Over a week ago, a video of a party happening onboard a chartered Sunwing flight from Montréal to Cancún went viral online. More than 100 influencers from Québec were on that private flight to Mexico for a vacation. In the video, some of the passengers are seen standing up and partying maskless, passing around bottles of alcohol, and vaping.
Following the backlash, Sunwing decided to cancel the passengers’ return flight to Canada. Other airlines, including Air Canada and Air Transat, also announced that they would block the group’s members from their flights, leaving them stranded in Cancún for the time being.
I’m not sure what the intent behind the event was. Maybe the passengers simply wanted a chance to relax for a week and ring in the new year on a good note — that’s fair enough. Or maybe they were hoping to create good escapist content for their followers. Either way, I don’t know what goal their mid-flight rave achieved.
In the best of times, air travel — especially international — is already a privilege. Frequent commercial flight cancellations and the high costs of travel-purpose PCR tests have made it even more difficult to fly now, including for those who might desperately need to fly home to see family or for other purposes.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel frequently in the past. I’ve also avoided flying in the last two years until I absolutely had to this summer, for the start of fall semester. It was undoubtedly my least enjoyable experience flying — and one I don’t particularly want to go through again. So it’s weird to see people partying on planes without a care in the world.
While people may have enjoyed living vicariously through influencers’ wild excursions and luxuries before, the pandemic has brought us closer to reality. We’re all painfully aware of the elephant in the room that’s made it overwhelmingly obvious how different the lives that people lead are.
Viewing it generously, I understand that it’s difficult to create content right now. A large element of being creative is that it’s often an inherently public act, which doesn’t seem possible to do in traditional ways these days. For people who dedicate their lives to being in the public space and doing these acts, it’s an odd time to live in.
I’ve become interested in travel influencers and vlogs since the start of 2020. At that time, it was interesting to watch people live out adventures I couldn’t have, and, as time passed, it became a comforting pastime. Given the amount of content out there that was made during the pandemic, it’s safe to say that there is a way to be a content creator and a decent human being at the same time.
Granted, this content is very different from the material the Québec influencers produce. One of the travel channels I follow on YouTube — Eamon and Bec, also based in Canada — documented their journey over the last two years as they went from living out of a van to a cabin in the woods. It certainly wasn’t the height of luxury in Cancún, but I found it an interesting watch nonetheless.
Genuinely, though, I don’t care if you’re staying in a fancy hotel for a city staycation or going on a private helicopter ride above the water. If that’s how you choose to spend your life and money, then so be it. I’m not enraged by the influencers’ ‘luxury’ privilege as much as I am about their disregard for all consequences.
At least one person on that party flight tested positive for COVID-19 after landing. When forced to take PCR tests upon arrival, some passengers tried to put Vaseline in their nose to produce a negative test.
There are ways to safely travel during a pandemic. It doesn’t have to happen completely off the grid, but it is absolutely not what happened on the flight that day. For people with up to a million followers, they do have some responsibility to the public — whether they care for it or not.
Some of the influencers on that flight eventually made it back to Canada. Nobody was arrested, although investigations are ongoing. Part of being a public creator is accepting accountability, which some have yet to take.
The event organizer, James William Awad, tweeted, “Reality of the story, sheeps are mad because people partied on a private chartered plane where partying was allowed. Wake up!!” I think the implied contract with the public eye goes both ways, which includes taking responsibility for content met with love or criticism.
Yes, the past two years have been challenging. Yes, it’s okay to have fun and share it with others. I still love watching people online enjoy things I never will — but, as a social media consumer, I prefer content that doesn’t recklessly endanger people.