Sunwing, please don’t take me away

Thursday, 14 January 2010 | Tags: , , , , ,

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Mexico, wonderful except for the charter airline company – Sunwing – that took us there. So if you're shopping around for a charter travel company, take note: think twice about booking with Sunwing.

But the story really begins a year ago, when I went to another resort near Playa del Carmen. I booked the trip through Sunwing then too, but by the end of it, I vowed never to fly Sunwing again. Twelve months later, my resolve dwindled and I decided to give the company another chance.

Here’s what happened in 2008

Vancouverites will recall the winter storm-to-end-all-storms that created havoc at the city’s airport last holiday season. While there was a lull in the blizzard on December 27th, our departure day, the flight was still delayed for hours.

So I napped on a bank of chairs at YVR. Okay, big bad Mother Nature, I get it: storms happen.

But one week later, the storm abated, the return flight was again late, by SEVEN hours! Not only that, we weren’t informed of the delay until we reached the airport at 11 pm at night. The flight time kept getting pushed back, so we ended up sleeping on the floor at Cancun airport.

Fast forward one year to 2009

On December 27th, I’m off to the airport for another Mexican vacation. The flight is scheduled to leave at 11:15 pm. It’s on-time, I checked online. So far so good!

At the airport, it’s a different story. The flight was delayed one hour. My travelling companion and I have a small chuckle. One hour is no big deal in the chronically tardy air travel vortex.

We spent one week at the all-inclusive resort, Excellence Riviera Cancun, just outside of Cancun, near a town called Puerto Morelos. The resort has much to recommend: spacious rooms, beautiful pools, a talc sand beach, good service and quality food. The weather was fabulous for 6 out of the 7 days. All in all, a relaxing, sun- and tequila-drenched trip…until it was time to go home.

Floating & Relaxing

Floating & Relaxing

We got to the airport at 7 am for an 8:25 am departure. And you guessed it, the flight is delayed by 3.5 hours. We felt especially sorry for other passengers who stayed farther away from the airport. They had to get up at 3:45 am for airport pick up, only to arrive at the airport and be told the flight was delayed to 11:47. How’s that for a long day?!

Sunwing’s documentation states that the tour operator will inform you of any flight delays. I had my blackberry at the ready and received no such emails or phone calls.

Perhaps a last-minute delay you say? Wrong again! When we got on board, the pilot informed us that the plane, which does runs to and from Vancouver Saturday to Monday, was running late all weekend and Sunwing hadn’t been able to get the departures back on track. If you knew all weekend, you could have let your passengers know!

It gets better. The flight finally left Cancun at about 12:15 pm. Just 5.5 hours and we’d be home. But due to strong headwinds and a heavy payload, the plane didn’t have enough fuel to make it all the way to Vancouver. We were going to have a make a stop in Calgary to fill up. Here’s the scary bit, Vancouver is only 400 kilometres further. Sounded to me like there was barely enough fuel to get to Calgary!

So, instead of taking 5.5 hours to get home (the average flight time, according to the flight attendant) it took us about 7.5 hours to get home. We arrived after 7 pm, six hours late.

Here’s the clincher

Passengers weren’t offered a single thing to compensate for the delay, a delay the company knew about well in advance. How about springing for a glass of wine for the grumbling travelers? Though I did get two packs of salty crackers, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Sunwing did apologize and thanked us all, repeatedly, for our patience.

I have patience alright. Patience to do a better, more exhaustive search the next time I’m booking my trip to the tropics!


Excellence, poolside

Excellence, poolside



Join the conversation

On 01 14, 2010 at 11:07:15 AM, Meaghan C. said:

Hey Kristina I should have told you my story too then maybe you would have thought twice before choosing Sunwing again! It was our honeymoon and we went straight from the reception to a Toronto Airport Hotel. The next morning we were to take our flight to Domincan. We checked online everything was on schedule. Got to the check in and nobody is there. Finally a lady comes out and says sorry plane is delayed a few hours. I ask why she says the plane is broken. THE PLANE IS BROKEN??? I ofcourse want to know if this is going to be the same plane we will take later…she says yes!!! I am getting a bit nervous now. So finally they let us get a room and dinner voucher to stay while we wait til 11pm….so our flight was delayed 12 hours. We arrive to board again, this time at 11pm…and it is delayed another 4 hours! We didn’t arrive until a whole other day…so we missed a whole day of our 7 night vacation…they would only give us a $75 voucher if were to travel with Sunwing again…THAT YEAR! we got married in November! Yea not very happy and won’t ever use them again…especially after hearing your story too! Thanks for sharing! meaghan

On 01 14, 2010 at 11:19:45 AM, Pia K. said:

I was wondering if you ever have any success complaining on websites or through their customer service? I know it is a different airline but I recently complained to Air Canada about the meal I was served on my flights to/from England (I got a rotten apple and an expired fruit cup) and they offered me 15% off my next flight booked for me and my boyfriend. Nots not much but it helps. I also wrote to a large hotel chain before Christmas about the room I stayed in.. I didn’t ask for anything, just wanted them to be aware of my opinion, and to try and win me over, I was offered a free night AND room upgrade. I never “complain” with the intent on getting something out of it (mainly because I have no confidence in customer service nowadays) but some people really are willing (and trained) to provide customer service. I don’t expect Sunwing will be very accomodating based on your description but I was curious as to whether or not you tried to complain. Good luck on your next trip 🙂

On 01 14, 2010 at 06:53:08 PM, Wayne I. said:

As a frequent flyer for business, I sincerly don’t think you can beat Westjet. I am not affiliated with Westjet or any other carrier, but first hand knowledge of many trips a year. I will go on record that Westjet is far and away the best carrier. Recently my wife and I went to Las Vegas. leaving Kelowna in January, there was no problem, and all went well. flying back kelowna was socked in worse then the Coquihalla connector in a snow storm. Nothing was landing for several days. Our flight was rerouted to Edmonton, we were met, guided to a seperate station. the lady informed us that we were booked into a nearby hotel, and were given 60 dollars in gift certificates. She then told us the shuttle at the entrance was waiting for us. WOW! She then preceded to inform us of the next flight we would be booked on, and what time to arrive. Everything went excellent the next day, we landed and were grateful for the service. the couple that we travelled with us saved $50 or so, and landed in Vancouver with another carrier. they were informed that their flight was cancelled and they had to find another way home to the Okanagan. they then waited in line with all the other stranded people with luggage, and eventually booked a car with some fellow abondoned hostages of the airline. They got home after driving thru the ugly weather late morning. End result, we arrived fresh and pampered, they were exhausted and had to then write to the company to get a refund.

On 01 26, 2010 at 02:04:02 PM, Wendy A. said:

Sorry to hear about the flight. That is frustrating! Glad you had a good time and beautiful weather on the vacation.


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