Organizer Of Maskless Party Flight To Mexico May Sue Airline

by SharonKurheg

On December 30, 2021, dozens of people were on a Sunwing charter flight from Montreal to Cancun. It was promoted as a New Year’s Eve celebration. That’s usually not a big deal; charter flights happen every day, even on holidays.

However, this was no typical charter flight. The flight had a DJ onboard and was filled with Canadian social media influencers, reality TV personalities, etc. And even that wouldn’t have been all that unusual, at least in terms of a specific group of people who wanted to have fun on their charter flight.

The problems started when videos of the flight surfaced. Ones where passengers could be seen dancing and jumping in the aisles, yelling without masks on and passing bottles of alcohol from person to person. One woman could be seen vaping in the cabin. Another passenger, with his mask hanging under his chin, yelled at his fellow travelers over the cabin intercom to sit down, and then, “to keep the energy up.”

“Let’s hear some noise, welcome to 111 Private Club!” the same passenger said in one of the videos. He was referring to an online group described as “invitation only” that was founded by James William Awad, a musician and self-described entrepreneur who organized the trip. The passengers, many of them without masks on, yelled back in approval.

But the good times couldn’t last forever. Shortly after the videos went online, backlash came from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who called them, “idiots”) on down. Transport Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the FAA) opened an investigation. And Sunwing canceled the group’s January 5th return flight to Montreal as a result of the carrier’s investigation and “due to a refusal by the group to accept all terms of carriage.”

Well, now the organizer of the event says he’s strongly considering a potential lawsuit against the airline.

James William Awad told reporters Thursday that airlines “abandoned” 154 Canadians in Mexico, “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,” he said during a news conference in Montreal.

When asked about the activities those who were on the chartered flight were doing, Awad said he would “like to excuse myself for the people who did not respect the rules.”

However Awad, who operates 111 Private Club, also said that he doesn’t regret the trip.

“I don’t regret organizing the event because we all had our fun,” he said. “My intentions were not for all of this to happen.”

Awad said he was also looking at possible legal action against Air Canada and Air Transat, two of the other airlines that refused to fly the group home.

Our take on this

The group’s refusal to agree to Sunwing’s conditions of carriage gives the airline the ability to refuse to fly them, just as if they were impaired by alcohol. Under those circumstances, their (former) passengers’ ability to afford another night in a hotel, food the next day, or what their alternate options would be to return to Canada are not the airline’s concern or responsibility.

Awad would be foolish to start such legal proceedings and I’d be surprised if he ever did. I suspect he’s just an “influencer” who enjoyed the attention he got a few weeks ago and is looking for more.

Meanwhile, Transport Canada confirmed that the investigation into the party on the flight is continuing. In a statement, the agency said it “will not hesitate to take appropriate and proportional enforcement action in light of the facts uncovered.” Passengers could be fined up to C$5,000 ($3,932) per offense if the agency determines they were not complying with regulations. If it’s determined their behaviors endangered the lives of others (for example, exposed them to COVID) and caused harm, a traveler could be subject to up to three years in prison and/or up to C$1 million in fines.

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