Hundreds Stranded in Mexico When Airline Cancels Its Last Flights of Season

Minneapolis-based Sun Country which has transformed itself into a low cost carrier — they even shut down the elite portion of their frequent flyer program — has stranded hundreds of passengers in Mexico.

They offer seasonal service to various cities and because of weather at their home in Minneapolis they cancelled flights from Mazatlan and San Jose del Cabo. And since it was the end of their season they aren’t going to send planes to pick up the passengers later. They’re going to leave their customers in Mexico. (HT: Thrifty Traveler)

Screen shot credit Thrifty Traveler)

Sun Country says everyone gets a refund for the flight that isn’t going to be operated. Which they have to do of course. But getting money back from an advance purchase ticket on a low cost carrier hardly covers a new last minute ticket home from Mexico. Sun Country’s next flight to Los Cabos is June 29.

This reminds me of the Kingston Trio’s song “M.T.A.” about a Boston transit fare increase leaving a man stranded — without the 5 cents he needed to get out. He never returned, but his wife brought him a sandwich each day.

The airline says it would have been more disruptive to other passengers to send another plane, cancelling other flights to do it.

As disruptive as the current situation is for the affected passengers, the alternative — canceling other flights to other destinations — would have been more disruptive to even more passengers

However they should have chartered a plane. Or they should have covered the cost of each passenger’s tickets home on another carrier. Without interline agreements that means they’d be paying retail. The airline took money and agreed to provide transportation, not strand passengers. From their perspective it’s a force majeure event that relieves them of contractual obligations.

The airline acknowledged that no one was staffing the airline’s counters and that phone lines were just disconnecting callers because of volume. And they say they hope providing a refund for the cancelled flight “will more than compensate for the cost of making alternative arrangements home” (emphasis mine).

Copyright: tupungato / 123RF Stock Photo

One Mile at a Time thinks this demonstrates that “the government really needs stricter laws when it comes to consumer rights” while I believe something more radical, that we need to eliminate legal protections for airlines from suit. The right answer here is class action lawsuits based on common law contract principles. In other words, punitive damages.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t know much about class action lawsuits. If it were me, I’d buy a new ticket and take Sun Country to small claims for the fare difference.

  2. I live in Minnesota & whats crazy about this is the fact that they may have just signed their own death warrant. Sun Country only flies out of the twin cities and the Twin Cities is a large market with a small town mentality regarding customer service & just courtesy in general. I generally don’t give a lot of credence to “I’m never flying airline X again they suck” but with this small market & the amount of news this is generating, I think their bookings are going to crater. We really need SW or some other carrier to step up & keep Delta honest, but Sun Country is done IMO.

  3. Gary: Comparison to MTA is quite apt, but how the heck did you think of that? Have you been holding onto that Kingston Trio reference (and the video) just in case something like this came up?

  4. “I believe something more radical, that we need to eliminate legal protections for airlines from suit.”

    As a UA “Million Mile Flyer” and a paid-up “lifetime” member of UA’s Silver Wings program, I couldn’t agree more.

  5. Why would Sun Country say that the refunds would “more than compensate for the cost of making alternative arrangements home”? The airline knows that the refunds will “less than compensate” the passengers, because they wouldn’t be able to get alternative flights at a lower price.

  6. @Antonio:
    “Would travel insurance from you CSR, CSP or Citi Prestige have covered an event like this?”

    We have an article that’s refreshingly free of credit card pimping and you have to drag us back into the referral swamp?

  7. Shameful. DOT should slam them for this as an unfair business practice.

    And note, that a passenger can sue Sun Country for this episode (including bringing a class action), because the claim would be breach of contract, which is excepted from the ADA.

  8. I never book with the small carriers. So that means I might get a flight or not and can rebook if necessary, but my dog could die. Anyways, it’s increasingly risky to book with low cost Frontier and Spirit airlines. I always get travel insurance for leisure travel for these cases.

  9. For the record, I’ve never seen Sun Country pop up in a list of possible options for my flights, but until I read this I was never opposed to flying them, I was certainly aware they existed and they had no strikes against them in my head (like Allegiant and Spirt).. But now? Yeah never gonna get one cent from me. What a bunch of idiots.

  10. “We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause…” Oh, like stranding people in Mexico? Yeah, that MIGHT JUST be inconvenient for those passengers. I just hate corporate weasel language like this. Why not be honest and say: “we wash our hands of this – buh bye now.” At least that would be honest.

    The way Sun Country is going is a real shame, but quite predictable with their decision to go after the ULCC model. Clearly, they’re leaning fast, having forgotten their previous reputation for great customer service. Personally, I agree with a previous poster here that it’s the beginning of the end for this airline. They are dependent on the MSP market and treating people like this will just kill local business. Great lesson that winning a race to the bottom often means that you lose everything.

  11. Agree with StogieGuy7
    I’ve had to write a number of “apologize” letters, emails and signage in my life and often I had to go back and revise “… may have caused” to “this had caused” bc any moron would realize you’re probably not writing that letter on the off chance someone is inconvenienced, you’re writing it bc you’ve done damage to someone, and thankfully I’ve never had to strand someone in a foreign country and if I did I wouldn’t work for that company much longer bc I never want to work for such a garbage organization longer than necessary.

  12. There are no punitive damages in breach of contract cases. Lucky is right. The industry needs more regulation.

  13. Exhibit A for why I don’t fly LCCs. Gary and his crew love to rip the legacy carriers, but at least they will not leave you permanently stranded in a foreign country (even if it took United 3 days to get a 747 to Beijing). The high cost of the low price, when irregular ops hit.

  14. What Joey said, except that it has popped up in my search from time to time, and I was beginning to think about trying them out. Permanently banned now!

    As rotten as AA has become, I guess eventually you’ll get there. This decision is incredible.

  15. I was apart of the Sun Country Scandal. I was stuck for 72 hours with no sleep and had to spend over $3000.00 to get home. I have trip protection through Trip Mate and I still am not getting my expenses covered. Sun Country claimed they are giving a full refund, however my friend that went with me on the trip who ALSO had trip protection got rewarded $172.00 and that is all they are compensating. I have wrote to all the news channels, the CEO of Sun Country and the VP of Sun Country marketing and still have not heard what they are doing if anything at all. They claim to reimburse our expenses, but $172.00 is no where near $3000.00. This was not only costly but stressful to say the least. I was in Mazatlan and the CEO specifically said that of all places they should have sent an EMERGENCY flight to come get us due to the limited resources. I can’t even begin to explain the agony that this has caused me and the craziness we had to go through just to make it to Minneapolis which mind you we had NO direct flight options. I was supposed to make it back on Saturday the 14th and was not home until the 17th! I will NEVER fly a small airline let alone SUNCOUNTRY EVER AGAIN! If anyone knows of a class action that is currently going on please contact me as if I do not get ALL of my funds back for all costs I incurred I will be filing a lawsuit.

  16. For the record, I’ve never seen Sun Country pop up in a list of possible options for my flights, but until I read this I was never opposed to flying them, I was certainly aware they existed and they had no strikes against them in my head (like Allegiant and Spirit)… But now? Yeah never gonna get one cent from me. What a bunch of idiots.

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