Several Canadian airlines are refusing to fly a group of passengers home after they filmed themselves partying maskless last week aboard a chartered Sunwing flight, which prompted the airline to cancel the group’s flight home due to public backlash.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the group that was flying from Montreal to Mexico “idiots” in a news conference Wednesday and said their social media posting of a maskless party – as COVID-19 surges amid the omicron variant – was a “slap in the face.”
The group included several social media influencers, which led to the videos of the partying on the Dec. 30 flight to go viral. The videos show passengers not wearing masks in close proximity, while singing and dancing in aisle seats and a large bottle of vodka being passed around.
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Now, the group is stranded in Cancun. Both Air Transat and Air Canada have followed Sunwing’s decision to not return any of the passengers home.
On Twitter, Air Transat cited an obligation to passenger and crew safety in denying the “disruptive passengers” a flight home. Air Canada issued a public statement with a similar sentiment, noting that it will deny flights “to the extent that we can identify the passengers who were part of the group.”
Rebecca St. Pierre, a 19-year-old student from Quebec who was a passenger on the plane, told The Canadian Press she’s now stranded in Mexico with no way home. She told the outlet she tested positive for COVID-19 and estimated around 30 others also tested positive. St. Pierre said she was on the flight for a free trip contest on Instagram by a social media influencer James William Awad.
Awad reflected on Twitter Wednesday, calling the controversy a “simple party.” “I will take a moment to sit down and rethink everything. Especially how I can do things better next time,” he wrote.
Transport Canada said in a public statement that it’s been in contact with the airlines. “Should the department determine that non-compliance with Transport Canada regulations and requirements has occurred, fines of up to $5,000 per offence could be issued to passengers,” the statement reads.
“There will be a full investigation into exactly what went on in this situation,” Trudeau said the Wednesday news conference. “I think like all Canadians who have seen those videos, I’m extremely frustrated. We know how hard people have worked to keep themselves safe, to limit their family gatherings at Christmas time, to wear masks, to get vaccinated, to do all the right things, and it’s slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible.”