He was promoted as a New Year’s Eve celebration in Cancun, Mexico – a six-night trip that included parties with open bars and a day exploring Tulum, a popular tourist destination on the YucatÃ¡n Peninsula known for its ancient ruins and the turquoise water of its beaches.
It would start with a private charter plane from Montreal where the guests – a coterie of Canadian social media influencers, reality TV personalities and others – would be entertained by a DJ on the flight to Mexico.
But the trip turned into a fiasco, with airlines avoiding the group and blocking many of its members and Canadian authorities vowing to investigate after videos of the passengers surfaced on social media showing them flouting the restrictions. Canada’s Covid-19.
In the videos, passengers are seen dancing and jumping in the aisles, screaming without masks and passing bottles of alcohol around. A woman can be seen vaping in the cabin. Another passenger, his mask hanging under his chin, yells at his fellow travelers over the cabin intercom to sit down, then “save the energy.”
âLet’s hear some noise, welcome to 111 Private Club! ” said the same passenger in a video, referring to an online group described as “by invitation only” which was founded by James William Awad, a self-proclaimed musician and entrepreneur who organized the trip. Passengers, many without masks, shout their approval.
About 27 of the 130 passengers on the flight have returned to Canada, the country’s Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, told reporters on Friday.
“They were all arrested and questioned at the border,” he said, adding that they had been tested for Covid-19 and questioned about their proof of vaccination and quarantine plans.
Many passengers apparently remained stranded in Mexico after at least three airlines said they would not bring them back.
“Private Club 111 is working around the clock to get everyone home safely as quickly as possible,” Awad said in a statement. posted Thursday on a personal blog. “I understand why many fellow citizens are upset by the current situation,” he said earlier in the statement. “As someone who loves to bring people together, I am committed to having a private and safe event in Cancun with my group from Private Club 111.”
Transport Canada, the country’s transportation authority, said it was investigating the conduct of passengers, who could face fines of up to $ 5,000 for violating Canada’s Covid-19 restrictions, which prohibit passengers from traveling without a mask.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the behavior observed in the plane as a “slap in the face” to people who have complied with Covid-19 restrictions on planes and at home.
âI think like all Canadians who have seen these videos, I am extremely frustrated,â he said. “We know how hard people have worked to keep themselves safe, to limit their family gatherings to Christmas, to wear masks, to get vaccinated, to do all the right things.”
Sunwing Airlines, which flew the group to Cancun on December 30, said it canceled the return flight to Canada after an internal investigation found the passengers “were exhibiting unruly behavior and not complying with travel regulations. ‘aviation or public health’.
“Our decision to cancel the return flight was based on the group’s refusal to agree to all the terms and on our safety team’s assessment that the non-compliance was likely based on their previous disruptive behavior on board.” , the company said in a statement Friday.
Mr Awad said in his statement that he accepted “all requests” made by the airline, but objected to Sunwing’s refusal to provide meals during the five-hour return flight. He later wrote on Twitter that the sticking point was unrelated to the meals and that he had “just asked Sunwing to try to do something about it”.
In its statement, Sunwing did not elaborate on how the flight crew responded to the passengers or whether the captain was aware of what was happening during the flight to Mexico.
Air Canada said it denied flights to 19 people associated with the group, according to CTV News.
âAs long as we can identify the passengers who were part of the group, we are denying boarding to ensure the safety of other passengers and our crew,â said Air Canada.
Air Transat, another Canadian airline, said on Twitter that it was refusing to bring passengers home after trying to book a flight through the airline.
“We confirm that they will be denied boarding based on our legal and regulatory obligations to ensure the safety of our passengers and crew, which is our top priority,” he added. Air Transat said.
Passengers thronging the aisles compromised flight attendants’ ability to move around the cabin and assist anyone who may have been injured or required medical attention, said Mark Millam, vice president of technical programs for Flight Safety Foundation, which provides safety guidelines for the aviation and aerospace industry.
If sudden turbulence had hit the plane, passengers standing in the aisles could have been seriously injured, Mr Millam said. âThe plane was not designed to be a dance floor,â he said.
In his statement, Mr. Awad said the trip was the first travel event planned by 111 Private Club, which he described as “a dream and a vision”.
He added: “I have learned a lot and am still learning from this experience.”
Vjosa Isaicontributed reports.