The majority of “non-compliant” passengers who partied maskless on board a Sunwing charter flight from Montreal to Cancun in late December 2021 have received penalties, Transport Canada announced Thursday (April 28).
The federal department has issued a total of 42 penalties to 37 of the 154 passengers, including 18 penalties for non-compliance of vaccination status and 24 penalties for not respecting instructions to wear a mask.
The total value of these penalties, which could reach a maximum of $5,000 each, is $59,500, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra's office revealed yesterday.
“Aviation rules are not to be taken lightly. With this investigation, we want to send a clear message: the behaviour of some passengers on the Montréal-Cancun flight of December 30 was unacceptable, and it is not tolerated. Transport Canada will continue to ensure that all aviation rules are followed at all times,” Minister Alghabra said in a statement.
Politicians and the general public became aware of the now-infamous charter after videos of the flight were posted on social media, showing unmasked passengers crowding, singing and dancing in the aisles and on seats, with some holding opened liquor bottles and vaping.
Since Jan. 4, 2022, Transport Canada has been investigating the incident to determine if whether the Aeronautics Act, regulations or requirements pertaining to safety and security were contravened during that flight.
The results of Ottawa’s probe into the matter will determine if further sanctions will be issued.
The "party plane," which was chartered by James William Awad, founder of the members-only 111 Private Club, included so-called “influencers,” including former participants on Quebec-based reality shows Occupation Double and Love Island, reports say.
The story, since going public in January during the height of the COVID-19 Omicron wave, has sparked public outrage, including anger on PAX’s own Facebook page, where more than 100 comments were left by readers last winter – the majority of which condemned the group’s behaviour.
Once footage of the rowdy flight was circulated by media outlets around the world, many participants found themselves stranded in Mexico after airlines – Sunwing included – decided to not fly the group home.
Real-life consequences caught up with some passengers who returned to Canada only to learn that they had been fired from their jobs.
At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the passengers as barbarians and “idiots,” telling reporters that he was "extremely frustrated" by the group’s cavalier actions, which he called “a slap in the face” as Canadians made sacrifices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.