Mexico party plane organizer threatens legal action over airlines refusing return flights

The man who organized a “party plane” of Quebec influencers on an ill-fated New Year’s trip to Mexico says he’s now planning to sue Sunwing, the airline that flew them down on a charter flight before canceling their return trip.

James William Awad said in a press conference Thursday that the legal action could extend to Air Canada, which declared the group a safety risk and also refused to fly them home.

“We’re working on taking legal action against Sunwing and we may be proceeding against Air Canada as well,” he said.

Air Canada and Sunwing have not yet responded to requests for comment.

The group’s behavior on the flight south from Montreal landed them in hot water, with videos showing passengers not wearing masks, partying and drinking in the aisles. Some are reality TV stars, and others have high-profile social media accounts.

One participant also revealed several people tried to fake their COVID-19 tests, though Awad insisted Thursday that wasn’t true.

He argued that Canadian airlines — Sunwing, Air Canada and Air Transat — had no right to leave the group stranded in Mexico for days past their intended return to Quebec.

“To abandon 154 Canadian citizens in Mexico… without knowing if they can afford another night in a hotel, without knowing if they can afford food for the next day — they decided to abandon everybody because of a single article in the news, “he said.

Awad didn’t explain the potential claim against Air Canada, but said that when it came to Sunwing, “we’re suing the fact that they’re not respecting the contracts.”

In the end, some people were forced to find circuitous routes through the United States and Panama to get home, he said Thursday. Others gave up trying to come home, at least for a while, he said.

“There’s a lot of people that stayed in Mexico to continue the party, because they knew we were banned, so they decided, ‘You know what? I’m just going to stay there for a while,'” he said.

“The last person that stayed there because of the ban was at most, maybe a week… There’s a few people that [had] to go to the US, some people [had] to go to Panama, some people have to go to different countries to come back. For me, that was very worrying.”

Awad himself returned to Quebec a week and a half ago, when he said he rented a U-Haul truck in New York and drove across the border in the middle of the night. Quebec police ticketed him at the time for breaking the province’s 10 pm curfew, which was in place at the time.

In early January, when Sunwing canceled the return flight, the company told CTV News that it did so for safety reasons.

In order to board the return flight, the tour group was presented with terms and conditions “to ensure the safety of the crew and passengers,” the airline said at the time.

“Unfortunately, the group did not accept all of the terms,” said its statement. “As a result… we have made the decision to cancel the return flight.”

Awad later claimed he did agree to all the conditions presented but that he had insisted the group be served food, which the airline wouldn’t do.

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