MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - New Year’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for air travel, but in 2022 things did not go well at MSP Airport.
As staffing and pandemic continue to trouble airlines, MSP saw 84 flights cancelled on Sunday, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.
"Oh, I did not see it coming at all, it’s been extremely frustrating," Mercedes Villanueva said. She enjoyed the holidays near Las Vegas, making memories with her family; but the stress of trying to get back home to Minnesota has now made for a final memory she’ll never forget.
"I was expected to stay overnight in an airport with my 9-month-old son that I have in my arms right now," Villanueva said. "And my 5-year-old who is currently sleeping on one of the chairs."
Villanueva says right as she was about to leave for the airport to catch a late Sun Country flight on New Year’s Eve, she got an email saying her flight was cancelled. So she picked up the phone, only to spend hours on hold. "It was about six hours total," Villanueva said.
On New Year’s Day, she learned she could get on the very next flight. But when they arrived later they were told again the flight was cancelled.
"And they were so unsympathetic about it," Villanueva said. "I feel like they weren’t trying to understand or didn’t care about the situation; it was more like speaking to a robot."
Eventually, Villanueva says she was encouraged to wait at the airport overnight until the next flight, "they basically told us we needed to wait at the airport and hope people didn’t show up so that we could have their spot, and then that flight ended up being delayed until 10 o’clock, and it just now landed."
"My son started crying saying that he wanted to be home," Villanueva continued. "They’ve just been extra fussy because they haven’t had much sleep."
"I’d rather deal with having to find my luggage than my kids screaming all week because they haven’t got enough sleep," Brian Boyle said. His family also flew on Sun Country, returning from vacation in Palm Springs overnight.
"We were supposed to be arriving at 12:30, and we got in at 3:45, and then we would’ve had to wait a number of hours to get our bags," Boyle said. He added that there were three plane-loads of people in line for their bags ahead of his family overnight. With three children back to school on Monday, he decided it was best to just go home and hope to find the bags the next day.
Midday on Sunday, the remnants of the mess were scattered along the walls of MSP Airport’s Terminal 2.
"I will never fly with them again, this has been the worst experience," Villanueva said. "I would rather pay double the price with somebody else."
In a statement on Sunday, Sun Country wrote:
"Severe weather and understaffing due to COVID sick calls challenged our team at MSP yesterday. We apologize to our guests for any delays they experienced, but appreciate their patience as our team worked through the challenges to service guests safely."
In response to flight cancellations, they continued:
"This flight sequence was canceled due to a station staffing issue. As you know, COVID sick calls are not only impacting MSP, but stations across the country. We were therefor unable to safely operate this flight.
Passengers on this flight received a refund and a $200 flight voucher per ticketed passenger for future travel. Our customer service team is currently still processing these refunds, as well as others from other weekend disruptions. Passengers can expect to receive this reimbursement within the next few days if not already received.
We sincerely apologize for the disruption to our guests and appreciate their patience. This is not the typical experience of a Sun Country passenger, and we hope to have the opportunity to welcome these guests onboard again in the future."