‘It was a debacle’: Windsor couple frustrated with three-hour flight plan that turned into 11-hour detour to Winnipeg

Flair Airlines blames weather for a series of delays between Cancun, Mexico, and Windsor International Airport.

“It definitely rattled me more than I liked it to,” Windsorite William Thibodeau told CTV News Thursday, two days after his “fantastic” vacation to Mexico ended.

The flights on Flair Airlines were less than favourable, he said.

On the way to Mexico, Thibodeau said, “We were on our descent, wheels down, 10-feet from the ground when last minute the pilot shoots back up into the air! Everybody’s looking around like ‘What is going on?’”

The pilot, according to Thibodeau, blamed the weather, which is confirmed by Flair public relations.

“Adverse weather conditions out of our control impacted on the Cancun flight causing a bumpy landing,” Matt Kunz, vice president of Business Transformation & Operations told CTV News in a statement. “Our pilots did everything within their power to minimize disturbance to passengers.”

Thibodeau thought to himself, “It’s an outlier; a one-time thing [that’s] never [going to] happen in any of our lives ever again.”

He was wrong.

Caitlin Klaper and her husband William Thibodeau enjoyed a week long vacation in Cancun, Mexico only to have a “frustrating” flight home on Flair Airlines on Jan. 9, 2024. (Image courtesy: William Thibodeau)

After a two-hour delay in leaving Cancun a week later, the return pilot had to take two attempts to land in Windsor.

“He (the pilot) tells us first it’s the control tower. Second, it’s the weather. Now we’re going somewhere else?” said Thibodeau.

Thibodeau explained the pilot made an unintelligible announcement about where the plane was headed, but none of the passengers around him knew what was happening until he eventually caught a flight attendant’s attention.

“She says we’re going to Winnipeg. I say to the crowd, ‘We’re going to Winnipeg!’” Thibodeau explained. “Everybody’s (sic) at this point… they’ve hit their wall. They’re at their wit’s end.”

Flair Airlines confirmed the detour on Tuesday Jan. 9, 2024.

“Southern Ontario was experiencing widespread snow showers, and neither Toronto nor surrounding airports had weather conditions suitable for use as an alternate landing site,” according to Kunz.

Thibodeau said they sat in Winnipeg for more than an hour – sitting on the plane – waiting for the next steps.

“Once weather conditions improved and became conducive to a safe landing, the plane landed in Windsor,” according to Flair.

“It was such a debacle,” Thibodeau said, noting by the time they disembarked he and his wife and dozens of other passengers had been on the aircraft for 11 hours. “And the only thing that was offered to us was a cup of water and a slice of pizza? Does that really make up for it? I don’t think so.”

Thibodeau said the flight crew told them there would be an email explaining the delays and any applicable compensation sent to their inboxes, but no such email has been sent by this article’s publication date.

The couple would love financial compensation for the extra time on board a plane, but Thibodeau expects that’s unlikely.

In the meantime, a public admission from Flair Airlines that mistakes were made would be a good start for Thibodeau.

“They’re trying to expand at such an extreme rate that they’re leaving people stranded as a result,” said Thibodeau. “So I think, yeah, like some accountability, some transparency.”

Flair Airlines confirmed to CTV News they are planning to get in touch with the couple and are “looking into” any possible compensation for the detoured route, noting they have no control over the weather and its impact on their aircrafts.

“Flair prioritizes safety above all else, and we appreciate the patience and understanding of our valued passengers,” Kunz said.

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