Airlines Strand Passengers Who Partied on Flight Without Masks

It was promoted as a New Years Eve celebration in Cancun, Mexico: a six-night trip that included open bar parties and a day exploring Tulum, a popular tourist destination in the Yucatan Peninsula known for its ancient ruins and the turquoise water of its beaches.

It would start with a privately chartered plane from Montreal where guests – a circle of Canadian social media influencers, reality TV personalities and others – would be entertained by a DJ on the flight to Mexico.

But the trip turned into a fiasco as airlines rejected the group and stranded many of its members and Canadian authorities vowed to investigate after videos of the passengers surfaced on social media showing them disobeying restrictions. Covid-19 from Canada.

In the videos, passengers are seen dancing and jumping in the corridors, yelling without masks and passing bottles of alcohol. A woman can be seen vaping in the cabin. Another passenger, with the mask hanging under his chin, yells at his fellow passengers over the intercom in the cabin to sit down, and then, “to keep up the energy.”

“Let’s hear some noise, welcome to 111 Private Club!” says the same passenger in a video, referring to an online group described as “by invitation only” that was founded by James William Awad, a self-described musician and businessman who organized the trip. The passengers, many of them without masks, shout in approval.

About 27 of the 130 passengers on the flight are back in Canada, the country’s health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, told reporters on Friday.

“They were all detained and questioned at the border,” he said, adding that they were tested for Covid-19 and asked about their proof of vaccination and their quarantine plans.

Many passengers apparently remained stranded in Mexico after at least three airlines said they would not take them back.

“Private club 111 is working tirelessly to get everyone home safely as quickly as possible,” Awad said in a statement posted Thursday on a personal blog. “I understand why many fellow citizens are upset by the current situation,” he said earlier in the statement. “As someone who enjoys bringing people together, I made a commitment to host a private and safe event in Cancun with my group from private club 111.”

Transport Canada, the country’s transportation authority, said it was investigating the conduct of passengers, who could face fines of up to $ 5,000 for violating Canada’s Covid-19 restrictions, which prohibit passengers from traveling without masks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the behavior seen on the plane a “slap in the face” for people who have complied with Covid-19 restrictions on airplanes and at home.

“I think like all Canadians who have seen those videos, I am extremely frustrated,” he said. “We know how hard people have worked to stay safe, to limit their family gatherings at Christmas, to wear masks, to get vaccinated, to do all the right things.”

Sunwing Airlines, which flew the group to Cancun on December 30, said it canceled the flight back to Canada after an internal investigation found that the passengers “exhibited unruly behavior and did not respect aviation or public health regulations.”

“Our decision to cancel the return flight was based on the group’s refusal to accept all the terms and our safety team’s assessment that the breach would likely be based on their previous disruptive behavior on board,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

Awad said in his statement that he had agreed with “all the demands” made by the airline, but had objected to Sunwing’s refusal to provide meals during the five-hour return flight. He then wrote on Twitter that the sticking point was not over the meals and that he had “just asked Sunwing to try to do something about it.”

In its statement, Sunwing did not elaborate on how the flight crew responded to the passengers or if the captain was aware of what was happening during the flight to Mexico.

Air Canada said it denied flights to 19 people who were linked to the group, according to CTV News.

“To the extent that we can identify the passengers who were part of the group, we will deny boarding to ensure the safety of other passengers and our crew,” said Air Canada.

Air Transat, another Canadian airline, said on Twitter that it refused to take passengers home after they tried to book a flight through the airline.

“We confirm that they will be denied boarding based on our legal and regulatory obligations to ensure the safety of both our passengers and crew, which is our top priority.” Air Transat said.

Passengers cluttering the aisles compromised the ability of flight attendants to move around the cabin and help anyone who may have been injured or in need of medical attention, said Mark Millam, vice president of technical programs for the Flight Safety Foundation, which provides guidance on safety for passengers. aeronautical and aerospace industry.

If sudden turbulence had hit the plane, passengers in the aisles could have been seriously injured, Millam said. “The plane was not designed to be a dance floor,” he said.

In his statement, Awad said the trip was the first travel event planned by 111 Private Club, which he described as “a dream and a vision.”

He added: “I have learned significantly and am still learning from this experience.”

Vjosa Isaicontributed reports

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