Sunwing is expecting its operations to be “close to normal” by this weekend after a cyber attack on its third-party provider this week caused a network-wide system outage that delayed almost 200 flights, inconveniencing thousands.
In a statement issued Thursday (April 21), the Toronto-based tour operator said 188 flights were impacted by the issue, which began last Sunday (April 17).
As of yesterday afternoon, 153 of those flights (81 per cent) had been completed or were in progress, the company said.
“We expect to be close to normal operations by the weekend,” Sunwing said.
Customers with upcoming flights over the next few days are still being urged to keep checking their flight status on Sunwing.ca for the most up-to-date information on departure times.
“Obviously, this is a terrible situation..."
Earlier this week, in an interview with CP24, Sunwing Airlines President Mark Williams apologized to passengers who were left stranded at departure airports, or in destinations, because of the system failure.
“Obviously, this is a terrible situation and one that we didn't expect,” Williams said. “Certainly [we] apologize to everyone for the inconvenience this has caused.”
“Our goal is to get people on vacation on time with a new airplane and with great service. And unfortunately, because of a third-party provider having a system outage we have not been able to perform the way we would like to.”
Sunwing’s third-party provider is Illinois-based Airline Choice, and the carrier has been processing flights manually this week while authorities try and fix the problem.
"A system that is up and running all the time, which never fails, was hacked. They had a cyber-breach and they’ve been unable to get the system up,” said Williams, who did not state whether any passenger information had been accessed during the breach.
It is still unclear who or what is behind the computer hack.
Airline Choice described the breach as a "data security event" that affected a limited number of its computer systems, according to the Canadian Press.
"As a precaution, we took certain systems offline to secure our environment. We also immediately launched an investigation to determine the nature and scope of the event," the U.S.-based company said in a statement.
Other airlines lend a wing
Some of Sunwing’s delays this week lasted several hours as rolling cancellations moved morning flights to the afternoon while afternoon flights were pushed to the evening.
One passenger Global News spoke with on Tuesday at Toronto Pearson was travelling to Cuba and had their flight delayed by more than 24 hours.
Impacted passengers, all week, have been tagging the airline, asking for help, on Twitter, where Sunwing has compiled most of its communication.
The company has been responding to some.
“This is not an experience we want for our travellers,” a Sunwing rep tweeted at a stressed-out traveller named Carolina. “We are working around the clock to get customers checked-in and working with other air carriers on more options.”
On Wednesday, Sunwing confirmed that it was sub-chartering aircraft from WestJet, Air Transat, and Nolinor Aviation to support its operations and get customers flying again.
Passengers affected by a Sunwing flight delay of more than three hours will be compensated, the tour operator says, an offer that was noted on the Canadian Transportation Agency’s website.
Affected passengers are invited to visit this website to submit a claim.
Sunwing has also extended the option to change travel dates with no fees for bookings impacted by the outage.
This applies to trips with originally scheduled departure dates between April 19, 2022 and April 25, 2022m and the offer is valid for travel up to June 23, 2022.
A “Herculean effort”
“We obviously apologize profusely for the additional grief and inconvenience, but the majority of people have been wonderful,” Deana Murphy, vice-president of sales at Sunwing Travel Group, told PAX in an interview on Wednesday.
Murphy said it has been a “Herculean effort” getting customers to where they need to be this week as employees, both in Canada and in destinations, managed the situation manually without the modern-day conveniences of working technology.
In its latest statement, Sunwing extended its “sincere gratitude” to customers for their patience this week.
“This has been made possible thanks to the assistance of other carriers who we continue to sub-charter aircraft from, the dedication of our airline staff, including on-the-ground teams at airports, flight and cabin crew, along with our partners in destination,” the company said.