Sun Country Airlines left 250 passengers stranded in Mexico after the carrier canceled two flights back to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport from San Jose del Cabo and Mazatlán due to a blizzard, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The canceled flights, however, were the last on the schedule for Sun Country Airlines’ wintertime-only service from the two destinations. The airline said it could not spare additional aircraft to fly and retrieve the passengers, as that would force it to cancel other flights where those aircrafts were scheduled to deploy next.
Customers were alerted of the canceled flight via email, where they were told they were being refunded for the second leg of their flights. However, the travelers were also told that they had to book new flights home.
Sun Country is a small Minnesota-based carrier.
Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former airline executive, told the Star-Tribune it’s not unusual for a small airline like Sun Country to run a tight schedule. “They typically schedule to the maximum availability of aircraft and crew resources, with no spares or slack for irregular operations,” he said.
By offering refunds for canceled flights, Sun Country fulfilled its legal requirement to customers, but Mann said those refunds might end up being akin to “down payment” in trying to secure last-minute tickets.
According to USA Today, travel agent Emily Kladivo of Emily’s Travel Service has been working to get some of her Sun Country customers out of Mexico. One family paid about half the cost of their entire vacation just for their new trip home.
Travel Leaders shared with us that Beth Fortin, a travel agent in Blaine, MN, had eight clients scheduled to return to Minneapolis from Cancun on two different Sun Country flights Saturday, April 14.
“On Friday, when we learned the storm was coming we tried to rebook them for a different flight, but everything was sold out,” Fortin said. “I gave my clients my cell phone number and told them to call me if there are any issues with their flights.” When the two clients who had Saturday morning flights arrived at the airline’s counter in Cancun the airline told them that they could not check-in because MSP airport was closed and there was nothing they could do.
“My clients called me and I called Sun Country. The airlines said they were canceling both flights for the day, but they were creating new flights for Sunday morning. They rebooked all eight of my clients. For me making the phone calls on their behalf, within an hour or less they all had assigned seats on the next flight out to Minneapolis.”
The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal says Sun Country does claim the right to leave people stranded at their destination. Its contract of carriage reads, "Purchase of a ticket does not guarantee transportation." Other airlines have something similar, though some, like Delta, include language saying it would rebook passengers on other airlines.
Travel Agent has reached out to Sun Country Airlines for comment and will post an update when we receive further information.