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Canadian Transportation Agency launches inquiry into Sunwing delays

Last Updated Apr 26, 2018 at 12:33 am EDT

Sunwing Airlines passengers facing lengthy flight delays wait in a line at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on April 16, 2018. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has launched an inquiry into lengthy flight delays, cancellations and baggage problems affecting hundreds of Sunwing passengers earlier this month.

The regulator said it has received more than 80 complaints from passengers on 23 Sunwing flights about tarmac delays, flight delays, flight cancellations and lost, damaged and delayed baggage. The incidents happened between April 14 and 18, coinciding with an ice storm in Toronto.

Passengers reported being stuck in planes on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport and not being served drinks or snacks. Other flights were delayed to and from the airport by as long as 29 hours.

Some said they had to wait days for their luggage and that communication from the airline was limited.

This inquiry will focus on whether Sunwing treated its passengers in keeping with its terms and conditions of carriage — its tariff — and whether those terms and conditions are reasonable.

“Canada’s weather realities mean that air travel will sometimes be disrupted, but when that happens, passengers have rights,” said CTA head Scott Streiner.

“This inquiry will determine, based on the evidence and the law, whether Sunwing respected its obligations towards passengers during the events in question, and if not, what corrective measures should be ordered.”

Sunwing again apologized for the incident and placed some of the blame on Swissport, its baggage handling contractor.

“We share the concerns expressed by our customers and are looking forward to working with the CTA on this inquiry so that all the issues surrounding the flight and baggage delays can be made public and corrective actions can be implemented,” the airline said in a statement.

“We recognize that we fell short in providing our usual level of customer service and we are working to improve our contingency planning to ensure that short-staffing on the part of a service provider can never put us in this situation again.”

Sunwing added it is “tightening up” its operations, scheduling and communications around extreme weather events.

“We would like to reiterate our sincere apology to all customers affected,” it said.