(NEXSTAR) — A group of passengers who were filmed partying on a recent Sunwing Airlines flight from Montreal to Cancun might be stranded in Mexico after footage of their high-flying antics went viral.
News of the in-flight fiasco made headlines earlier this week after members of the tourist group were seen vaping, drinking and eschewing masks on the chartered Dec. 30 flight. Footage of their behavior — some of which was obtained by Le Journal de Montreal — even attracted the attention of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called their actions “a slap in the face” to Canadians who were actively working to keep themselves and their fellow citizens safe.
Now, several Canadian airlines say the unmasked travelers will not be welcome on flights back to Canada, with Air Transat, Air Canada and even Sunwing all refusing to fly them home.
In a statement obtained by Winnipeg’s City News, Sunwing claims the group was offered a return flight, but only if they could agree to a set of safety conditions. The tour’s organizer, James William Awad, released a statement Thursday morning claiming that Sunwing insisted there be no in-flight meal on the five-hour flight home, saying this stipulation was the sole reason an agreement could not be reached.
“Unfortunately, the group did not accept all of the terms,” Sunwing said. “As a result of our ongoing investigation and the group’s refusal to accept all terms of carriage, we have made the decision to cancel the return flight. We regret any inconvenience to the passengers.”
Air Canada, too, said it would prohibit any passengers they could identify from the Sunwing flight. Air Transat, meanwhile, issued a public statement on Twitter confirming that some of the offending passengers had tried booking Air Transat flights home.
“We confirm that they will be denied boarding based on our legal and regulatory obligations to ensure the safety of both our passengers and crew, which is our top priority,” Air Transat stated.
Complicating matters further, one of the passengers who spoke with the Canadian press is claiming that she and approximately 30 other members of the group have since tested positive for COVID-19 in Mexico.
“The organizer just left everybody. I don’t know who’s still here. All the flights have been canceled,” the young woman said in a statement obtained by the Ottowa Citizen.
She also claimed she won the trip via an Instagram contest and was expecting a “relaxing” and “careful” vacation with the group, which consisted of social-media influencers and reality stars, according to CTV News Montreal. On social media, she told her 16,000 followers that she was prepared to “assume the consequences” of her actions.
If indeed the travelers have tested positive for COVID-19, Canadian regulations would prohibit them from entering until 14 days have passed since their last positive test, or they attain a medical certificate confirming that symptoms are “not related to COVID-19,” according to the Government of Canada.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, Prime Minister Trudeau said Transport Canada was “taking this situation extremely seriously.”
“There will be a full investigation into exactly what went on in this situation,” said Trudeau. “I think, like all Canadians who have seen those videos, I’m extremely frustrated. We know how hard people have worked to keep themselves safe, to limit their family gatherings at Christmastime, to wear masks, to get vaccinated, to do all the right things. And it’s a slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible.
“I can assure you that this is a situation that Transport Canada takes extremely seriously, and we are definitely following up on that.”
Omar Alghabra, Canada’s Minister of Transport, had previously promised that the offending passengers would be held accountable for their actions.
“Our Government takes reported incidents such as these very seriously,” said Alghabra in a joint statement with Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino. “We have directed our respective departmental officials to immediately launch an investigation into these allegations of non-compliance with COVID-19 and air safety rules and regulations.”
Passengers found to be in violation of these regulations could face fines of up to $5,000 Canadian (approximately $3,925 USD) per offense, the officials noted.
Tour organizer Awad, meanwhile, maintains that all passengers had been tested prior to the private Dec. 30 flight. He now says his travel company is working “tirelessly” to get the tour group home.
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