Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
This story was updated on Wednesday, January 5 at 1:27 p.m. EST
There was shared Grey Goose, open vaping and dancing in the aisles, but the fact that it all happened on an airplane certainly took the party to new heights.
A recent chartered flight from Montreal to Cancun on which a group of cavalier Quebecers partied maskless like it was 2019, turning a Sunwing plane into a makeshift nightclub, might have produced some epic selfies.
But the party peeps who let their hair down on the Mexico-bound flight might be in for a long-term hangover if the Government of Canada has anything to do with it.
Yesterday (Jan. 4), Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that he has asked Transport Canada to investigate reports of "unacceptable'' behaviour stemming from the wild and raunchy Sunwing flight, which was privately chartered on Dec. 30.
“The health and safety of on-board personnel as well as passengers during a flight is a top priority. We are aware of unacceptable behaviour and cases of non-compliance with mask wearing and other air safety requirements that occurred on a privately chartered flight from Montreal to Cancun on December 30, 2021,” said Minister Alghabra in a statement shared with Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino.
According to reports, the party plane was filled with influencers, including former participants on Quebec-based reality shows Occupation Double and Love Island.
Pic or didn’t happen, right? Naturally, the group shared videos of the feisty flight on social media, posting mostly now-deleted footage that depicted lively maskless passengers gathering in tight groups to dance in the aisles and on seats to take selfies and flash peace signs.
In a highlight video circulating on Twitter, one ecstatic passenger is seen passing around an open bottle of Grey Goose vodka while another blissfully blows vape smoke from an electronic cigarette at the camera.
Le Journal de Montreal reports that there were about 100 passengers on board and that the aircraft had been chartered by a private club that organized a trip to sunny Cancun to celebrate New Year's Day.
According to one source close to the matter who spoke to Le Journal on condition they not be named, the event was “was so violent and dangerous that the flight attendants took refuge at the bottom of the plane throughout the flight.”
Potential fines of up to $5,000
The group is now in hot water and could possibly face steep fines and be banned from airlines after breaking COVID-19 aviation rules.
“Our Government takes reported incidents such as these very seriously,” the statement from Ministers Alghabra, Duclos, and Mendicino reads. “We have directed our respective departmental officials to immediately launch an investigation into these allegations of non-compliance with COVID-19 and air safety rules and regulations.”
Transport Canada says it has been in contact with Sunwing concerning the flight and should the department determine that non-compliance with air regulations and requirements has occurred, fines of up to $5,000 per offence could be issued to passengers.
Minister Alghabra took to Twitter yesterday to denounce the “unacceptable behaviour” on board the plane, noting: “We must take the risks of COVID seriously!”
In a statement to the Canadian Press, Sunwing confirmed that it has notified Transport Canada about the incident and that its security department is investigating.
"The health and safety of our employees and passengers is our top priority," Sunwing said. “The passengers' behaviour was "unruly and contravened several Canadian Aviation Regulations as well as public health regulations."
Return flight cancelled
The party may now be over for the group as Sunwing has reportedly cancelled their return flight home to Montreal, which was scheduled to leave today (Jan. 5).
There were conditions for the group's return flight, but "unfortunately, the group did not accept all the terms,” Sunwing told CP.
But according to a Jan. 4 update published by CTV News, James William Awad, who organized the flight, said the return trip was “cancelled for unknown reasons.”
“I agreed to all their conditions. But I wanted to make sure my group eats, so I told them I want food [on] the plane,” Awad told CTV.
“It’s a 5-hour flight, they don’t want to feed my group. It poses no concerns for flight safety.”
Awad also told CTV that Sunwing “wanted us to party,” sold alcohol to participants and added that the group would have stopped vaping if they were asked to, but weren’t.
"A slap in the face"
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau briefly addressed the Sunwing party flight, saying that he was "extremely frustrated" by the incident.
"We know how hard people have worked to keep themselves safe, to limit their family gatherings at Christmas time, to wear masks, to get vaccinated, to do all the right things. And it's a slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible."
"I can assure you that this is a situation that Transport Canada takes extremely seriously and we are definitely following up on that."
Air Transat says no
It will be interesting to see how the party animals get home.
Treating an airplane like your own personal nightclub during a global pandemic (and proudly posting about it on social media) doesn't do you any favours.
Air Transat wrote on Twitter this afternoon that it is "aware of the situation regarding disruptive passengers who have travelled to Cancun and are now attempting to return to Canada on our flights."
The airline then went on to confirm that the group "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."
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