sunwing toronto cancun

Passengers upset after Sunwing flight from Toronto to Cancun goes wrong

Over 200 travellers are once again furious with a Canadian airline's lack of communication after being corralled into what one passenger described as a "basement detention centre" mid-flight without being told why or when they would be released.

The 10 a.m. Sunwing flight from Toronto's Pearson Airport to Cancun was forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans on Saturday around 1:30 p.m. due to a mechanical issue.

Passengers reportedly waited inside the plane on the tarmac at Louis Armstrong International Airport for four hours before they were forced to disembark for regulatory reasons.

With no room inside the New Orleans airport to accommodate 239 people, however, the Sunwing customers were instead shuffled into what one told CBC was "a closed room that looked like a big hallway or tunnel."

There, they had to wait until Saturday night for a plane to arrive from Miami and complete the journey to Cancun—but passengers didn't know at the time how long they'd be in New Orleans for or even why, specifically, the jet was forced to land.

Some on Twitter described the experience as "terrifying," noting that the airport basement didn't even have chairs.

Others declared their entire vacations ruined, vowed never to fly Sunwing again and reached out to the company publicly after failing to reach the airline's customer service centre by phone.

People were so irritated that some passengers report a fist fight breaking out in the underground holding area.

Eventually, after roughly three hours off the plane, passengers were able to board a different jet and continue on safely to Cancun.

"We didn't have our staff on the ground to support communications," said Sunwing in a statement after the fact. "Because of the unplanned nature of the landing, the airport was very busy and it took many hours to find a secured area for our customers to deplane to."

"We are very apologetic for this unfortunate start to their vacation and have compensated accordingly."

A few weeks ago, on March 12, Sunwing became the first Canadian airline to announce that it would be temporarily suspending all four Boeing 737 Max 8 jets within its fleet.

The move came in response to mounting pressure from travellers to ground the planes after 157 people were killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the same model.

Canada joined dozens of other countries on March 13 in banning the Boeing plane model from its airspace.

The plane that experienced mechanical issues on Saturday was a Boeing 767-300. It had been leased from Eastern Airlines by Sunwing to supplement its fleet in light of the Max 8 aircraft ban.

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