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Sunwing trip could have been aborted mid flight, experts say


MONTREAL — Experts say a now-notorious Sunwing party flight from Montreal to Mexico might have been halted mid-trip had certain aviation protocols been strictly followed.

Videos of the Dec. 30 charter voyage shared on social media show unmasked passengers in close proximity singing and dancing in the aisle and on seats as some clutch bottles of liquor, vape and snap selfies.

Head of McGill University aviation management program John Gradek says the captain has responsibility for the plane including the decision to turn around or touch down early due to unruly behaviour or other breaches by passengers.

He says the pilot typically makes that decision in consultation with an airline’s dispatch centre and may receive instructions on whether to continue on to the final destination — in this case, Cancun.

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Robert Kokonis, president of consulting firm AirTrav Inc., says emergency measures are warranted if passenger behaviour gets to the point of threatening traveller safety, and that he was “shocked” the plane did not return to Canada.

Sunwing did not reply immediately to a request for comment about the decision to keep flying, but said Tuesday that passengers — some were social media influencers — violated aviation regulations and public health rules, prompting an internal investigation.

The Toronto-based tour operator cancelled the group’s return flight from Cancun, scheduled for Wednesday, as a result.

“The health and safety of our employees and passengers is our top priority at Sunwing Airlines,” the carrier said in a release.

Transport Canada has also launched an investigation in conjunction with the federal health and public safety departments.

It warned that non-compliance with COVID-19 or air safety regulations can result in fines of up to $5,000 per offence. It also noted that anyone giving false information to a Canadian government official — on vaccination status, for example — could face fines of up to $750,000, six months in jail or both.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2022.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2022.