Sunwing struggling with ‘operational constraints,’ cancels almost all flights out of Regina

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | January 20, 2023

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 39 seconds.

Sunwing has cancelled almost all flights out of Regina, Saskatchewan, to various sun destinations as of Feb. 4, 2023. The cancelations come while the airline is under fire for the December travel chaos that left hundreds of Sunwing passengers stranded in other countries over the holiday season. In late December, the airline had also canceled all Saskatchewan operations until Feb. 3, 2023.

The latest cancelations out of Regina “impact weekly flights . . . to Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, with the exception of departures to Puerto Vallarta starting on Feb. 5, and the following flights scheduled for Family Day weekend departures to Puerto Vallarta on Feb. 17, and Cancun on Feb. 18 and 20,” Sunwing said in a release sent to travel agents.

The release notes that the decision was “necessary due to operational and business constraints that would prevent us from delivering the standards of service our customers in Regina both expect and deserve.”

Sunwing 737 Max 8 taxiing
Sunwing Boeing 737 Max 8. Galen Burrows Photo

According to a Global News report, travel agents were made aware of the impending cancelations before Regina International Airport (CYQR).

The airport tweeted that it was “disappointed” to learn about the news that “Sunwing will be canceling the remainder of their winter program at YQR with limited exceptions after Feb. 4.”

Sunwing had blamed the pilot shortage (in addition to severe winter weather) for the travel disruptions that occurred over the 2022 holiday season. The airline proposed a plan in late 2022 to use Canada’s temporary foreign worker program to hire more pilots. However, Unifor expressed safety concerns over this plan, stating that Sunwing would be hiring pilots “from countries with less rigorous training requirements,” and that the pilots would not even “meet the company’s own training requirements.” Sunwing ended up abandoning that plan in early December.

The airline testified before the House of Commons transport committee on Jan. 12 about the holiday travel chaos, having to answer gruelling questions from several Members of Parliament. The airline was joined by Air Canada and WestJet; Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver airport authorities; and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

During the committee meeting, Sunwing Travel Group’s president of tour operations, Andrew Dawson, confirmed that the airline had received 7,000 complaints as of Jan. 12.

Canada has Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPRs) in place to protect travelers from long delays or cancelations — which Canadian airlines are obligated to meet. As such, Sunwing would have had 30 days to respond to the thousands of compensation complaints it received, or it could be fined by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Member of Parliament for Thornhill, Melissa Lantsman, stated during the committee meeting that the passenger protections put in place by the government “have failed to actually protect passengers,” and that “a Canadian that flies British Airways to the U.K. is better protected than one who flies WestJet to the U.K.”

Transport Minister Alghabra says changes will be made to strengthen Canada’s APPRs — noting that he is “consulting internally within Transport Canada [and] externally with our partners,” and will also be welcoming recommendations from the committee.

Regarding Sunwing, the airline was overambitious with its schedule given its “operational constraints,” and it appears that its latest cancelations out of Regina are an effort to give its remaining routes a fighting chance.

However, thousands of customers in the Regina region will be affected. According to a report from Travel Pulse Canada, travelers are being offered the option to rebook from Saskatoon, or other Canadian airports, at the originally booked price — depending on seat availability. Full refunds are also being offered.

Regions in Saskatchewan have been hit hard recently by route cancelations. In mid-January, Air Canada announced it is terminating service from Saskatoon to Calgary’s regional hub. The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce called on Canada’s Competition Bureau to examine Air Canada’s decision, as it is likely to result in higher costs for travelers due to less competition.

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