After a nearly four-month investigation, 37 passengers on the infamous Sunwing “party flight” in late December are now facing a total of $59,500 in federal purposes.
Transport Canada didn’t provide a breakdown of the fines per passenger, but they reach a maximum of $5,000 each, it said in a news release Thursday.
The 154-passenger chartered flight from Montreal to Cancun hit the news after photos and videos from it went viral, showing people drinking and partying in the aisles without masks. One passenger even claimed some passengers attempted to thwart COVID-19 tests by putting Vaseline in their noses.
An event planner chartered the flight to carry a group to a New Year’s Eve trip, including some Quebec reality TV stars and high-profile social media personalities.
Sunwing canceled the group’s return flight, and other airlines refused to carry members of the group as well, leaving many of them stranded in Mexico. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called them “barbarians” at the time.
“Following Transport Canada’s investigation into the Montreal-Cancun flight of Dec. 30, 2021, the Honorable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, announced today that the majority of non-compliant passengers have received penalties,” Transport Canada said Thursday.
Some people were found to have committed multiple infractions, with a total of 42 penalties spread between the 37 people.
That includes “18 penalties for non-compliance of vaccination status and 24 penalties for not respecting instructions to wear a mask,” Transport Canada wrote.
That suggests that 18 people on the flight were not fully vaccinated, as required by federal vaccine mandates for plane and train passengers.
Passengers on flights leaving Canada were, and still are, also required to wear masks on board.
While the maximum fine was $5,000 per person, if divided equally, the sum adds up to much less, about $1,600 per passenger.
James William Awad, the organizer behind the infamous flight, told CTV News he feels passengers are being unfairly targeted by transit authorities.
“I feel like someone is having fun at Transport Canada. Kind of feels like we’re getting bullied,” he said.
He stressed that all the passengers aboard the plane were part of the same group and headed for a country with relatively few COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Awad said he himself has not been fined.
“Transport Canada hasn’t said anything to me, really,” he said.
Fines have already been issued by Health Canada over the same flight, particularly around quarantine rules. Still, Transport Canada is responsible for investigating air safety incidents and problematic behavior on board flights.
The agency also penalized several people in three earlier rounds of fines, announcing those rounds separately. At least some of those earlier ends were included in the total announced Thursday, a spokesperson clarified later Thursday.
“With this investigation, we want to send a clear message: the behavior of some passengers on the Montreal-Cancun flight of Dec. 30 was unacceptable and it is not tolerated,” said Alghabra in a statement.