MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Criticism over the move by Sun Country to leave 250 passengers stranded in Mexico may soon be heard on the floors of the United States Congress.
Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have sent a letter to Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker demanding an explanation.
Meantime, Sun Country released a letter that Bricker sent to all employees detailing what went wrong and acknowledging efforts to compensate passengers.
Travel agent Freddie Macalus was among 42 family members and friends who flew to Riviera Maya for the wedding of his brother.
“It was fantastic. Weather was great, we had a great time, a great wedding,” Macalus said.
But the fun turned into frustration over the weekend. They learned that Sun Country’s return flights scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday were cancelled due to blizzard conditions in Minnesota.
What made matters worse was that the flights were the last ones of the winter travel service to Mexico for the carrier.
But what angers Macalus even more is that he and his group were unable to get in touch with Sun Country representatives.
“Even though that they had registered their emails online, they didn’t receive anything, and they could not get ahold of Sun Country at all,” he said.
Sun Country’s call center was overwhelmed and understaffed. The company says the winter storm prevented many of its employees from coming into work.
But more importantly, Sun Country did not have a spare plane or crew to divert to Mexico to accommodate the 250 stranded passengers.
“This is an outrageous situation,” Klobuchar said.
On Tuesday, Klobuchar and Smith sent a letter demanding answers. They want to know if the carrier made a good faith effort to get those passengers home.
“First of all, you make them whole,” Klobuchar said. “You reimburse them for their costs of getting home. That’s the number-one priority.”
Facing an epic public relations disaster, Bricker acknowledges the company should have flown a rescue flight down to Mexico to accommodate returning passengers. Also, the company’s communication with customers failed.
And beyond giving all passengers full refunds on their original tickets, Sun Country is now offering to compensate customers all costs to get them home.
As for Macalus’ family, the remaining nine members of his group are hoping to get home by Friday.
“It was one thing after another, and no communication or care from Sun Country to help us out or to fill us in,” Macalus said.
Klobuchar adds that the aviation bill is up for renewal in Congress soon. It is likely that the section dealing with passenger rights will be amended to better inform passengers of situations that can develop when airlines are nearing their end-of-season service.