Several Canadian airlines are refusing to fly a group of passengers home after they were seen on camera partying maskless on a chartered Sunwing flight last week, prompting the carrier to cancel the group’s flight due to public outcry.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to the group traveling from Montreal to Mexico as “idiots,” and said their social media posting of a maskless party — as COVID-19 increases among the omicron variant – was a “slap in the face.”
Several social media stars were among the group, and videos of the partying on the Dec. 30 flight went viral. The films show individuals singing and dancing in aisle seats while not wearing masks, and a large bottle of vodka being handed around.
The group is currently stranded in Cancun. Sunwing’s decision to not return any of the passengers has been followed by Air Transat and Air Canada.
On Twitter, Air Transat cited an obligation to passenger and crew safety in denying the “disruptive passengers” a flight home. Air Canada issued a public statement with a similar sentiment, noting that it will deny flights “to the extent that we can identify the passengers who were part of the group.”
Rebecca St. Pierre, a 19-year-old Quebec student on the plane, told The Canadian Press that she is now stranded in Mexico with no route home.
She told the outlet that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and that about 30 others had as well. St. Pierre claimed she was on the plane to participate in a free vacation contest hosted by social media celebrity James William Awad on Instagram.
Awad reflected on Twitter Wednesday, calling the controversy a “simple party.” “I will take a moment to sit down and rethink everything. Especially how I can do things better next time,” he wrote.
Transport Canada said in a public statement that it’s been in contact with the airlines.
“Should the department determine that non-compliance with Transport Canada regulations and requirements has occurred, fines of up to $5,000 per offence could be issued to passengers,” the statement reads.
“There will be a full investigation into exactly what went on in this situation,” Trudeau said at the Wednesday news conference.
“I think like all Canadians who have seen those videos, I’m extremely frustrated. 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 slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible.”