Sunwing Vacations passengers en route to Victoria from Mexico were rerouted to Abbotsford on Saturday night and had to make their own way back to the Island. Those who spoke to the News say they were not reimbursed for the cost of doing so, but instead were offered a $150 travel voucher for Sunwing. Sunwing.ca

Island passengers say Sunwing left them stranded in Abbotsford

Company says late arrival led to difficulties securing accommodation, transportation

A Sunwing Vacations flight scheduled to land in Victoria last Saturday was rerouted to Abbotsford, leaving close to 200 passengers stranded in a city five hours from their scheduled destination.

Stuart Salter was travelling from Los Cabos, Mexico with his wife, daughter and 10-year-old granddaughter when approximately 20 minutes before landing, the pilot of their chartered Viva Aerobus flight announced they’d be going to Abbotsford instead because the airport in Victoria was closed.

When the flight landed at 10:45 p.m., Salter checked online and saw that at least three other planes had landed in Victoria during that time. He said passengers were held on the plane for an hour and then prohibited from leaving the airport. “We were in the airport until 4 a.m. when we were told the plane was not going on to Victoria.”

“Essentially we were abandoned in Abbotsford,” the Qualicum Beach resident said.

The Abbotsford airport manager, Curtis Chapman, was an hour from the end of his shift when the flight arrived. Salter called him “an absolute star” who not only stayed on shift to help, but arranged for food and coffee from Tim Horton’s at 2 a.m. and was about to charter a bus – on his own dime – to take people to Victoria, but couldn’t find a driver at 5 a.m.

A $175 cab ride later, Salter and his family made the 9 a.m. ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay where they paid another $25 for a second taxi to take them to the Victoria International Airport where they had parked their vehicle.

“What bothered me, to be honest, was not that we landed in Abbotsford. This is Canada and it’s winter – things happen,” Salter said. “The real issue is how they handled it. It was appalling.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Sunwing said the company regrets that “extreme weather impacted our customers’ return home and have extended a future travel voucher to them to the value of $150 per person as gesture of goodwill.

“As we are not the airline, we cannot comment on any specific operational details relating to the diversion itself. However, we were informed by Viva Aerobus that our customers experienced a delay in disembarking, as Abbotsford Airport does not have a customs agent on duty 24 hours and so it was necessary to reopen customs to meet the flight.”

The spokesperson noted the company’s customer care team attempted to source hotel accommodations or secure onward ground transportation, but given that the diversion occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, they were unsuccessful.

The statement said passengers were then advised to retain their taxi receipts for their onward travel back to Victoria and to submit them for a refund.

A second passenger who was travelling with her boyfriend voiced frustration that Viva airline staff told her they would be reimbursed for the additional travel costs to reach Victoria, but all they have been offered by Sunwing is the $150 voucher.

Both she and Salter said they don’t plan to travel with the company again.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Bowser residents protest marine sewage outfall plan

Veenhof and staff endures harsh criticisms at public information meeting

Qualicum Beach society goes to bat for insect eaters

Two bat houses built to monitor population in Heritage Forest

Parksville reopens portion of wetland

City undertakes review, remediation of liability concerns

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

SAR scaling back in Kilmer search, but friends will keep looking

Search for 41-year-old Cobble Hill dad hits six-day mark

Rachel Notley to skip premiers conference to focus on pipeline deal

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project until it receives assurances

B.C. tech company will power Uber Elevate

Moli and Uber announce research and development partnership.

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Still no sign of missing father in Cowichan Valley

Search group for Ben Kilmer now stands 40 SAR volunteers and another 100 friends and concerned community members

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

Most Read