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Although the passengers involved with the Sunwing party plane incident are starting to speak out — there are still several unanswered questions about exactly what happened on December 30 and what will happen next.
Following reports of Quebec influencers being stranded in Cancun and penalties of thousands of dollars and even possible jail time, here's the low down on everything we know so far about the flight itself, the mysterious 111 Private Club and James William Awad — the person behind the booking.
Ok, so what happened?
On December 30, a privately chartered Sunwing plane departed from Montreal to Cancun for an invitation-only event on New Year's Eve.
Videos from the flight showed a group of Quebec influencers and reality stars ignoring public health measures, dancing and singing in aisles, drinking alcohol and smoking. Many were not wearing face masks.
Clips from the journey were posted online via Instagram accounts including 111 Private Club's and they quickly went viral.
Federal government officials weighed in on the incident and promised to launch an investigation, with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra committing to taking it "very seriously."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke out, saying he was "extremely frustrated" by the reports and describing the behaviour of those on board as "a slap in the face."
The passengers — who Trudeau described as "a gang de sans-desseins" (purposeless or clueless people) — were made up of competition winners, social media influencers and reality stars, among others.
Some of those on the flight have already spoken out about their involvement, including three TV personalities from the Quebec show L'île de l'amour.
In an Instagram story, the trio said they were sleeping during the flight and described what happened as "unacceptable."
The flight's organizer and the owner of 111 Private Club, James William Awad, also responded to the backlash. Originally, he described the group as "A1," but later backtracked and said he had "significantly learned" from the experience.
Who is James William Awad?
Awad is the person behind 111 Private Club and the individual who organized the charter flight to Cancun.
His personal website links out to a number of businesses including a fitness platform called Astrofit Gym, a telecom company called Coconut and a Pointe-Claire restaurant called Crusty Crust.
He said on Twitter that he intends to publish a book in 2025.
What is 111 Private Club?
On its Instagram account, 111 Private Club describes itself as an "Exclusive Private Group (By Invitation Only)."
An email/password or invitation code is required to access the company's website and some of Awad's other businesses are listed as "partners."
In January, an Instagram post claimed the club had 1,000 members. It said that you must ask a current member for an invite code if you want to join, or DM the Instagram page.
Members must be 18 years or older, according to the Instagram post.
Events listed on the Instagram page include "Tulum Montreal" in September 2021, "Halloween (Part 1)" in October 2021 and "New Year's Eve 2022 (Mexico)."
The Tulum event was described on a promotional poster as an all-inclusive trip between December 30, 2021, and January 5, 2022. The ad even promised a DJ on the private plane.
Where are the passengers now?
After videos from the outbound flight went viral, Sunwing announced that it would not allow the passengers to return to Canada on their services.
In a statement on Thursday, January 6, Awad said that 111 Private Club is "working tirelessly" to get everyone on the trip back to Canada ASAP.
What will happen next?
I am aware of the reports of unacceptable behavior on a Sunwing flight. I have asked Transport Canada to investigate the matter. We must take the risks of COVID seriously!— Omar Alghabra (@Omar Alghabra) 1641312896
An investigation into the incident has been launched by the federal government and Transport Canada says it has already been in contact with Sunwing about the flight.
If those involved are found to have been non-compliant with Transport Canada regulations, they could face fines of up to $5,000 for each offence.
Things could get even worse if any passengers provided false information to border officials, as this could result in penalties up to $750,000, six months in jail, or both if "found guilty under a summary conviction."
"When endangering the lives of others and causing harm, a traveller could be subject to up to three years in prison and/or up to $1 million in fines," a message from the federal government adds.
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