April 16, 2018 07:06 PM
Sen. Tina Smith is calling on Federal Transportation officials to review the performance of Sun Country Airlines after it stranded passengers in Mexico over the weekend.
The Eagan-based company canceled flights back to the Twin Cities because of the snow that grounded planes in the Twin Cities. The airline has no more scheduled flights to or from Mexico for the season.
"We tried reaching Sun Country by e-mail and we tried calling the 1-800 number and it wouldn't go through from Mexico," Sally Bergerud told 5 Eyewitness News Monday. The 66-year-old Bergerud, her 42-year old daughter and three-year-old granddaughter are all still stranded in Mazatlan, Mexico.
They spent $906 on three roundtrip airfares on Sun Country, but it will cost them $1,943 to fly back Wednesday on American Airlines. That was the cheapest airfare they could find. They'll be paying $180 per night in a hotel between now and then.
They won't get that money back from Sun Country. They'll only reimburse the original roundtrip airfare on Sun Country to people who were left stranded.
Bergerud had so much trouble contacting Sun Country on her phone from Mexico she called a relative in Alaska so they could call Sun Country in Minnesota and find out what was going on.
"Our staff continues to work around the clock to reduce the call volume and assist every passenger affected by the extreme weather," Sun Country's vice president of marketing, Kelsey Dodson-Smith, said in a statement to KSTP.
"We felt the best option for these passengers was to provide them a full refund on their airfare so they could get on their way as quickly as possible," Dodson-Smith said.
Sun Country says it did not have another plane to send to Mexico. That meant passengers had to scramble to find a way home.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Sen. Smith said, in part:
It is troublesome to see a domestic carrier abandoning its passengers in a foreign country, forcing them to find their own way home and to incur further expense of time and money.
While some Sun Country passengers are still stuck in Mexico, others are slowly and expensively making their way home.
Cordova Lynch of St. Paul got home Sunday night with his wife and two kids. They paid a total of $2,500 for four one-way tickets home. The total cost of their "all-inclusive" trip to Cancun was originally about $2,000.
Bob McNaney, a crisis communications expert with Padilla Communications in Minneapolis, said this is truly a "crisis" for Sun Country.
"You've got people who are probably frightened in some cases because they are in a foreign country," McNaney said. "They're missing work, they're missing school and Sun Country really should do everything they can to try to get them home."
Sun Country's Facebook page is lighting up with complaints.
One mocks the airline as the "Best one-way airline in the world." Another person not even directly impacted by the situation posted, "Shame on you Sun Country...after you stranded people in Mexico I will never fly your airline again."
Dodson-Smith of Sun Country says they apologize that passengers are having trouble reaching the airline to find out information.
"Our most challenging recovery situation remains to be our Los Cabos and Mazatlán flights and we cannot apologize enough to those passengers..." she said in her statement.
Updated: April 16, 2018 07:06 PM
Created: April 16, 2018 05:06 PM
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