Angry Sunwing passengers say they spent 8 hours stuck on tarmac

A flight from the Dominican Republic to Calgary that was supposed to land before midnight on Monday didn’t touch ground until dinnertime Tuesday, after repeated delays, including some eight hours spent sitting on an a tarmac in Ontario, angry passengers say.

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The Sunwing flight left Punta Cana around dinnertime on Monday, and landed around 9 p.m. EST in Hamilton, Ont., to refuel and change crews.

But instead of disembarking for the final leg to Calgary, the plane sat on the tarmac in Hamilton for about eight hours, according to passengers.

Passengers said there was little food on board, toilets couldn't be flushed and there was no clear explanation for the delay.

Passenger Pauline Lamoureaux, who was on board with her husband and five-year-old daughter, said they were given only cookies and juice in the final hour before they were let off the plane. She said passengers became so frustrated that they called 911.

Sunwing said it made the decision to let the passengers off the plane about five hours after landing in Hamilton, but there were no international customs officers available. It also said bad weather prevented a ramp from being attached.

It wasn’t until about 6 a.m. EST that passengers were bussed to a hotel, where they were able to get a couple of hours of sleep before being brought back to the airport around 9 a.m. EST for the final leg of the flight.

That flight didn’t end up leaving until the afternoon, making the passengers even more miserable and exhausted by the time they got to Calgary around dinnertime Tuesday.

The airline apologized for the inconvenience and has offered each passenger $150 off future travel.

Robert Hansen, who was also on the flight, said he would like “some more rights as a passenger.”

The NDP introduced a private member’s bill in 2013 that would have required passengers grounded for more than one hour on tarmacs be allowed to get off planes, or get compensation of $100 per hour. It was blocked by the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois.

Travellers can also complain to the Canadian Transportation Agency if they feel their agreements with the airlines, known as tariff provisions, have been breached.

However, the CTA recently dismissed the complaint of a traveller whose Sunwing flight was delayed by more than six hours in January. The adjudicator wrote in his ruling that “as pointed out by Sunwing, the Agency has determined, in previous decisions, carriers should have the flexibility to alter their schedules to respond to commercial and operational obligations, and that tariff provisions reflecting such flexibility are therefore just and reasonable.”

With a report from CTV’s Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks


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