1. Home
  2. Society

Passengers on Sunwing party plane could face jail time, thousands in fines

Group included Quebec influencers, reality show stars heading to Mexico

Passengers were seen in videos vaping, dancing, drinking and crowd surfing on a Dec. 30 Sunwing flight from Montreal to Cancun.

Passengers were seen in videos vaping, dancing, drinking and crowd surfing on a Dec. 30 Sunwing flight from Montreal to Cancun.

Photo: Le Journal de Montréal

RCI

A group of Quebec influencers and reality show stars could be facing thousands of dollars in fines, after videos surfaced showing them partying without masks on board a Sunwing flight from Montreal to Cancun.

Images from the Dec. 30 flight showed passengers ignoring public health measures, jumping and dancing in the aisle, vaping and openly passing around a bottle of hard liquor on the plane. In one video, a person could be seen crowd-surfing while the plane was in the air.

The federal government released a statement Tuesday, saying the departments of Transport, Public Safety and Health have all launched investigations into the incident. 

There could be fines of up to $5,000 from Transport Canada for each offence on board, it said.

Additional fines and even jail time could follow if passengers were found to be endangering others, or if they provide falsified information upon their return to Canada.

WATCH | Unruly passengers party on Sunwing flight: 

'Slap in the face'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he was extremely frustrated seeing the videos.

It is a slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible.

He said Transport Canada is taking the situation extremely seriously and would be continuing its investigation.

CBC News reached out to several of the people seen on the flight, but has not yet received a response.

The plane was privately chartered by 111 Private Club, a promoter that organized the six-day, all-inclusive event in Cancun. In its advertising for the event, the promoter had claimed the plane would have a DJ.

James William Awad, who operates the company, tweeted Tuesday that the group respected all instructions given by Sunwing and that the alcohol was sold to them on board, calling the event a success.

He later posted another tweet, saying he is taking the matter very seriously.

A simple party on a plane did all this buzz, he wrote, noting he would take a moment to rethink everything.

Return flight cancelled

Sunwing said it notified Transport Canada after holding its own investigation, saying the behaviour of a group of passengers was unruly and contravened several [regulations].

The group was scheduled to return to Montreal today. Sunwing said it reached out to the organizers with terms and conditions for them to board.

Unfortunately, the group did not accept all of the terms, it said in a statement to CBC News. 

As a result, Sunwing cancelled the return flight. It said it would co-operate with Transport Canada's full investigation into the matter.

Air Transat said in an Instagram post Wednesday that it became aware that some of the passengers were attempting to return to Canada on its flights.

We confirm that they will be denied boarding, it said.

Air Canada also said to the extent that we can identify the passengers who were part of the group it too would deny them boarding to ensure the safety of other passengers and its crew.

Danger to plane, crew

Aviation experts say the behaviour on the plane was not only violating pandemic public health measures, but risked the safety and security of those onboard.

Mehran Ebrahimi, who heads an aerospace industry research unit at the University of Quebec at Montreal, pointed to the vaping on board as an example.

That could set off the fire alarms, which could be very dangerous. It would signal a fire aboard, and the captain wouldn't know where it was from, he explained.

These people think because they paid, because they're pseudo-influencers, they think they can do whatever they want, Ebrahimi said.

According to the federal government's statement about the flight, someone found guilty of endangering the lives of others and causing harm could face up to three years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

Rena Kisfalvi, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local that represents about 1,000 Sunwing flight attendants, called for strict consequences.

These passengers who do not comply [with regulations], will they be charged? Will they be denied boarding in the future? Are they being placed on a no-fly list? she asked. 

Maybe we, as a government, need to take this step to tell the travelling public: 'look, we're serious here.'

Laura Marchand (new window) · CBC News with files from Kate McKenna, Alison Northcott, Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

Headlines