MONTREAL - A Quebec man who was allegedly served sparkling wine instead of champagne on a flight is seeking permission to launch a class action against the airline, his lawyer said Thursday.
Court documents claim Daniel Macduff, a retired civil servant from the Quebec City area, booked a Sunwing Airlines flight to Cuba last November that advertised a “champagne service.”
But instead of a glass of high-quality bubbly from France's famous Champagne region, Macduff was served a cheap sparkling wine, his lawyer said.
“He was served, in a plastic cup, an ounce or an ounce and a half of sparkling wine that was not champagne, and on his flight back there was nothing at all,” said Sebastien Paquette, who is spearheading the class action request.
“He felt as if he'd been tricked.”
If authorized, the suit would seek compensation for the price difference between the drinks as well as punitive damages against the company for alleged false and misleading advertising practices.
In a statement, Sunwing dismissed the legal action as “frivolous and without merit,” saying the word champagne was used in its marketing to refer to the quality of the service rather than a specific drink.
“The terms 'champagne vacations' and 'champagne service' were used to denote a level of service in reference to the entire hospitality package from the flight through to the destination experience and are not a reference to beverages served inflight or in-destination,” the statement read.
The company also said that whenever it detailed its services, it always specified these included “a complimentary welcome glass of sparkling wine.”
Sunwing's website appears to have removed the references to champagne.
A judge is expected to decide in March 2018 whether to authorize the class action.
Paquette said the suit is less about the differing cost of the beverages and more about the need to fight Sunwing's advertising practices.
He said the company's marketing - which included pictures of bubbly-filled long-stemmed glasses - crossed a line into false advertising.
“It's their marketing practice, of using the word 'champagne' next to pictures of flutes, that's what we're looking to punish,” he said.
“Imagine Sunwing wrote 'sparkling wine vacation' instead,” he added. “Doesn't quite have the same pull, does it?”
The suit would be filed on behalf of any Quebec resident who bought a Sunwing package that included the word “champagne” in its marketing since February 2014.
Paquette believes more than 500,000 consumers could be involved.