Sunwing Vacations passengers en route to Victoria from Mexico on a Viva Aerobus plane 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. VivaAerobus

Passengers bound for Victoria 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

New airline connections coming from Qualicum Beach to Boundary Bay and Abbotsford

Third airline out of QB airport says Bellingham flights expected to be added within a year

B.C. BUDGET: Fare freeze, free travel for seniors on BC Ferries

A complete fare freeze will be put into place on major routes, and fares will be rolled back on smaller routes by 15 per cent

BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

BC BUDGET: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Foreign buyers’ tax extended to Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver Island

BC BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Health spending to increase $1.5 billion for drugs, primary care teams

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

Canucks blow three goal lead, lose to Avalanche in overtime

Vancouver struggled on the penalty kill, as Colorado scored all five goals on the powerplay

Widow of avalanche victim sues Golden lodge operator

A woman from Alberta is suing guides, their mountain guide association and the lodge operator for negligence

BC BUDGET: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

Union says funding could stop sheriffs from leaving for higher paid jobs

Cattlemen urge B.C. to prevent erosion caused during 2017 wildfire season

Other concerns are fencing restoration and repair, and a lack of feed for cattle.

Vancouver Island job market ever-evolving

Various sectors driving employment in region will be represented at Black Press career fair in Comox Feb. 8

Cowichan bounces Oceanside from midget hockey playoffs

Capitals snare 4-2 win in Island semifinal game in Parksville

Patrick Brown’s Tory leadership bid fate looms

Brown’s bid to for Tory leadership to be decided on Wednesday

Duncan cousins found guilty of aggravated sexual assault

Assault so violent, victim required surgery

Most Read