Canadian airlines return to Puerto Vallarta after 4-month hiatus

From Mexico Daily News – link to source story

Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit are looking forward to the Canadians coming back. Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit are looking forward to the Canadians coming back.

Canadian airlines return to Puerto Vallarta after 4-month hiatus

One airline has already reactivated flights, and three more have confirmed dates

Published on Thursday, June 17, 2021

Canadian airlines are reactivating flights to Puerto Vallarta after a four-month suspension.

Westjet reinitiated its flights to the Jalisco beach destination on June 5, and Air Canada will be next with the reopening of its Vancouver route on August 1.

Low cost airline Swoop plans to restart its Hamilton and Edmonton flights October 5, and its Abbotsford and Toronto routes on November 3. It will also inaugurate a new route from Winnipeg on November 4.

Transat will relaunch flights from Toronto and Montreal in November.

Sunwing is still yet to inform clients of its plans to reopen, but has previously announced it hopes to reestablish its Mexico routes in December.

Marc Murphy, lead of the Riviera Nayarit Visitors and Conventions Office, said Canadians would be happy for the change of climate. “Each year, thousands of Canadians travel to this region to escape the intense winter cold and find an enviable climate, the most beautiful beaches … and a great quality hotel offering,” he said.

With reports from Reportur

Sunwing announces convenient weekly flights from Regina and Saskatoon this winter

TORONTO, June 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Residents of Saskatchewan will have two departure gateways to choose from this winter, as Sunwing has announced it will be offering convenient weekly flights from both Regina International Airport and Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport. Flights will begin operating in December, just in time for residents looking to head down south for the holidays, and will operate until mid-April 2022.

“We look forward to resuming service from Saskatchewan this winter,” commented Andrew Dawson, President of Tour Operations for Sunwing. “With convenient flights from two regional airports across the province, residents can visit the most popular tropical destinations with ease under our wing.”

The flight schedule from Regina will be as follows:

  • Between Regina and Cancun, Mondays and Saturdays from December 11, 2021 until April 11, 2022
  • Between Regina and Puerto Vallarta, Fridays and Sundays from December 10, 2021 until April 10, 2022
  • Between Regina and Los Cabos, Thursdays from December 16, 2021 until April 14, 2022
  • Between Regina and Mazatlán, Fridays from December 17, 2021 until April 8, 2022
  • Between Regina and Punta Cana, Wednesdays from December 15, 2021 until April 13, 2022
  • Between Regina and Varadero, Tuesdays from December 14, 2021 until April 12, 2022

The flight schedule from Saskatoon will be as follows:

  • Between Saskatoon and Cancun, Mondays and Saturdays from December 11, 2021 until April 11, 2022
  • Between Saskatoon and Puerto Vallarta, Fridays and Sundays from December 10, 2021 until April 10, 2022
  • Between Saskatoon and Los Cabos, Thursdays from December 16, 2021 until April 14, 2022
  • Between Saskatoon and Mazatlán, Fridays from December 17, 2021 until April 8, 2022
  • Between Saskatoon and Punta Cana, Wednesdays from December 15, 2021 until April 13, 2022
  • Between Saskatoon and Varadero, Tuesdays from December 14, 2021 until April 12, 2022
  • Between Saskatoon and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Thursdays from December 9, 2021 until April 7, 2022

“After a long and hard winter, we’re sure that plenty of Regina residents are looking forward to heading back to the tropics,” said James Bogusz, President and CEO at Regina International Airport. “We have a long and successful partnership with Sunwing and we’re sure their winter service will be well received.”

Stephen Maybury, CEO of Saskatoon International Airport, also commented on the news. “With a return to travel on the horizon, we’re thrilled to welcome Sunwing back to Saskatoon for the 2021-2022 winter season. Our community has been anxiously awaiting the return of sun travel and will be excited to have Sunwing back with seasonal flights to many familiar sun destinations.”

Customers can choose from a range of resorts and vacation packages for every travel style. Grand Memories Varadero offers something for everyone, from sparkling pools to water sports and a kids club. Those planning an adults only getaway will love Platinum Yucatan Princess All Suites Resort & Spa, featuring an amazing spa and swim-out suites. Travellers can take their budget even further at Riu Jalisco in Riviera Nayarit with exclusive RIU®-topia inclusions for Sunwing guests like unlimited reservation-free dining.

About Sunwing

The largest integrated travel company in North America, Sunwing has more flights to the south than any other leisure carrier with convenient direct service from airports across Canada to popular sun destinations across the U.S.A., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. This scale enables Sunwing to offer customers exclusive deals at top-rated resorts in the most popular vacation destinations as well as cruise packages and seasonal domestic flight service. Sunwing customers benefit from the assistance of the company’s own knowledgeable destination representatives, who greet them upon arrival and support them throughout their vacation journey. The company supports the communities where it operates through the Sunwing Foundation, a charitable initiative focused on the support and development of youth and humanitarian aid.

Many Canadian airline customers still awaiting refunds for flights cancelled amid pandemic

From The Globe and Mail – link to source story

ERIC ATKINS, TRANSPORTATION REPORTER | JUNE 13, 2021

Canada’s airlines gave credits – rather than cash back – to customers whose uninsured tickets were cancelled in the pandemic. FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

More than a year into the pandemic, some Canadian airline customers are still awaiting refunds on cancelled flights.

Unlike their global rivals, Canada’s airlines gave credits – rather than cash back – to customers whose uninsured tickets were cancelled in the pandemic. The airlines pointed to a statement from the Canadian Transportation Agency that said credits were an acceptable remedy given the financial hardships the airlines faced in the pandemic.

Financial aid from taxpayers unveiled by the government in April allowed Air Canada and Transat AT Inc. to give refunds for flights and tickets cancelled beginning in mid-March, 2020, when countries closed borders, told people not to travel to limit the spread of COVID-19 and imposed quarantines on people returning from abroad.

Canada’s airlines halted flights, cancelling billions of dollars worth of airfares.

But Porter Airlines and Sunwing Airlines have still not offered refunds for most cancelled flights, and WestJet Airlines has restricted its refunds to tickets the airline cancelled – not the customer.

The three airlines and government say bailout talks are taking place, but will not say when agreements will bereached, nor when customers will get their money back.

WestJet has said it would not take a government loan, but might agree to a government-backed line of credit that would pay for refunds, according to a person familiar with the matter whom The Globe and Mail is not naming because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Margaret Jones of River John, N.S., is waiting for a refund worth $4,630 for a Sunwing Vacations trip she had planned to take with her husband in March, 2020. The trip included a Sunwing flight from Halifax to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and several days aboard a cruise ship.

She has a credit for the amount of the trip, but prefers to get her money back as she has no plans to travel. “My husband’s not in the greatest of health,” Ms. Jones said in a phone interview. “He’s 84 and I’m 78 – we definitely don’t want to go on a cruise in the future, and if we take a vacation we don’t want to go to a resort that is full of people from all over the world and you don’t know whether they have had vaccinations.”

Sunwing received a government loan worth as much as $375-million in February through a pandemic program called the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) – the same program Air Canada and Transat tapped to provide refunds to their customers.

But rather than offer refunds, the government allowed Sunwing to hold money in an account from customers whose flights were cancelled “until a policy is established for the treatment of these prepaid amounts,” the government said in February.

“Sunwing supposedly has all this money in an account somewhere – gaining interest, no doubt – and supposedly will be returning it at some point, but what we all need to know is: When?” Ms. Jones said. “We’re fed up with waiting.”

Sunwing spokesperson Melanie Filipp said talks with the government are continuing. “We look forward to continuing discussions on the issue of refunds for customers with non-refundable bookings who have received a future travel credit amid the pandemic,” she said.

Katherine Cuplinskas, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, declined to comment on talks with Sunwing, Porter and WestJet, or when aid packages could be announced. Ms. Kuplinskas reiterated the government’s statement that any aid for airlines will come with conditions that include refunds for customers.

Brad Cicero, a spokesman for Porter Airlines, said the Toronto-based airline is in talks for a LEEFF loan, but added that details are confidential and a resolution date in unknown.

WestJet has yet to provide refunds for people who cancelled their own ticket, but in October became the first Canadian airline to offer refunds for uninsured seats on flights the carrier cancelled.

“WestJet took this step without having received government support, unlike many of our global competitors,” WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said.

Taxpayers gave Air Canada a loan worth as much as $1.4-billion to provide customer refunds, part of a $5.9-billion government bailout the airline received. The airline said on June 10 that 40 per cent of 1.8 million eligible customers had applied for a refund.

Transat received a government bailout worth $700-million, $310-million of which is to pay for refunds. Annick Guérard, Transat’s chief executive officer, said on June 10 that customers have applied for 64 per cent of the total amount.

Transat’s decision to withhold refunds and offer credits until the government provided a loan was necessary for the health of the airline, which has not flown since January, “but not one that we have made with a light heart,” Ms. Guérard said.

Air Canada delays return to Saint John Airport

From Global News – link to source story

By Tim Roszell, Global News | May 27, 2021

Click to play video: 'Saint John airport looks forward to better year'
Abstract: It’s going to be at least another month before travelers can fly in or out of the Saint John airport. But the facility’s acting CEO believes it can recover from another pandemic-ravaged year. Tim Roszell reports.

While the number of COVID-19 vaccinations continues to climb in New Brunswick, it’s going to be at least another month before travellers can fly into or out of Saint John Airport.

Air Canada had planned to bring flights back to Saint John on June 1, but its latest route information shows no flights scheduled until June 29, when it is slated to begin a route to Montreal. Saint John-to-Toronto flights are scheduled to begin July 1.

“It certainly is discouraging,” said Greg Hierlihy, Saint John Airport’s acting CEO. “But we weren’t surprised based on what’s going on across the country and with hot spots and with cases rising, we know, it’s understandable.”

Hierlihy admits there is an extra level of anticipation surrounding the airport.

Low-cost carrier Flair Airlines is due to launch July 2 after having its Saint John debut pandemic-delayed by a year. Porter Airlines plans a July 20 restart and regional carrier, PAL Airlines, brings its services to Saint John on Aug. 2.

Hierlihy said destination airline Sunwing has also confirmed a return.

Click to play video: 'Canadian airline industry calls for federal restart plan'Canadian airline industry calls for federal restart plan – May 10, 2021

He said he’s confident travellers will come back, eventually.

“It’ll obviously depend on the recovery and people’s willingness to travel,” Hierlihy said. “There’ll be a bit of a slow, steady recovery, we think. Eventually, we expect it to be — with adding the new airlines — quite busy in the airport which would be a great thing for us to see.”

There have been no commercial flights in or out of Saint John since early 2021. While those resumption schedules are in place, at least one industry analyst believes more needs to happen before passenger numbers rise throughout Atlantic Canada.

Karl Moore, a professor at McGill University, anticipates the possibility of vaccine passports, differing quarantine rules and other COVID-19-related issues will hamper the industry as a whole for some time.

He said opening provincial and international borders will be critical to its recovery in Atlantic Canada.

“We can get some tourism from within Canada,” Moore said. “That would be good this summer, but it’s the foreign tourists that are going to make a huge difference. It’s also business people going to and from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa and that sort of thing that’s going to help the demand for air travel.”

Hierlihy said he’ll be watching vaccination rates and case numbers over the coming weeks as the potential return of flights draws closer.

But he said he’ll also checking passenger levels in other provinces.

“There’s a little more movement in some other provinces in the country and we’ve seen what their seats and passenger rates have been,” he said.

Moore believes it will take several years for the industry to reach early 2019 passenger levels in the Atlantic region.

Hierlihy said he expects passenger levels in 2021 to be similar to 2020 levels, roughly 15 per cent. He said the airport lost $1.8 million last year and is trending toward the same number in 2021.

Click to play video: 'The Travel Lady: COVID-19 vaccines a ray of hope for travel industry'The Travel Lady: COVID-19 vaccines a ray of hope for travel industry – May 11, 2021

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Flight restart date for Saint John Airport pushed back, more airlines added

From CBC News – link to source story

Air Canada flights now scheduled to return on June 30, with a total of five airlines set to hit the runway

Marie Sutherland · CBC News · May 25, 2021

An Air Canada flight from Montreal arrives at the Saint John Airport in the pre-pandemic days. The restart dates for many airlines have been tweaked ahead of the province’s reopening plan announcements, with flights now scheduled to resume on July 2. (Roger Cosman/CBC file photo)

The restart date for flights out of Saint John Airport has been pushed back again ahead of New Brunswick’s reopening-plan announcements, with flights out of YSJ now scheduled to resume on June 30.  

The restart date, which was previously set at June 1, has always been a bit of a moving target because of the shifting COVID-19 landscape, acting CEO Greg Hierlihy said in an interview Tuesday.

“All the airlines, as are we, are looking for and monitoring the reopening plans,” Hierlihy said. “New Brunswick and Atlantic provinces are announcing their reopening plans in the near future, so they’re all going to watch to see what those look like.”

But once they do get going, there will be quite the buffet of options to choose from.

“We have several airlines lined up to fly Saint John, so we’re thrilled about that,” Hierlihy said.

The latest restart dates for Saint John Airport flights are as follows:

  • Air Canada plans to restart flights to YSJ as of June 30 
  • Flair Airlines, an ultra-low-cost carrier, plans to begin flights July 2 
  • PAL Airlines has also joined the roster, with daily flights to Halifax five days a week to start on Aug. 2 
  • Porter Airlines has delayed its network-wide restart to July 21
  • And by wintertime, when you’re really ready for an escape, Sunwing Airlines plans to resume flights down south on Feb. 5
Acting CEO Greg Hierlihy says that a total of at least five airlines will fly into and out of Saint John once things start moving again, hopefully by the end of June. (Credit: Brian Comeau)

Reopening plans key to flights resuming

Could these dates change again?

It’s possible, Hierlihy said, noting it all revolves around travel restrictions and the amount of demand airlines anticipate.

“If the restrictions aren’t loosened on non-essential travel and 14-day [quarantines], the chances of them launching the service are quite low,” he said.

“They have to see in these reopening plans what the path is to loosening those restrictions. That would be the key criteria.”

Airlines have been buffeted by constantly changing pandemic developments, including the postponement of the planned April 19 reopening of the Atlantic bubble and variant outbreaks popping up in provinces across the country.

But a steadily widening vaccine rollout is starting to bite into those numbers, fuelling hope and reopening plans. 

Higgs suggests reopening plans are imminent

At Tuesday’s COVID-19 update, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province has made “incredible progress” in the vaccine rollout, noting he expects that 60 per cent of New Brunswickers will be vaccinated by the end of this week.

He also suggested preliminary discussions for a New Brunswick reopening are underway.

“The rollout plan that we will jointly put together and release will reflect us reaching those targeted levels of 75 per cent”  of the population receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.

“Hopefully over coming few days to a week we’ll be able to outline a path, monitoring closely what we see right now … how well we are able to contain [the outbreak] in the Fredericton area and understand exactly where the issues are arising.”

Hierlihy said he’ll be watching for any news of reopening plans closely.

“We’re optimistic that once we get going there’ll be demand, and we’ve got a variety of airlines that are going to fly out” of Saint John, Hierlihy said.

Once they do, what’s the first getaway on his list?

“Probably Kelowna,” he said. “I love it there. … And probably for sure March break I’ll be going somewhere south.”

Sunwing returns to Saguenay-Bagotville, Quebec with convenient weekly flights this winter

MONTREAL, May 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – This winter, residents of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region will be able to enjoy worry-free vacation experiences with departures directly from their doorstep. Sunwing has announced its return to Saguenay-Bagotville airport for the 2021-2022 season with weekly flight service to Cancun , Varadero , Punta Cana and Puerto Plata . Flights will start at the beginning of December 2021 and will run weekly until the end of April 2022.

“We are very happy to be back at Saguenay-Bagotville airport this winter,” commented Lyne Chayer, General Manager, Vacances Sunwing Québec. “With the growing demand for travel after a long year of lockdown, we are seeing more and more travelers enjoying our worry-free vacation experiences from start to finish. With flights from regional airports, sun-seeking Quebecers will be able to spend more time at the beach during their well-deserved vacation. “

The following flights will be offered:

  • Between Saguenay-Bagotville and Cancún, Mondays from December 6, 2021 to April 18, 2022.
  • Between Saguenay-Bagotville and Puerto Plata, Tuesdays from December 7, 2021 to April 19, 2022.
  • Between Saguenay-Bagotville and Varadero, Wednesdays from December 8, 2021 to April 20, 2022.
  • Between Saguenay-Bagotville and Punta Cana, Thursdays from December 9, 2021 to April 21, 2022.

“We are very happy with Sunwing’s return to Saguenay-Bagotville airport. This is a signal that says a lot about the enthusiasm of the population of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, ”indicates Mr. Patrick Bérubé, General Manager of Promotion Saguenay. “Sunwing flights to tropical destinations have always been popular. We are all the more pleased with this announcement, as it confirms the need for the expansion work on our terminal which is just beginning. This project will allow us to enhance the travel experience and make it even more convenient and comfortable, hand in hand with Sunwing’s commitment to quality vacation experiences. “

Customers departing from Saguenay-Bagotville Airport can make the most of their travel budget by taking advantage of savings during the tour operator’s Unbeatable Deals balance . Until May 31, travelers can save up to 30% on select vacation packages and get the lowest possible prices on their dream getaway for travel between 1 st  November 2021 and 30 April 2022.

Vacationers who fly to Cancun’s pristine beaches can take advantage of incredible deals at the Grand Sunset Princess All Suites & Spa Resort , a top-rated family hotel that offers an array of activities and amenities for all ages. Travelers planning an adult getaway can opt to stay at the Iberostar Playa Alameda , a property for guests 16 and over, nestled on famous Varadero Beach. In the Dominican Republic, sun lovers can stay at Emotions by Hodelpa Playa Dorada , located in the exclusive Playa Dorada resort in Puerto Plata, or enjoy unlimited access to the on-site Riu Bambu water park in Punta Cana.

About Sunwing

Sunwing, the largest integrated tour operator in North America, offers more flights to the South than any other tour operator with direct, user-friendly service from numerous airports across Canada, to popular sun destinations in the United States, in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. This enables Sunwing to offer its customers exclusive deals at top rated hotels in popular vacation destinations, as well as cruise packages and seasonal domestic flight service. Sunwing customers benefit from the services of experienced company representatives at destination. They will be happy to welcome holidaymakers and help them throughout their stay.

Sunwing offers residents of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area more departure options this winter with convenient flights from Hamilton

TORONTO, May 18, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sun-seekers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area will now have even more departure gateways to choose from, as Sunwing has announced they will be returning to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport for the 2021-2022 winter season. Flights will commence at the beginning of December 2021, right in time for Canadians looking to head down south for the holidays, and will operate until mid-April 2022 with service to CancunPunta CanaMontego BayVaraderoCayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria.

“We are excited to be resuming operations from John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport,” said Andrew Dawson, President of Tour Operations for Sunwing. “The airport offers residents of Hamilton and the surrounding GTHA with friendly service, shorter lines and economical parking options just a short drive from their homes. Our convenient flight service from the local airport will provide travellers with even more frictionless vacation experiences under our wing.”

The flight schedule from Hamilton will be as follows:

  • Between Hamilton and Punta Cana, Fridays from December 10, 2021 until April 15, 2022
  • Between Hamilton and Cayo Santa Maria, Fridays from December 10, 2021 until April 15, 2022
  • Between Hamilton and Montego Bay, Saturdays from December 11, 2021 until April 16, 2022
  • Between Hamilton and Varadero, Saturdays from December 11, 2021 until April 16, 2022
  • Between Hamilton and Cancun, Sundays from December 12, 2021 until April 17, 2022
  • Between Hamilton and Cayo Coco, Sundays from December 12, 2021 until April 17, 2022

“With demand building for tropical getaways, we are delighted that Sunwing will be returning to Hamilton International Airport this winter,” commented Dina Carlucci, Director Business Development & Customer Experience for John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. “Sunwing flights have been consistently popular amongst Hamiltonians for almost a decade and residents will have plenty of options to choose from, with six popular destinations offered right from their doorstep.”

Travellers headed to the Cancun area can stay on the pristine white-sand shores of Playa Mujeres at Riu Dunamar, a top-rated family resort that features an exciting on-site water park. Another popular choice for families is Royalton White Sands Montego Bay in Jamaica, which is home to its own private island and a range of amenities for all ages including fun-filled kids and teen clubs. Vacationers looking to soak up the sun on world-famous shores may choose to stay at Grand Memories Varadero where they can try out a range of water sports like windsurfing and catamaran rides.

Plus, customers who book their tropical getaway at select resorts by May 31, 2021 for travel between November 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022 will receive up to $1,000 per couple in value during the tour operator’s extended Freedom 21/22 Sale, including complimentary Price Drop Cash Back of up to $800 per couple at select resorts and the flexibility to change or cancel their plans with ease.

About Sunwing

The largest integrated travel company in North America, Sunwing has more flights to the south than any other leisure carrier with convenient direct service from airports across Canada to popular sun destinations across the U.S.A., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. This scale enables Sunwing to offer customers exclusive deals at top-rated resorts in the most popular vacation destinations as well as cruise packages and seasonal domestic flight service. Sunwing customers benefit from the assistance of the company’s own knowledgeable destination representatives, who greet them upon arrival and support them throughout their vacation journey. The company supports the communities where it operates through the Sunwing Foundation, a charitable initiative focused on the support and development of youth and humanitarian aid.

Frustration grows as Sunwing doesn’t give refunds for cancelled flights despite taking taxpayer aid

From CBC News – link to source story

Airline offers credit vouchers to affected passengers, but many just want their money back

Dianne Buckner · CBC News · May 14, 2021

Jillian Wilson’s wedding dress is still in a garment bag since her destination wedding was cancelled more than a year ago as COVID-19 brought international air travel to a halt. Wilson says she wants the roughly $70,000 her group spent on Sunwing airfare to be refunded. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

Glenn Waddingham can barely contain his frustration.

“This is a terrible way to do business,” he said. “How is this even allowed to happen?”

The 62-year-old from Victoria Harbour, Ont., is referring to the fact that unlike other large Canadian airlines, Sunwing is still not offering refunds for flights it cancelled due to the pandemic. Some of those flights were cancelled more than a year ago, leaving many customers in the same frustrating situation as Waddingham.

He and his wife had planned a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to the Margaritaville resort on Grand Cayman Island for March 2020, but the airline cancelled the flight after Ottawa warned against non-essential international travel. 

Sunwing, a low-cost carrier based in Toronto that flies to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, has offered travel credit vouchers to affected passengers. But Waddingham said he doesn’t need a voucher; he needs the $3,600 he paid for the trip. 

“I want a refund. I’m unemployed. I could use the money,” he said. “I’m shocked that the Better Business Bureau and the federal government is allowing one tour operator to act in this manner.” 

Other airlines issue refunds

Hundreds of Sunwing customers who want refunds are part of a Facebook group called Sunwing Complaints. Many are angry that the airline has still not refunded its customers for flights cancelled because of the pandemic despite accepting federal loans that were contingent on such refunds. 

They point out that both Air Canada and Air Transat began issuing refunds as soon as they received hundreds of millions of dollars from Ottawa in April. But Sunwing is sticking to its credit-voucher-only policy despite having accepted a $375-million financing deal from Ottawa in February.

Like several other large Canadian employers, such as GoodLife Fitness, Gateway Casinos, Air Canada and Air Transat, the company was able to secure a loan through a special pandemic-related program called the large employer emergency financing facility (LEEFF).

Sunwing did not reply to the CBC’s email and telephone requests for comment. 

Glenn Waddingham and his wife had booked a trip to Grand Cayman Island for March 2020. Now unemployed due to the pandemic, Waddingham says he doesn’t want a travel voucher from Sunwing; he wants his money back. (Submitted by Glenn Waddingham)

Jillian Wilson, 30, of Stratford, Ont., isn’t impressed with the airline. 

“To hear that they’ve gotten a government fund or bailout and are still refusing to give refunds is very, very disappointing,” she said.  

She and her partner were married by a justice of the peace in February 2020 and planned to celebrate with friends and family at a beach wedding ceremony in the Dominican Republic a month later. They estimate their group of 40 guests is out of pocket about $70,000 altogether because their flights were cancelled. 

My husband likes to call it an interest-free loan to Sunwing,” she said. 

Wilson is as baffled as many other customers about why the airline hasn’t followed Air Canada and Air Transat in refunding customers for flights cancelled due to COVID-19.

Special loans for the other airlines

There is a difference, however, between the federal aid Air Canada and Air Transat have received and what Sunwing has negotiated so far. The other airlines arranged additional loans from the government specifically to fund passenger refunds, on top of their LEEFF loans.  

However, the government says it actually imposed conditions on Sunwing’s LEEFF loan: the airline had to agree to set aside the money it had received from customers for tickets to ensure they could eventually be refunded. No timeline was set for paying customers back.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a punishing financial toll on Canada’s airline industry. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

A statement sent to CBC News from the office of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says, “As part of the LEEFF loan that Sunwing received in February 2021, Sunwing committed to refunding its customers for pandemic-related cancellations.”

The email sent by press secretary Katherine Cuplinskas also says, “As an industry-wide refund process is now in place, the federal government fully expects Sunwing to uphold its commitment to refund customers and conversations continue with the airline to ensure this happens.”

Asked why it’s taking so long for customers to receive those refunds, especially since Sunwing was told to set the money aside, Cuplinskas said that’s a question for the airline.

The delay could be due in part to the fact Sunwing and the government are currently negotiating a separate refund loan.

The expectation is the airlines will start repaying the loans once travel picks up after the pandemic is under control.

Ian Jack, vice-president of public affairs with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), says he is sympathetic to the plight of all airlines, including Sunwing, but the carrier should offer refunds promptly to customers whose flights were cancelled due to the pandemic. (Stephane Richer/CBC)

Ian Jack, vice-president of public affairs with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), a retail leisure travel vendor, said the situation with Sunwing is unfair to customers.

“Arguably, Sunwing has had a bit of a double benefit here. They’ve got the government loans and they’ve got all that customers’ money,” said Jack, who serves as a consumer advocate for issues related to transportation.

He also acknowledges that Sunwing, like all airlines, is in a tough spot.

“Nobody would want to be trying to run an airline these days,” he said. “And certainly over the past year or so, we have to have some sympathy for a carrier that’s just been sideswiped and almost had its business shut down.”

Customer concerns

Even so, he said, Sunwing customers have had to wait far too long for refunds.

“It’s really unconscionable how long this has taken. It’s been over a year now since the skies were originally shut down due to COVID. The government needs to revisit this with Sunwing and say to them, ‘Look, get the money flowing.'”

Glenn Waddingham is nervous about whether that will happen.

“My fear is that Sunwing is going to go bankrupt and then we’re going to be part of their debtors and we’re getting nothing.”

Sunwing returns to Windsor this winter with convenient weekly flights to popular Cuban destinations

TORONTO, May 12, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Residents of Windsor and the southwestern Ontario region will be able to return to paradise with ease this winter with Sunwing. The tour operator has announced they will be returning to Windsor International Airport for the 2021/2022 season with weekly flight service to the popular vacation destinations of Varadero and Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba. Flights will begin in December 2021 and operate until mid-April 2022.

“Our service from Windsor International Airport has been consistently well received and we’re looking forward to returning for the 2021/2022 winter season,” commented Andrew Dawson, President of Tour Operations for Sunwing. “Our regional gateways including Windsor are at the forefront of our operations and we’re excited to be offering residents convenient departures from their local airport under our wing.”

The flight schedule from Windsor will be as follows:

  • Between Windsor and Cayo Santa Maria, Tuesdays from December 14, 2021, until April 5, 2022
  • Between Windsor and Varadero, Thursdays from December 16, 2021, until April 14, 2022

“We are looking forward to welcoming Sunwing back to Windsor International Airport,” said Mark Galvin, CEO of Windsor Airport. “Sunwing provides convenient vacation destinations at a time when rest and relaxation are much needed.”

Drew Dilkens, Mayor of Windsor and the Chair of the YGB Board of Directors, also celebrated the news. “Sunwing is an important partner for YQG and the Windsor-Essex region. We are happy that Sunwing is returning to provide amazing vacation experiences right from our doorstep.”

Travellers can choose from a range of vacation packages for every budget in Cuba. Sun-seekers can kick back and relax on Varadero’s world-famous shores at Grand Memories Varadero, with plenty of resort-offered water sports on the white-sand beach. Those planning an adults only retreat may choose to stay at Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, offering sophisticated getaways for vacationers aged 18+ with convenient amenities and top-notch butler service.

Residents of southwestern Ontario can book with peace of mind during the tour operator’s extended Freedom 21/22 Sale. From now until May 31, 2021, travellers can receive up to $1,000 in value on select vacation packages and enjoy flexible booking options with the freedom to change or cancel their plans with ease. Customers can also rest assured that the highest Canadian standards are in place throughout their entire vacation experience with the Safe with Sunwing commitment, created under the advisement of global healthcare leader Medcan.

About Sunwing

The largest integrated travel company in North America, Sunwing has more flights to the south than any other leisure carrier with convenient direct service from airports across Canada to popular sun destinations across the U.S.A., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. This scale enables Sunwing to offer customers exclusive deals at top-rated resorts in the most popular vacation destinations as well as cruise packages and seasonal domestic flight service. Sunwing customers benefit from the assistance of the company’s own knowledgeable destination representatives, who greet them upon arrival and support them throughout their vacation journey. The company supports the communities where it operates through the Sunwing Foundation, a charitable initiative focused on the support and development of youth and humanitarian aid.

Sunwing returns to the Region of Waterloo this winter with convenient weekly flights to Cancun

TORONTO, May 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sunwing has announced it will be returning to the Region of Waterloo International Airport this winter, with convenient weekly flights to CancunMexico. Residents of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo will be able to enjoy frictionless vacation experiences with departures right from their doorstep. Flights will operate on Mondays from December 13, 2021 until April 18, 2022.

“We’re excited to be returning to the Region of Waterloo International Airport for our 11th season,” said Andrew Dawson, President of Tour Operations for Sunwing. “Service from the region has been consistently well received for over a decade and we’re sure that residents of the surrounding area will enjoy being able to head to paradise safely under our wing.”

“After over a year on the ground, we’re looking forward to welcoming Sunwing back to Region of Waterloo International Airport and appreciate their continued support of the region,” commented Chris Wood, General Manager at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. “The weekly service from Waterloo to Cancun was extremely popular during the 2019-2020 season, and we’re confident that our community will appreciate being able to travel to the tropics from their local airport this winter.”

Residents of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo can choose from a range of vacation packages for every travel style. Travellers can Vacation Like a Star™ at the brand-new Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Cancun which features entertainment-themed activities, authentic Hollywood memorabilia and A-lister service. Sun-seekers can take their travel budget even further when they stay at Riu Dunamar, offering exclusive RIU®-topia inclusions for Sunwing guests in addition to access to an on-site water park. Plus, customers will receive up to $1,000 per couple in value with the tour operator’s extended Freedom 21/22 Sale on select packages booked by May 31, 2021, for departures between November 1, 2021 and April 30, 2022.

Vacationers can book with confidence knowing that the highest Canadian standards are in place throughout their entire vacation experience. The Safe with Sunwing commitment was created under the advisement of global healthcare leader Medcan and is in place from the moment customers check-in at the airport to their resort stay and their journey home.

About Sunwing

The largest integrated travel company in North America, Sunwing has more flights to the south than any other leisure carrier with convenient direct service from airports across Canada to popular sun destinations across the U.S.A., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. This scale enables Sunwing to offer customers exclusive deals at top-rated resorts in the most popular vacation destinations as well as cruise packages and seasonal domestic flight service. Sunwing customers benefit from the assistance of the company’s own knowledgeable destination representatives, who greet them upon arrival and support them throughout their vacation journey. The company supports the communities where it operates through the Sunwing Foundation, a charitable initiative focused on the support and development of youth and humanitarian aid.