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'Get us home!': B.C. travellers stranded in Mexico after Sunwing flight cancellations

Hundreds of Canadians — including Vancouver Island residents — are stranded at various Mexican resort cities after Sunwing cancelled their flights home.

Stuck in Puerto Vallarta after their Sunwing Airlines flight back to B.C. was cancelled, Dennis Mousseau says his nine-year-old son, Gus, has been crying himself to sleep, not knowing when he will be home.

Other stranded B.C. travellers are running out of medication, said the Qualicum Beach resident. Some are stressed about getting back to work, or finding care for their pets.

An online Sunwing app that had been working is now useless, and people have been cobbling together information from airline representatives who are stationed in hotel lobbies.

“The biggest problem is uncertainty,” Mousseau said.

He is among hundreds of Canadians who were reportedly stranded at various Mexican resort cities after Sunwing cancelled their flights home.

A video shot by one stranded Sunwing passenger showed dozens of people in the Cancun airport chanting “Liars!” and “Get us home!”

In a series of tweets last week, Sunwing said it had cancelled flights because of severe winter weather conditions in various part of Canada.

But air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said in an email that “these cancellations are not due to weather, but rather they are within the carrier’s control.”

Lukacs said Sunwing owes the passengers meals, accommodation, $500 per person in compensation, as well the cost of rebooking flights home, and reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses such as parking fees and lost wages, under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations developed by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Passengers may end up having to take the company to small claims court to receive their compensation, according to Lukacs.

Toronto-based Sunwing Airlines said in a statement that “a number of return flights continue to be impacted by delays due to displaced crew and aircraft resulting from the aftermath of severe weather disruptions across Canada.”

It said it is arranging alternate hotels and transfers for those with overnight delays, and working with several airline partners to “subservice” aircraft. It has made two “recovery” flights so far this week and has planned another eight of these which are scheduled to depart up to and on Dec. 30. More information will be provided to customers through flight alert notifications once these flights are confirmed.

Customers who would prefer to book an earlier return flight on another carrier can do so at their own expense, and can submit a refund request for their unused Sunwing flight following their return home, said the company.

North Delta resident Sherry Singh and her group of four adults and four children were supposed to be on a return flight scheduled to fly almost a week ago.

“We are feeling stressed and having anxiety. We feel stranded and that we are forgotten,” said Singh in an email.

They began their trip on Dec. 14 and had booked to return on Dec. 21 so they could celebrate milestone birthdays and Christmas with family back in Vancouver, including some who had travelled there from out of town.

“We have been financially impacted by some of us missing time from work or paying thousands of dollars to other airlines to fly us out from Puerto Vallarta.”

For a few days after their Dec. 21 flight was cancelled, they had to check in and out of rooms at the Riu Vallarta hotel each day, with no communication from Sunwing about cancellations or rebookings.

On Dec. 26, Singh reached Sunwing via Facebook and was told their flight would leave the next day, only for it to be cancelled again.

One Facebook message to Singh’s sister from Sunwing Vacations said: “I know this must be crushing to hear and I’m so sorry. The winter storms across Canada have made it extremely difficult for us to reposition planes and crews to all the airports.”

Vancouver resident Shawn Conner was supposed to fly home from Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 25.

“There’s just a lot of rumours going around,” said Conner.

His sister and mother were supposed to return to Winnipeg on Christmas Day. At one point, they were told at the hotel’s front desk to be in the lobby at 6 a.m. so they could catch a bus to the airport. When they got there, they were the only ones and they realized it was false information and there was no flight.

“It would be an immense relief to everyone, I think, if we just had information. OK, we don’t leave for another two days. Fine. Just let us know,” Conner said.

“I don’t know how sustainable that is. Must be cheaper to get us the hell out of here. But I guess logistically their hands must be tied somewhere along the line.”

— With files from The Canadian Press