Aviation expert analyzes impact of WestJet’s integration of Sunwing and Swoop

“Our government will continue to monitor this situation closely”: Sunwing’s SK cancellations

TORONTO — Sunwing passengers impacted by the company’s sun flight cancellations out of Saskatoon and Regina will receive a full refund to their original form of payment, processed within 30 days.

Sunwing says Saskatoon and Regina customers who are notified of their cancelled flights 14 days or less before departure are entitled to $125 in compensation.

Claims can be submitted at https://www.sunwing.ca/en/sunwing-airlines/delay-claim.

The cancellations have wreaked havoc on holiday and winter travel plans for Saskatchewan travellers, and their travel advisors. Sunwing announced on Dec. 30 that, due to extenuating circumstances, Sunwing was cancelling operations from both Regina and Saskatoon airports. The cancellations took immediate effect and applied to travel from both airports up to and including Feb. 3, 2023.

A statement posted on its site reads: “Sunwing had initially planned to supplement seasonal demand for travel from Saskatoon and Regina with the assistance of temporary foreign pilots for the winter months. When foreign pilot deployment was not agreed to, we brought in subservices to sustain our operations, however the conditions and schedule have proven too significant for our subserviced aircraft partners. We have attempted to reposition Sunwing aircraft to support but have been unable to do so as a result of flight delays and cancellations brought on by recent weather disruptions, and heavy demand over the peak holiday period.

“We recognize that, despite our best efforts, we have failed to deliver on our customers’ expectations, and we deeply apologize for not meeting the standards of service our Saskatoon and Regina customers rightfully expect.”



Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Sunwing’ decision to suspend flights from the Saskatoon and Regina airports for a month was irresponsible.

“This is a very irresponsible decision by Sunwing for everyone who has booked a vacation, particularly those who are currently at their destination and are uncertain how and when they will get home,” Moe said in a statement.

Sunwing had 43 planned recovery flights, with the last remaining passengers scheduled to fly home yesterday.

John Gradek, an aviation management lecturer at McGill University in Montreal, called the situation a “debacle” that signals a need for more government regulation of the airline industry.

Though many carriers had to cancel flights as storms, extreme cold and freezing rain gripped much of Canada in the days before Christmas, Sunwing in particular had a hard time recovering. That’s because it’s a much smaller airline, with fewer flights in and out of its destinations, Gradek said in an interview. A carrier like WestJet or Air Canada would have several flights a day going back and forth, and therefore have more opportunity to transport passengers left in limbo by a cancellation. But Sunwing may only fly back and forth a few times a week, he said, and its main option to rescue passengers is to charter planes from other operators.

Gradek said, however, that Christmas is peak travel time, and there aren’t many empty planes waiting to be chartered.

“Mother Nature has a way of taking the biggest players in the field and wrestling them to the ground,” he said. “And this is exactly what happened.”

It could get worse for Sunwing passengers before it gets better, added Gradek. Early January is also a busy travel time and, if the weather deteriorates and forces cancellations, Sunwing could be dealing with those passengers on top of the backlog from before Christmas.

Gradek noted that the federal transport minister met with members of the air transport sector last month for a post-mortem after a summer of chaos at Canadian airports.

“He basically promised Canadians in November that we will not have a repeat performance of the summer during Christmas,” Gradek said. “And lo and behold, guess what? We’re there, and even worse.”

He said it’s time for Ottawa to look at how it can ensure airline carriers can actually deliver on the schedules they promise and sell to the public.

Valerie Glazer, a spokesperson for the federal transport minister’s office, said in a statement that the government understands delays and cancellations are frustrating for travellers during the holiday season.

“Transport Canada and our office are in contact with airlines and airports to ensure they have what they need to keep passengers safe,” she said. “The safety of passengers and crews is our top priority.”

Glazer added that the Sunwing situation is unacceptable and notes the federal government has been in contact with the airline.

“Our government will continue to monitor this situation closely to ensure that all passengers are accommodated,” said the statement.

With file from The Canadian Press

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