Stay, Play, Try & Fly Pt. 4 – Sunwing

Our vacation was booked through Signature Vacations, which is one and the same as Sunwing & Nexus Tours. I have already reviewed the hotel, the excursions we explored, and some new products that I tried, now I will take the time to review my experience with our flights with Sunwing as well as the general customer experience I had throughout booking.

Pre-Trip Experience:
Our package included 10% discount off select excursions so first contact was via email to inquire what these excursions consisted of and the best way to book. My email was quickly replied to but directed me to call the customer service line. Unfortunately, the rep wasn’t able to provide much useful information. At this point I knew that the tours were Nexus Tours so had been to their website and researched ones I was interested in. I mentioned the specific tour I was interested in and she said no they don’t offer that excursion. Not a problem…however when I asked for information on what was offered she told me I would have to book at my resort. Again, not a problem…but what types of excursions were offered and was their an available price list? She couldn’t tell me as they do not have a list of what’s offered. I was left confused since Sunwing & Nexus are the same company and she could tell me what wasn’t offered but couldn’t tell me what was. So I booked my excursion online through Nexus. Nexus was an easy to use site that made registering a breeze. Upon entering my credit card info I was told I would receive email confirmation as well as pickup info. This email was not received until I was home from vacation. Thankfully our hotel rep had the info and was able to confirm everything was settled.
At time of booking we were excited for a direct flight. We were contacted shortly before our departure date and informed there was now a stopover in Liberia Costa Rica. It was only a 1 hour stop so not a big deal. I understand airlines have the right to make changes to their flights and include this in their fine print, however passengers should be aware of this and have an option to be on another direct flight.

Departing flight:
Flying is never a fun activity for my husband or myself. He is 6’5 so regular seating is quite uncomfortable for him. We are aware of this and went into our flight expecting to be cramped. I asked at check in about extra leg room seating and was told they only assign those seats for a pre-paid fee of $50. Not a problem – we moved on and were met with what we expected. Our flight down was delayed 20 minutes which really is nothing. It was a rowdy plane full of 3 wedding parties but everyone was excited to start their trip. Then it was announced we had a stopover and several people had no idea. Several people booked a direct flight just like us but had not been updated that the flight included a stopover. This was the first wave of complaints from my fellow travelers. I would have been upset too had I not been aware. The flight services were standard, the crew was pleasant enough, and I have no complaints about our flight – my complaint comes back to Sunwing/Nexus tours not having information available. Inflight services included pre-booking excursions and were the exact ones I had seen on the Nexus website. I had already paid for my excursion but was confused again at how they were unable to provide me with any information when I had called. On top of the confusion and lack of information I had to pay USD for the same excursions that people were booking in CAD on the plane.
The best part of this flight was that it flew into Rio Hato airport which was 10 minutes from the resort rather than 2 hours if we had flown into Panama City. We were bused to our hotel and vacation started within 30 minutes of landing.

On-Site Rep Experience:
Our reps were wonderful. They were pleasant and very helpful with our excursion, with getting a cab to a local restaurant, and with answering any questions that we had. We met with our rep and asked about booking extra leg room seating for return flight and were told he could not do that as it would have had to be completed earlier in the week. Again, not a problem. I was able to email my travel agent and book 2 seats together for a cost of $100. Well worth it for some comfort on a 6 hour flight.

Arriving flight:
The final day of our trip was an all-around nightmare. At 8:30 am we confirmed with the rep that our pick up time was 2pm to head to the airport. Checkout was 12 o’clock so we brought our bags to the lobby and decided to grab a bite to eat. 12:20 we arrived back at the lobby and discovered our group had left. The pick-up time had been changed to 12:00. Thank heavens the airport was 10 minutes away and only cost $10 for a cab ride. At this point my anxiety was through the roof because the hotel also kindly reminded us that check in closes an hour or hour and a half before the flight. We jumped in a cab and arrived to our group still checking in.
Check in told us we could not sit together so I mentioned I had already pre-booked seats. I was met with ”no you are wrong” and handed seats many rows apart to which I replied “My credit card better not be charged then” and was on my way. Our onsite rep saw the interaction and asked if everything was ok. Maybe half an hour later the airport rep approached us with extra leg room seats across the aisle from each other. We were pleased to have our pre-booked seats honored however were a little annoyed the seats were still not directly side by side like booked.
Our flight was scheduled for takeoff at 2:35. At 3:50 we overheard someone mention that the pilot did not have the proper paperwork for immigration. My husband approached airport staff and was waved away – they refused to give him any information. After he requested info once more they announced we would be waiting another hour due to immigration issues. At 4:15 passengers on the plane were deplaned and joined is in the very small terminal. People were sitting on the floors, there were only 2 vending machines available and people were starting to get cranky. 4:45 brought us food and drinks and finally at 5:45 we began boarding. The flight was quiet because everyone was exhausted! In Costa Rica we were offered a cold piece of pizza and then were on our way back to Toronto. There was no meal service only paid snacks.
To return to the seat frustration – I had a nice young couple sitting behind me in the extra leg room seating. The boarded in Costa Rica and they were very happy to be beside each other as they were the last 2 to check in at the airport. They were also happy to shout to their friends at the front of the plane that they didn’t have to pay for the extra leg room. So paying passengers were separated and non-paying got to sit together.
Our flight was supposed to arrive at 11pm but we didn’t arrive until after 3 am. Getting home at 5 am and having to work at 8 was a joy! Had I had wifi in the airport (it was down) I could have made arrangements with work. This also pushed us into the next day so had to pay for an extra day of parking.
It was exhausting and frustrating to be left in the dark. The lack of information compounded with the other small issue truly gave me a very pour experience with Sunwing. I have lodged a formal complaint where I asked for my $100 fee to be returned for the extra leg room seating and am waiting for a response (could be up to 30 days). I have a negative opinion about them and hope that they have some compassion and offer a reasonable solution or I will avoid flying with them in the future. Communication was the key element that could have turned this experience into a positive one. Delays happen and bookings change but it is how it is communicated that makes the world of a difference.

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