Sun Country feels heat after stranding travelers in Mexico
Sun Country Airlines now says it plans to reimburse passengers left stranded in Mexico after the carrier canceled its last flights of the season after a late-season blizzard in Minnesota.
Instead of extending its schedule or sending charters to bring home about 250 passengers from the Mexican resort cities of Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlán, Sun Country opted instead to refund fliers’ fares and then told them they were on their own to find a new way home.
Sun Country’s reversal comes after intense social media backlash and a wave of negative publicity about how it handled the situation.
In a Tuesday email obtained by USA TODAY, Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker told airline employees the company has decided to cover the travel costs incurred by “rightfully frustrated” customers who had to pay for a new way home after the cancellations.
Sun Country has faced criticism from numerous corners about not doing more, and Bricker conceded in the email that Sun Country should have considered at least one “rescue flight” to bring home the marooned fliers.
“With hindsight, we should have flown a rescue flight to MZT (Mazatlán) as service options are limited. SJD (Cabo San Lucas) has more service options and we felt the best option for those customers was giving them a full roundtrip refund on their Sun Country flight to make alternative arrangements as quickly as possible,” Bricker said in the email.
He continued, saying Sun Country would refund fliers’ original round-trip fares and any additional “reasonable” transportation costs paid by passengers in their attempts to return home.
The Associated Press says “Bricker’s note made no mention of covering lodging for travelers forced to stay overnight, and a spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email.”
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., expressed “serious concern” about the way Sun Country handled the cancellations this past weekend. “As many travelers are already financially squeezed by the airline industry, it is troublesome to see a domestic carrier abandoning its passengers in a foreign country, forcing them to find their own way home and to incur further expense of time and money,” Smith wrote in a letter to the Department of Transportation. “This sets a negative precedent for other airlines to follow.”
Some travelers said they spent thousands of extra dollars and flew into airports hours away from Minnesota to get back home, according to Smith. She implored the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division “to ensure that cancellation policies affecting airline travelers, especially those stranded in foreign countries, appropriately protect consumers.”
Sun Country now says it plans to reimburse all stranded passengers.