Passengers irate after stops added to non-stop Sunwing Airlines flights
Published Monday, March 14, 2016 6:47PM MDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:06PM MDT
Nine days before taking off for Mazatlan, Mexico, Don and Angela Shewchuk received notice that their non-stop flight was no longer direct and there were no avenues for recourse.
The Shewchucks had booked a direct flight from Calgary to Mazatlan and purchased cancellation insurance but a change to their February vacation itinerary saw the couple’s flight make an appearance in Vancouver, B.C. before arriving in the Mexican resort area.
The couple attempted to cancel their flight but their insurance only provided a flight voucher, not a full refund, as the cancellation was made less than 20 days before departure.
With voucher in hand, the Shewchuks realized the cost of the flight had dropped $1,000 so they attempted to rebook but the airline would not allow the purchase as the couple did not have price drop insurance.
“It’s really unfair as far as we’re concerned,” said Don Shewchuk. “One comment one of the stewardesses made is every airline is doing this because of the economy.”
“We’ve talked to a lot of people that fly with WestJet and the other airlines and they say no, it’s only happening with Sunwing.”
The Shewchuks reached out to CTV Calgary’s Consumer Watch reporter Lea Williams-Doherty. While she investigated their beef with Sunwing, several families from the community of Castor, Alberta came forward with a similar complaint.
The families from Castor are headed to Puerto Vallarta at the end of March and Sunwing has added a Vancouver stop to their flight. According to the passengers, the change to their itinerary will result in one less day in Mexico plus they’ll need to take an additional day off from work.
“We weren’t given no explanation, no warning, just here you are,” said Warren Rowland. “You’re stuck with it.”
“They didn’t want to talk about it or anything when we contacted them,” added Lee Bagshaw.
In an email statement to CTV Calgary, Sunwing Airlines officials said:
“Occasionally it is necessary to amend our flight routings due to operational reasons. We cannot be liable for any additional expenditure caused by a later arrival or departure time.”
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), the group that ajudicates airline passenger complaints, heard a nearly identical case where a Sunwing passenger asked the agency to rule that adding stops to a booked flight is illegal. The CTA ruled Sunwing is allowed to add stops as long as the possibility is stated in its tariff.
Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate, says despite the CTA’s decision, passengers should win a case like this in small claims court based on existing laws.
“In most cases the passengers have to take an airline to court to enforce their rights,” said Lukacs “That’s why I keep saying we have a system that is broken.”
With files from CTV’s Lea Williams-Doherty.