“Unacceptable”: Committee chair says Sunwing, Via Rail must answer for holiday mess

Sunwing returns all stranded passengers from Mexico, committee chair to convene meeting about holiday mess

TORONTO AND OTTAWA — Sunwing says it has completed all of its scheduled recovery flights to bring home passengers stranded in Mexico after winter storms disrupted its operations during the holidays.

The travel company says in a statement that its teams have worked around the clock to return its affected customers home. Passengers who were affected by the delays can submit a claim for compensation or a refund through its website.

Sunwing announced last week that it was suspending flights from the Saskatoon and Regina airports for a month due to extenuating circumstances.

The chair of the House of Commons transport committee on Tuesday called for Sunwing Airlines and Via Rail to publicly explain what caused the travel nightmare that plagued thousands of Canadians over the holidays.

Liberal member of Parliament Peter Schiefke said in a tweet that he plans to convene a committee meeting and call for representatives from both companies to appear as witnesses.

Schiefke said Canadians deserve answers for “unacceptable delays and cancellations” over the holiday season.

“It will be an important discussion,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra tweeted afterwards. “Canadians deserve answers.”

Hundreds of people were stranded in Mexico over the holidays after Sunwing cancelled their flights, leaving passengers scrambling and accusing the company of not communicating well.

Via Rail had also been criticized, including by Alghabra, after passengers were stranded for hours as a winter storm pounded parts of Ontario and Quebec.

Many trains scheduled to run on Christmas Eve were cancelled, and the company said a CN Rail derailment was the culprit for more cancellations on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

A spokesperson for Via Rail said late Tuesday it would respond “favourably” to a committee request to explain what led to the situation last month.

Air travel was the source of many complaints throughout 2022 as the industry experienced the widespread return of both domestic and international travel after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Issues at airports, including lost baggage and lengthy delays, have been blamed in part on staffing shortages. Adding to the issues were long wait times at passport offices as Service Canada struggled to make up a backlog of applications that accumulated during the first two years of the pandemic.

Conservative MP Mark Strahl, a member of the transport committee, said Tuesday his party wants Alghabra to answer for what happened over the holidays.

“He broke his promise to fix the system and Canadians paid the price for it,” he said in a tweet.

 

With file from The Canadian Press