Twenty-seven of 130 passengers who ended up stranded in Mexico because of their behaviour on their flight from Canada have returned home to face an investigation.
The individuals were stopped by Canadian border guards after videos emerged of partying on their Sunwing charter flight from Montreal to Cancun, resulting in outrage in their home country.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the returning tourists were questioned at the border, tested for COVID-19 and had their documents, including PCR test results, checked by authorities, the Ottawa Sun reported.
CBC added that Quebec police and prosecutors office were being informed of their details.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau had earlier described their behaviour as a “slap in the face” and said “like all Canadians who saw those videos” he was “frustrated”.
The videos of the on-board party show the maskless passengers packed together, singing and dancing in their seats and in the aisle, as some held bottles of alcohol, took phone pictures and vaped.
Canadian rules currently require all air passengers aged over six to wear masks on flights.
On Wednesday, after the video footage emerged, Mr Duclos, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra issued a joint statement, saying: “We are aware of unacceptable behaviour and cases of non-compliance with mask wearing and other air safety requirements that occurred on a privately chartered flight from Montréal to Cancun on December 30, 2021.
“Our government takes reported incidents such as these very seriously. We have directed our respective departmental officials to immediately launch an investigation into these allegations of non-compliance with COVID-19 and air safety rules and regulations.
“Transport Canada has been in contact with the airline concerning this flight. Should the department determine that non-compliance with Transport Canada regulations and requirements has occurred, fines of up to $5,000 per offence could be issued to passengers.”
The Sun said many of the passengers had become pariahs in Canada, and were left stranded after Sunwing cancelled their return flight and two other airlines – Air Transat and Air Canada – refused to take them home as well.
At least one of the passengers subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 after the flight to Cancun, one of the best known beach resorts in Mexico.
The flight is understood to have been organised by a group called 111 Private Club, which is said to label itself an “exclusive private group by invitation only”.
The only thing that went wrong on this trip is having our “return” flight cancelled. Relax. Every body can still return, we’re just trying to find a way for every body to return without having to pay for their ticket. 90% of the people did not pay for this event! I paid for it.
— James William Awad (@111jameswilliam) January 8, 2022
Organiser James William Awad told La Presse newspaper the party started soon after the group boarded, but the passengers then calmed down and returned to their seats for take-off, before it started up again when the plane was at altitude.
He said the group consisted of a bunch of “influencers” and reality TV stars, as well as several of his business partners.
Earlier, he posted on Twitter: “Only like 15-20 people were partying on that plane. While every body else was sitting. That’s barely 8% of the people that participated in that event. The ratio is great. The 111 Private Club is A1. We’re working on bringing that “bad” ratio down gradually.”
Sunwing chairman Colin Hunter told La Presse that because it was charter flight that was fully booked by the group organisers, it was a private matter, but one that became public.
He told the newspaper an investigation was under way.