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Sunwing passengers delayed in Cuba for almost 20 hours

Nearly 200 weary travellers are finally back on Canadian soil after being stranded in a Cuban airport for hours without any food or water.

“They just let us rot in a Cuban airport with no water eventually in the end, no food, in heat with babies that have fevers. Kids are walking around crying,” Janina Gibson, a passenger on Flight 683, told CityNews.

Dino Kanelopolous, another passenger, said he arrived at the airport in Varadero around 6:30 p.m. for the flight, which was scheduled to depart at 9 p.m. on Monday. But it was revised to leave Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. with an arrival time at Pearson airport of 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

“The information was that there were technical difficulties with one of the planes,” he explained. “They made arrangements to get another flight out. We got that information right around midnight.”

Sunwing Vacations wasn’t immediately available for comment on Tuesday, but its vice-president of marketing said in an email on Wednesday morning that the flight to Varadero from Toronto was delayed due to maintenance. This meant that flying back to Toronto would exceed the allowable hours the crew could work, leading to a further delay, Janine Chapman said.

A Sunwing representative did remain at the airport but wasn’t allowed in the departure lounge and had to communicate through the airport personnel. She said Sunwing was able to keep a concession stand open until 1:30 .m. on Tuesday and provided free water and soft drinks as well as a $15 meal voucher.

“We arranged for transportation back to an all inclusive resort for our customers, at our expense,” Chapman said. “We are in the process of issuing written apologies and compensations to the impacted customers.”

This delay was “very regrettable,” and Sunwing is doing an internal review with the Cuban airport, she said.

One Sunwing passenger posted somewhat alarming messages about her plight.

Louise Martinheira who goes by @252MOVE tweeted on Tuesday, “#HELP us please…. 190 of us stuck in Cuba & #Sunwing is giving us no answers. Flight 683….without water even….sick people.”

She also posted, “Still stuck in Cuba. Flight 683. We requested Canadian embassy. They won’t get them. I have video footage. 190 passengers….hard to text…”

Around 6 a.m. on Tuesday, passengers were told they were not going home yet and they were put on a bus and taken back to their hotels.

Martinheira later tweeted, “No Sunwing rep yet. They sent us to hotel for 4 hours & now going back to airport to wait some more…..at least we are fed now.”

After about 20 hours and four delays later passengers were allowed to board their flight home.

Many passengers said the most frustrating part of the entire ordeal was the lack of information from the airline.