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

Sidney fundraiser helping kids fight diabetes

Nicola Politano organizing May 26 dance at the air cadet hall

‘ALR golf courses should return to farming,’ says ex-ALC chair Frank Leonard

Former mayor says Saanich could appeal Cedar Hill Golf Course application

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

Saanich taking heat over process surrounding Haro Woods

District delays decision on the future of cycling in popular Saanich park

VIDEO: Canadian Forces help flood-ravaged Grand Forks residents heal

Sgt. Bradley Lowes says the military is used to dealing with traumatic times

UPDATE: Blood found in missing man’s vehicle

Searchers are sticking to a high-priority area before expanding their search for Ben Kilmer

Central Vancouver Island man dies in single-vehicle collision

Pickup truck with three occupants went off the road near Port Alberni

Watch: Saved from highway harm, ducklings waddle into Swan Lake

Saanich Pound rescue, release ducklings in cute video

UPDATED: Almost 1,200 people allowed to return home in Kootenay-Boundary as floods dry up

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Whitecaps rally for 2-2 draw with FC Dallas

Vancouver climbed out of a two-nil hole to tie FC Dallas 2-2

B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

Most Read