hotel in Negril, almost a two-hour drive to the airport, while they waited to hear more.

"There was a lot of flip-flopping throughout the night back and forth throughout changes," Oliver said.

Krista Oliver was expected to find her own flight back home to Halifax, until CBC News got in touch with Sunwing. (Submitted by Krista Oliver)

While they were waiting, they met two other couples from Halifax in the same situation.

Eventually they were all rebooked on another flight the next morning.

But on Tuesday morning, their flight had disappeared from the Sunwing app, Oliver said. It was also not on the Montego Bay departure list.

Representative didn't answer phone

She said they made repeated calls to the Sunwing representative they'd been told to contact, who didn't answer.

"There was no evidence or way for us to know for sure to know that plane was leaving.... No one was answering. So we just stood around very confused," she said.

The plane took off without them.

"When we finally, after about two days, got ahold of[the Sunwing representative] ... she was extremely rude and said it was our own fault that we missed the flight and put the blame on us," Oliver said.

"It has been extremely frustrating."

Eventually, they were rebooked on a flight from Montego Bay to Toronto on Tuesday afternoon.

Oliver said when they got to the airport, Sunwing demanded they sign a waiver — a copy of which was given to CBC News — saying they would receive an $870 voucher, but were on their own to find a flight from Toronto to Halifax.

The waiver also discharged Sunwing of any and all responsibility for the mistake.

"They said there's no chance of getting on that flight unless we signed the form," Chris Oliver said.

After they refused, he said staff demanded they return the papers.

"It's like they didn't want any evidence of the form at all."

'A domino effect of delays'

While the Olivers were on the plane to Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, CBC News contacted Sunwing.

Spokesperson Rachel Goldrick said in an email that extreme weather conditions in Ontario caused "a domino effect of delays that have considerably impacted our operations."

The email states that ​due to miscommunication with the front desk at the hotel, the customers did not board the transfer to the airport on Tuesday morning.

But Sunwing said once the eight passengers arrived in Toronto, "Our ground operations team will be offering them assistance to return to Halifax at no charge to them.

"We sincerely apologize for any miscommunications that may have arisen regarding this schedule change but would like to reassure you that we are fully apprised of the situation and will be continuing to assist our customers this evening."

'Their system was very flawed'

Oliver said they were treated like VIPs when they landed in Toronto — the woman waiting for them went "above and beyond," setting them up with hotel rooms and flights to Halifax the next day.

But Oliver said she's still uneasy about the whole experience.

"We're all avid travellers.... We're not stunned. We know how to work the system, but their system was very flawed," she said.

"I would like for them to investigate what exactly went wrong and put in preventative measures or corrective measures so it doesn't happen again. I don't think I'll be flying Sunwing anymore."