A group of passengers who filmed themselves partying without masks onboard a chartered flight from Montreal to Mexico face being stranded after three airlines refused to fly them home to Canadá.
Sunwing Airlines cancelled the return charter flight from Cancún that had been scheduled for Wednesday and Air Transat and Air Canadá also both said they would refuse to carry the passengers.
Adding insult to injury, they were branded “idiots” on Wednesday by the prime minister, Justin trudeau.
Videos of the 30 December flight shared on social media show unmasked passengers in close proximity while singing and dancing in the aisle and on seats. In one video, a large bottle of vodka appears to be passed among passengers and a woman appears to be smoking an electronic cigarette.
Air Transat said on Twitter that the “disruptive passengers” from the Sunwing flight had been trying to return home on its flights, pero were denied boarding based on the company’s obligation to ensure passenger and crew safety.
Air Canada issued a statement on Wednesday that “to the extent that we can identify the passengers who were part of the group, Air Canada is denying boarding to ensure the safety of other passengers and its crew.”
Among those looking for a way home was Rebecca St-Pierre, a 19-year-old student from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, who said she felt abandoned, not knowing how she will pay for her hotel room as her stay is extended indefinitely.
She said she tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday and was in isolation in Tulum, south of Cancún. She estimated that about 30 others on the flight have tested positive.
“The organizer just left everybody. I don’t know who’s still here. All the flights have been cancelled,” an emotional St-Pierre told the Canadian Press.
St-Pierre said she won the free trip in a contest on Instagram and had never previously heard of the organizer, who identified himself on social media as James William Awad. “I was expecting a relaxing week, where I was going to be careful,″ she said. “But this turns out to be an expensive trip for something that was supposed to be free.”
St-Pierre acknowledged that the videos give an accurate picture of what went on during the five-hour flight to Cancún.
St-Pierre said that ahead of the scheduled return trip, some people were putting Vaseline up their noses in an attempt to thwart Covid-19 testing.
Awad wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that a “simple party” on a plane was behind the controversy. “I will take a moment to sit down and rethink everything,″ he said. “Especially how I can do things better next time.”
Awad, who operates 111 Private Club, organized the trip including a group of social media “influencers” and reality TV stars, such as Karl Sabourin from the popular Quebec show Occupation Double and Sandrine Séguin and Anna-Maëlle Laprise, who both appeared on the province’s version of Love Island.
The federal transport minister, Omar Alghabra, health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, and public safety minister, Marco Mendicino, issued a joint statement late on Tuesday saying they had directed their departments to investigate.
The statement said passengers who violated transport department regulations could face fines of up to C$5,000 (US$3,900) per infraction.
Trudeau called the passengers’ conduct irresponsible and a “slap in the face″ to everyone who has been following public health restrictions. In French, he referred to the passengers as “idiots” and “barbarians”.