Lack of refund angers Sun Country passengers stuck in Cancun

Passengers stranded in Cancun when Sun Country Airlines canceled several flights in the wake of an historic April snowstorm are frustrated at the company's refusal to reimburse extra costs caused by the situation, despite offering those services for people stuck in several other areas of Mexico.

Hayden and Kristi Courrier's wedding party of 42 people, many of them from Minnesota, was among those stranded in Cancun for days when Sun Country canceled several flights out of the area. Both the newlyweds made it back to Minnesota within 24 hours of the cancellations, though for many of the couple's family and friends their trip to paradise turned into a travel nightmare when they were forced to pay thousands of dollars for another few days in Mexico.

Passengers in Mazatlan and San Jose del Cabo found themselves in similar circumstances, with the airline originally promising to refund their return tickets while leaving the travelers on the hook to find--and finance--their own way home. The airline later announced it would pay for the return costs of those returning from that pair of locations, but left the passengers in Cancun to fend for themselves because they were able to return on Sun Country flights later in the week.

"They've yet to even say they're sorry to us," said Sun Country passenger Kelly Macalus, who was a part of the Courrier's wedding party. "I think they could have done a lot more."

The ensuing controversy put the company in the middle of a public relations nightmare just a few months after being bought by Apollo Global Management, a New York-based investment firm. 

Sun Country says it plans to keep its headquarters in Eagan following the change in ownership, though many of the stranded passengers wonder if their hometown airline is abandoning Minnesota Nice along with its hometown owners.

"When you look at a private equity group, they come and they buy [a company] to make money off of it," said Paul Omodt, a crisis communications specialist who spent 10 years in the airline industry. "It’s very transactional. They look to buy a business and flip it possibly in a couple years, so now they have to come back and say is customer service going to be a tenant of our business model--so far, I’m saying probably not."

Once the travelers from Cancun had returned home they called and emailed the airline in the hopes of receiving some sort of compensation. In an email Wednesday morning, their hopes were dashed when Sun Country told them saying it wouldn't be compensating anyone for the cancelations. 

"Again, we are incredibly apologetic for the lapse in communication and the inconveniences endured by the entire travel party," the email read. "Our senior level management has discussed at length the compensation offered and we will not be covering additional expenditures due to the weather disruption."