A total of two dozen passengers who flew on the infamous Sunwing flight to Mexico have been slapped with penalties, months after footage of the party plane went viral.
Reality TV stars and influencers vaped, sang and danced on board the private plane as the Omicron COVID-19 variant forced Canadians back into their homes — but now, they’re facing “the consequences of their actions,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced in a tweet on Monday.
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A total of 12 new penalties were issued, he said on Monday. Seven penalties were handed out for “non-compliance with vaccination rules,” while another five were given out for passengers “not wearing a mask” on the Dec. 30, 2021, flight.
That brings the total penalties from the flight to 24 so far, and Alghabra promised there are “more to come.”
Alghabra did not elaborate on the nature of the penalties. However, in the first wave of penalties handed out earlier this month, six revelers who were not fully vaccinated received fines of up to $5,000. The exact amount was not disclosed.
“Certain behaviors reported in connection with the flight on December 30, 2021, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Alghabra said in a press release at the time.
“This is why Transport Canada took immediate action. Aviation rules must be respected by everyone, for the sake of everyone’s safety. Transport Canada will continue to investigate and issue all necessary penalties.”
Videos of the flight shared on social media showed a number of the 154 passengers not wearing masks as they used vapes, passed around a large bottle of vodka, and blood and danced in the aisles and on seats.
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According to social media posts that circulated at the time, some of the passengers were cast members from Quebec reality television shows, including the Quebec adaptation of the popular British dating series Love Island.
Video captures passengers partying maskless on Sunwing flight to Mexico
The footage of the revelers received a chilly reception in Canada. It circulated as the country was grappling with a large wave of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Three days before the flight, 1,830 COVID-19 patients were reported in Canadian hospitals, and 480 of them were in intensive care units, according to national data.
Just one week after the flight, Canada reported 39,433 new COVID-19 cases and 69 deaths, but a number of provinces had restricted COVID-19 PCR testing — prompting the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to warn that daily case counts were likely an underestimate.
Because of the new variant’s rapid spread, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos had advised Canadians not to travel abroad, warning that those who do “could contract the virus, or get stranded abroad.”
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Backlash to the plane’s footage was swift and severe.
“It’s a slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time.
He added that the videos of the party made him feel “extremely frustrated.”
Some passengers showed remorse for their role in the mile-high party. Rebecca St-Pierre, a 19-year-old student and passenger on the Sunwing flight, contracted COVID-19 after the flight. She has since returned to Canada.
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Speaking to Global News as she self-isolated in a hotel room in Mexico in early January, St-Pierre apologized for her actions, adding that she knew she didn’t have “special permission to party.”
“My future actions will be better thought out,” St-Pierre said.
Other passengers, however, were unfazed. Organizer James William Awad told reporters a month after the flight that he plans to sue Sunwing over the incident.
He claimed airlines “abandoned” 154 Canadians down south “without knowing if they could afford another night in a hotel, without knowing if they could afford food the next day, without any option to return to Canada.”
“Right now, we’re working on taking legal action against Sunwing,” Awad said during a news conference in Montreal.
It’s unclear whether he has followed through on his promise.
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