The Sunwing flight was travelling from Halifax to Punta Cana Friday evening. According to police in Bermuda, a passenger informed a flight attendant that people were smoking in one of the aircraft's washrooms.
Dave Shellington, a passenger on the plane, is quoted by Bernews
as saying, "They were smoking in the plane's washroom and when they came out they got into a bit of an argument with the attendants, they could not say where they put their cigarette butts and that caused a bit of a commotion. From there it kind of escalated..."
The people smoking in the washroom turned out to be a family of four; a mother, father and two sons, 16 and 22. All except the 16-year-old became verbally abusive and refused to extinguish their cigarettes. When incidents like this occur, safety regulations require the pilot to land at the nearest airport. The plane touched down in Bermuda around 9 p.m.
Daryl McWilliams, the vice-president of media relations for Sunwing, was quoted by CBC
as saying, "I can't believe that passengers did this. I'll bet you it's been 20 years since smoking was allowed on aircraft."
After the plane touched down, the family was removed from the plane by police and the three uncooperative members of the family were taken into custody. They were later released on bail but their travel documents were confiscated.
Members of the family refused to tell the airlines whether there were cigarettes on board and what they did with the butts. As a result of this, the airline flew a mechanic to Bermuda to check out the plane. But by the time the aircraft had been examined and cleared, the flight crew had exceeded their maximum allowed working time. They needed a minimum of 12 hours off.
Around 2 a.m. the remaining 170 passengers were allowed to leave the aircraft and taken to Bermuda hotels to spend the night. The plane took off for the Dominican Republic later on Saturday.
In addition to the cost of diverting to Bermuda, flying the mechanic down and putting the passengers and crew in a hotel for the night, Sunwing is also on the hook for paying for the night the passengers paid for and missed in Punta Cana.
The National Post
reports Sunwing has yet to decide whether the airline will attempt to recoup the costs from the family.
The 54-year-old man, 52-year-old woman and their 22-year-old son are expected to appear in a Bermuda court today. It is not known how they will leave Bermuda but according to McWilliams, they will never fly with Sunwing again.