People planning getaways from Regina via Sunwing Airlines are being forced to find another option.
In an email statement to CBC News Tuesday, the airline confirmed it is cancelling the remainder of its winter flights from Regina International Airport “due to extenuating circumstances,” effective Feb. 4, 2023.
It’s the latest bout of turbulence for the airline that had already cancelled all service in Saskatchewan between Dec. 29, 2022 through to Feb. 3, 2023.
“We sincerely apologize to our valued customers and airport partner in Regina for the inconvenience and disruption,” the statement reads.
“Following the preliminary cancellations in January, the difficult decision to cancel more of our winter program was necessary due to operational and business constraints that would prevent us from delivering the standards of service our customers in Regina expect and deserve when travelling with Sunwing.”
The latest round of cancellations affects weekly flights to Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic from Regina, with the exception of Sunday departures to Puerto Vallarta starting on Feb. 5.
The following flights to destinations in Mexico will also go ahead as scheduled for Family Day weekend:
- Puerto Vallarta, Feb. 17.
- Mazatlán, Feb. 17.
- Cancun on Feb. 18 and Feb. 20.
With those exceptions, Sunwing says, it is offering affected customers the ability to transfer vacation packages to same-day departures from Winnipeg, Saskatoon or other Canadian airports at originally booked pricing, pending availability.
“Alternatively, customers can choose to cancel their vacations for a full refund to their original form of payment, if preferred. Customers can contact their local travel agent or the Sunwing Sales Centre at 1-877-786-9464 to initiate their change or cancellation,” the statement reads.
The president and CEO of Regina Airport Authority, James Bogusz, says they only learned of Sunwing’s decision Tuesday morning.
Bogusz said he is personally disappointed in airline’s decision, especially as it affects “thousands” of customers.
“This is unprecedented. You do see airlines cancel flights from time to time, that is not new … but what you don’t see generally is these mass cancellations on short notice,” he said.
“I’ve been doing this for two decades. It’s very uncommon to see an airline do this, but I I suppose it’s better to know today than three weeks from now.”
Bogusz says customers can still head to sunny destinations direct or via a larger Canadian hub from Regina. He also advised people to visit the airport authority’s website and social channels as they continue to distribute information the airlines share with them.
Saskatoon’s airport authority told CBC News in an emailed statement it has not received any notification from Sunwing of planned changes to the existing schedule set to resume on Feb. 3 from the city.
It added that Sunwing’s planned schedule sees approximately six to 10 flights per week departing Saskatoon for sun destinations across Mexico and the Caribbean.
As of last week, Sunwing Airlines had received 7,000 complaints from customers unhappy with its performance during a turbulent holiday travel season.
Last Thursday, Sunwing executives told MPs on the House of Commons standing committee on transport, infrastructure and communities that the airline cancelled 67 flights between Dec. 15 and 31, in part because of staff shortages.
The airline’s president, Len Corrado, says the airline struggled after the federal government declined its request to hire 63 pilots as temporary foreign workers.
Longtime Saskatoon travel agent Michelle Loran said she isn’t affected by this Regina announcement, but colleagues are.
She said it’s been difficult trying to communicate with Sunwing.
“It’s ridiculous. Typically when we try to call in, we’re on hold for hours. The norm since COVID. There were days when we’d be on hold the whole day,” Loran said.
She said many families are stressed and worried about their bookings.