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Sunwing offers free seats on repatriation flights to stranded Canadians


TORONTO — Sunwing Airlines Ltd. is offering vacant seats on its repatriation flights free of charge to any Canadians stranded in sun-kissed parts of the hemisphere, including to non-Sunwing customers.

"We understand a lot of Canadians are still stranded outside the country and struggling to get home," said Stephen Hunter, CEO of the airline's parent company.

"That's why we want to open up any extra capacity we have. It's the Canadian thing to do."

Sunwing aims to fly about 11,000 Canadians back to home soil by Thursday, bringing the total number of repatriated Sunwing passengers to more than 33,000.

Thousands of Canadians stuck overseas are continuing to try to find a way back home as borders close and airlines cut flights in response to the spread of COVID-19.

Swoop said it is suspending all international flights and working to bring home more than 2,300 travellers.

The discount carrier owned by WestJet Airlines said all international and transborder flights will end Sunday evening until May 31.

"These are extraordinary times, and we want to be sure our Swoop travellers are safe at home in Canada," says Bert van der Stege, head of commercial.

Extra flights are to begin operating on Monday with 15 flights returning customers to Canada.

On Wednesday, Air Canada announced it will suspend most of its international and U.S. transborder flights in response to border shutdowns. Porter Airlines and Transat AT Inc. have also said they will move to suspend all of their flights.

Sunwing said it expects to have all of its customers, most of whom are at Mexican or Caribbean resorts, back home by Monday.

Global Affairs Canada said Tuesday that "Canada has no current plans to repatriate a significant group of people from other countries."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC, TSX:TRZ)

The Canadian Press

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