Family leaving on winter vacation loses $5K rebooking after Sunwing kerfuffle

Family leaving on winter vacation loses K rebooking after Sunwing kerfuffle

Saskatoon resident Adrienne Stone has had just about enough of Sunwing Airlines, after months of confusion around her family’s winter vacation booking.

The Stone family first made plans in August 2022 for a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with Sunwing. They booked a direct flight out of Saskatoon for Feb. 10, 2023. 

Stone said the price for the trip was good, and that her family has travelled with Sunwing at least six times and has previously had no major hiccups.

“The odd delay due to weather, things like that, but nothing major there. They’ve always been a great airline — cheap, get you there, get you to a good resort and transportation included from the airport to the hotel. No issues,” Stone said. 

Then on Dec. 30, Sunwing cancelled all its flights out of Saskatchewan until Feb. 3. At the time, Stone did not think her trip would be affected, since they would not fly out until Feb. 10.

“Then I was talking to my aunt in Regina, and her flight to the Dominican was cancelled and she had said she noticed that something was up a couple days beforehand, because [her] trip was missing on the Sunwing app, and that kind of sent a red flag to her.”

Stone decided to check on the status of her own trip. Like her aunt’s, it was missing from the Sunwing app.

Stone called Sunwing and got confirmation that her trip had indeed been cancelled. She couldn’t rebook the trip out of a non-Saskatchewan airport because the transportation would have been too expensive. 

Stone decided to go with a refund, which Sunwing said would take 30 days. She received an invoice. But for weeks after, Stone noticed Sunwing was still selling the same Puerto Vallarta package her family had booked in August.

“I called them and I said, ‘You’re still selling this … is it a go? Like, are you fraudulently taking people’s money for a trip that’s been cancelled?'”

She said her family was reassured that the trip was still cancelled and all those who booked it would be refunded. 

Stone rebooked the trip with WestJet, but it cost the family $5,000 more than it had with Sunwing.

Passengers walk near an orange airline sign that reads, 'Sunwing Airlines.'
Sunwing travellers from Saskatchewan have faced a slew of mishaps and cancellations for months. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The elusive flight returns

Then on Monday, Stone got a direct message on Twitter from a Sunwing employee who said the flight is going forward after all. She said she didn’t know why the Stones’ trip was cancelled. Sunwing offered to rebook them for the same price they had agreed to back in August. 

“They asked me what the cancellation policy was to cancel my other trip with WestJet. I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna wait another 30 days or deal with all that cancellation to get on this original trip. And you’re not really making me feel safe to even book anything with Sunwing right now.'”

She said Sunwing fully admitted it had messed up the Stones’ family trip and that the airline said the trip shouldn’t have been cancelled in the first place.

“She actually went in depth and actually looked … and she said basically, ‘we screwed up.’ And she actually gave me a little bit more faith in Sunwing that there are actually some decent employees there that do their job.”

In the end, Stone decided to stick with the WestJet bookings, despite them being $5,000 more expensive, because she didn’t feel confident in Sunwing.

She said her generally positive outlook helped her get through the whole ordeal. 

“With a situation like this, because there’s nothing that you can do about it … you have to go with the flow. And if I actually sat down and actually thought about it, I’d probably just sit there and cry and curl up into a ball and not do anything. But that won’t help anything either.”

The Stones finally get to leave on their vacation on Sunday, and it can’t come soon enough. 

“I’m really looking forward to the warmer temperatures,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to spending time with my family in Mexico. We do this every year. It is a great family vacation.”

Stone admits she’s still nervous about delays or other mishaps common to airlines nowadays. 

“I think I’m going to be a little on edge until we land there.”

CBC News reached out to Sunwing Airlines for a response to Stone’s trouble with booking her vacation, but did not receive a response by the given deadline.