Sunwing travelers remain stranded on day 2 of system outage

​​David Dzernyk, 46, thought that by Tuesday morning he would have a full day of vacation in Punta Cana and be relaxing by the pool, mojito in hand as the bright yellow Caribbean sun burned him. the back.

“But instead,” he said, popping a limp potato chip into his mouth, “I’m here at the airport with strangers.”

For at least the second day in a row, Dzernyk, his family, the strangers he mentioned and thousands of other would-be Sunwing vacationers, both in Toronto and abroad, remained stranded.

Since Sunday, when customers began complaining about flight delays on social media, passengers have been stuck in place, either waiting to get out into the sunlight or back from it. Meanwhile, the company says a “system outage” affected flight operations that it is striving to resolve.

“Our team has been working day and night to find alternative ways to get customers to their destination or on flights back home,” Sunwing Media wrote to Star in an email. “We sincerely apologize to all of our customers whose travel plans have been affected.”

To try to get customers out of airports and onto planes, the email said, he was going to process their flights manually.

“We have successfully processed over 15 flights manually since yesterday, with the goal of manually processing as many flights as possible today, subject to airport restrictions, curfews and any required crew reassignments,” Sunwing said. “Our third-party systems provider, Airline Choice, continues to work with the relevant authorities to find a solution to the system problem as soon as possible.”

But in the meantime, passengers should expect additional delays, according to the email. Tuesday afternoon, Sunwing’s Twitter account said it was offering “affected customers the ability to make a one-time change to their departure date free of charge.”

In its email to Star, the company urged customers to sign up for “flight alerts on Sunwing.ca” for additional information.

At Toronto Pearson Airport, Terminal 3 was swamped with travelers trying to find a place to rest, eat, entertain restless children or keep from freaking out while waiting, some in check-in lines that hadn’t moved in hours. . Others slept on conveyor belts that were turned off. There were still more scattered in the corners, resting their heads on the luggage or staring into the distance, bereft.

When Dzernyk and his family — two children, his wife and his mother — arrived at Terminal 3 early Monday for their mid-morning flight to Punta Cana, he stopped and looked around.

“I knew right away something was up,” he said.

He ruled out any reservations. Still, he was tired after the drive to Toronto from his home in Estevan, Saskatchewan, a city two hours south of Regina. It was his family’s third vacation attempt since just before COVID hit, and they weren’t going to let anything steal their sunshine.

But the terminal was in chaos, Dzernyk said. People were everywhere. Luggage was piled in the corners. The anger was palpable. There didn’t seem to be any organization at all, he said.

Not knowing what was going on, Dzernyk tried to sign up for his app. But it does not work. Neither do the computer kiosks at the airport. And when he tried to ask a “Sunwing human” what was going on, he said no one knew. They told him to wait. There was a delay.

And soon, he said, he was told there was another delay, and then another. And other. As night fell, he and his family decided to check into a nearby hotel and wait there. But he returned every hour or so to the terminal just to look for information. He said that even though the app was back online, he gave it different times for when his flight could actually leave. And he didn’t know what to believe. He guessed the most reliable information was on the terminal’s big screen above.

He stood right below him early Tuesday, eating his cold fast food from a luggage cart while his family tried to sleep in their jackets in a corner of the terminal.

He said he was surprised the company was handling the situation so poorly. As a businessman, Dzernyk said, he always has alternative plans.

“They really should have had an idea,” he said. “You would think they would have a plan B. But, it didn’t even seem like they had a plan A.”

Michelle Dolliver: Stuck in Pearson Terminal 3, waiting to board a flight to Punta Cana

Passengers are waiting to be allowed to board their Sunwing flights after some were delayed for more than a day at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga.

Like Dzernyk, Michelle Dolliver couldn’t understand why Sunwing was having so much trouble.

Still, she said she and her children were hoping to see the inside of a plane by the end of the night.

Dolliver, a single mother, and her three children left Orillia early Monday and headed to Pearson for her mid-morning flight to the Dominican Republic, only to be met with the chaos her fellow Sunwing customers described once she arrived. to the terminal.

On Monday night, she and her children had a bad feeling about their vacation and tried to get one of the coupons Sunwing said it was giving out for a night at a nearby hotel.

But there were none left when he went looking for one, Dolliver said. He had no choice but to sign up and pay the $450 to stay the night. It was late and it was snowing, and he wasn’t going to drive back to Orillia only to find out that he had to get back to Pearson early the next morning.

“They told me to take a photo of the ticket,” he said, referring to airport staff. “They said they would probably reimburse me. Probably.”

Michelle Sadowski — currently in the Dominican Republic, trapped for 30 hours

Michelle Sadowski is in the opposite situation from Michelle Dolliver: she is already in the Dominican Republic and wants to get out.

Sadowski and her husband, along with their two-year-old son and in-laws, had already been away for more than a week and it was time, she said, to return to normal life. Everything is harder with a baby, she said, which is part of the frustration of not being able to get home, or getting information about why they’ve been waiting to board her flight for more than 30 hours. .

“If we didn’t have Twitter, we’d have absolutely no idea what’s going on,” Sadowski said. “We would be standing here with our hands in the air.”

Along with many others abroad, Sadowski has turned to crowdsourcing information about his flight delays. And, he said, everyone online was helping out by sharing details of what to expect, when their flights might leave and when they might finally board his plane.

It was only when they were preparing to head to the airport that her family found out about the delays, she said. They tried to find flights on other airlines but everything was expensive. “It was like $6,000,” she said, “if we wanted to catch a flight” earlier.

As a concession for this debacle, Sadowski said, Sunwing was offering a $500 coupon per person that each can use for another Sunwing trip. But after this travel fiasco, Sadowski said he won’t jump at the chance to use his.

“There are a lot of things that I would do again in my life before traveling on Sunwing,” he said.

Hadi Mahjoub and Jessica Prosper: Back in Toronto after a 27-hour delay in Mexico

Hadi Mahjoub was at home in Toronto Tuesday night wearing nothing but his underwear after making a deal with Sunwing that left his luggage somewhere between Mexico and Toronto.

“I have nothing to wear,” he said. “I literally have no clothes right now.”

After arriving at the Mexico airport and learning about Sunwing’s delays, Mahjoub said airport staff gave him and his girlfriend, Jessica Prosper, an option: They could keep their luggage and ride out the delays. Or, check your bags right away, expect them to get home to Toronto when they do, and catch any flights ASAP.

The trick to extend your vacation with your bags in tow? They pay for their own lodging for the next few days in Mexico, Mahjoub said staff told him.

He and Prosper opted to ditch their luggage and spend a night at a roadside hotel that gave them $15 for food, he said.

But, Prosper said, in the end, they got a bad deal. They weren’t as lucky as other passengers on their flight home, who, he said, were able to spend the night in all-inclusive hotels.

“It wasn’t necessarily fair,” Prosper said. “There was no pool or anything like that.”

Tania Cameron: stuck in Cuba for an extra night

Tania Cameron checked in with Star from the lobby of the resort where she is staying in Cuba, the only place where she can connect to Wi-Fi and check the status of her flight home.

“It’s weird,” he said, “getting my news from social media before getting news from the airlines.”

Cameron was supposed to leave Cuba on Tuesday and land in Winnipeg that evening at 10:30 p.m. But their flight was delayed until 12:30 a.m. Wednesday and that meant they wouldn’t get home until 4 a.m., he said. .

Cameron didn’t hold her breath, she said, especially when a Sunwing representative told her not to leave her room before more information was available.

What happened after? Another delay.

“She said no,” Cameron said, about what the representative told him. You’re staying another night.

However, Cameron is not complaining. She is happy for an extra day in the sun. “It’s better than sitting in an airport wondering what time we’re leaving.”

Michele Henry is a reporter for the Star in Toronto who writes stories on health and education. Follow her on Twitter: @michelehenry

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