Over the weekend, Sun Country Airlines stranded 250 passengers in Mexico after a blizzard in Minnesota caused the carrier to cancel its two last seasonal flights. Sun Country said it was unable to spare additional aircraft as that would cause the airline to cancel further flights. The two planes were leaving from San José del Cabo and Mazatlán.
The Mexico flights were not the only ones affected, however. Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport was closed for a total of nine hours on Saturday, causing Sun Country to cancel 25 flights. In total, 495 flights from all carriers were cancelled.
Travel Leaders tells us that Blaine, MN-based Beth Fortin had eight clients scheduled to return to Minneapolis from Cancun on two different Sun Country flights Saturday, April 14 but was able to rebook them on different flights.
Sun Country’s inability to rebook its passengers came from an issue where it couldn’t get enough agents into the office, president and CEO Jude Bricker said in a statement sent to Travel Agent. She also admitted that had the office been fully staffed, it still would have had trouble rebooking the 6,000 passengers who had cancelled flights from all of its destinations. As of midnight on Monday, all passengers – except from San José del Cabo and Mazatlán – had confirmed bookings on other flights.
“We do not have interline agreements with other airlines, so our options to re-accommodate customers on other airlines are the same as their options to re-accommodate themselves and would have taken us much longer to do so,” said Bricker. “Many of our customers booked through travel agents or online travel providers, which means we do not have access to the passengers' contact information.”
Sun Country’s only form of contacting its passengers was via email, Bricker said, where they could have sent three messages: That the carrier would refund their money if travelers booked their own itinerary; that a recovery flight would be arriving on Monday; or that a flight would come after Monday. Sun Country went with the first but said sending a recovery flight, in particular to Mazatlán, where other options were not as abundant, would have been a better idea, according to Bricker.
“Clearly, going forward, we need to improve our ability to handle stresses to our system like what we experienced over the weekend,” Bricker said. “Automation will be central to that strategy. But, more on that later.”