Sun Country Airlines

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Sun Country Airlines
Sun Country Airlines Logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
SY SCX SUN COUNTRY
Founded June 1982
Commenced operations January 1983
Hubs Minneapolis–Saint Paul
Focus cities Dallas/Fort Worth
Frequent-flyer program Ufly Rewards
Fleet size 25
Destinations 45
Company slogan The Hometown Airline
Parent company Apollo Global Management
Headquarters Eagan, Minnesota, US
Key people
  • Jude Bricker
    (CEO)
  • David Siegel
    (Executive Chairman)
  • Jim Olsen
    (Founder, First CEO)
Revenue Increase US$ 589 million (2017)
Operating income Increase US$ 29 million (2017)
Net income Increase US$ 28 million (2017)
Employees About 1,800
Website suncountry.com

Sun Country Airlines is a United States-based low-cost airline headquartered in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul suburb of Eagan, Minnesota[1] and based at nearby Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. The airline's main focus is flying to leisure destinations in destinations such as Florida and Mexico in the winter, and Alaska and California in the summer. Sun Country operates its main operations in their hometown of Minneapolis. Sun Country also operates flights from Dallas/Fort Worth, which serves as a focus city for the airline. The airline has recently made additions to its route network, expanding into markets other than Minneapolis and building more point-to-point routes. It operates scheduled and charter flights to destinations in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean as well as ad hoc charters.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Sun Country began flight operations in January 1983 with a single Boeing 727-200 jetliner.[2] The airline's original staff consisted of sixteen pilots, sixteen flight attendants, three mechanics and one office person. A number of the original employees had previously worked for Braniff International Airways which ceased operations on May 12, 1981.[3] The company's founder and first President/CEO was Captain Jim Olsen, who also acted as Chief Pilot. His wife, Joan Smith-Olsen, acted as Chief Flight Attendant and Head of Inflight Operations. Jim Olsen retired from Sun Country in 2007.[4]

Expansion, new owner and collapse[edit]

Slow and deliberate expansion through the 1980s created steady profits for the company. In 1986 the company placed into service its first wide-body aircraft, a 380-seat McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 leased from future competitor Northwest Airlines. The aircraft's intercontinental range enabled the company to fly international charters and also accommodate high demand on the company's popular Minneapolis to Las Vegas route that the Boeing 727-200 fleet could not handle.

In 1988 its headquarters were located on the grounds of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport.[5]

Sun Country also provided ad-hoc charter lift to civic organizations, corporations, sports teams and virtually any other group that wanted to charter an aircraft. In 1989 Sun Country became a member of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) and flew many charters to support the Desert Storm operation from 1990 to 1991. For their efforts in supporting the operation, 130 of the company's employees were recognized by the United States Air Force.

After earning record profits of $9.7 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1991, the airline acquired additional Boeing 727 and DC-10 aircraft. Additional tour operators chose Sun Country as their air carrier and an emphasis was placed on flying from the Midwest to Las Vegas, Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean.

In the mid 1990s, Mark Travel Group, led by Bill LaMacchia, Jr., acquired Sun Country and began changing the focus of the small niche-market airline. Much of the 1990s were a tough period for the airline, as an aging and over-worked fleet coupled with record demand stretched the airline to its limits. New management began an aircraft refurbishing program designed at improving the experience of Sun Country's passengers. As the DC-10 aircraft aged and required expensive maintenance, the airline gradually reduced the fleet, ultimately retiring the final DC-10 in early 2001. As major airlines became more sophisticated in managing their seat inventories, the demand for tour charter flying fell off. In June 1999 the management of Sun Country launched a major transformation from a charter carrier into a scheduled airline. New service from Minneapolis and Milwaukee began to destinations around the nation, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and Phoenix. The airline also started a frequent flyer program, Smile Awards, which offered frequent travelers free flights, among other benefits. In 2001, Sun Country began to replace its entire fleet with new Boeing 737 next-generation aircraft. As Sun Country reinvented itself, heavy competition from local incumbent carrier Northwest Airlines and the September 11 attacks caused a sharp decrease of traffic and revenue. Contrary to its tradition of financial success and profitability, the airline was losing large amounts of money by the summer of 2001. After fighting to stay operational by cutting flights, destinations and planes, the company closed on December 8, 2001.[6]

A Sun Country Boeing 727-200 in 1994

New owner, rebuilding, new owner and collapse[edit]

During bankruptcy, Sun Country lost almost all of its 727 fleet and four recently delivered 737 aircraft. Sun Country retained one 737 as well as its operating certificate. In the following months, a local group of investors organized as MN Airlines, LLC purchased the remaining assets in bankruptcy court and restarted the airline.

Emerging from bankruptcy, Sun Country standardized its fleet on next-generation Boeing 737 narrow body jets. The airline initially operated combined charter-scheduled services from Minneapolis to casinos in Laughlin, Nevada and gradually added more charter destinations as finances allowed. Soon, new scheduled service was added, focusing on Florida, Mexico and the West Coast.

Sun Country acquired new aircraft in 2004 and 2005 and was profitable in 2004. To honor the company's roots and history, in 2004 Sun Country named a new Boeing 737–800 "The Spirit of Braniff." This plane was the focus of the 2005 "Mid-Continent Airlines/Braniff International Airways" reunion held on September 24, 2005, in the Sun Country Hangar at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. 350 former Braniff and Mid-Continent employees attended.

Sun Country was among the first airlines to operate out of the new terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which officially opened on July 23, 2005.

In July 2006, the airline was acquired by Petters Group Worldwide and Whitebox Advisors. The acquisition was complete on October 31, 2006.[7]

Following the replacement of interim CEO Jay Salmen by Stan Gadek, former CFO of AirTran Airways, Sun Country was nearly finished by the major recession of 2008 and the revelation of financial fraud on a massive scale.[8] The airline furloughed 45 of its 156 pilots and scaled back its summer schedule due to rising fuel costs. Sun Country indicated it had hoped to get up to $50 million in loans or other financial help from the state of Minnesota and the airports commission.[9] In September 2008 the carrier reduced, and in some cases eliminated, flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also began charging $12 for the first checked bag, following most major U.S. carriers.[10] At the end of September 2008, Gadek called for a 50% pay-deferral to all remaining employees. Also on the 28th, Tom Petters resigned after an FBI probe discovered that the airline had suffered financial fraud on a massive scale.[8][11] Following this, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, for the second time, on October 6, 2008, in order to separate itself from the other Petters companies that were being taken over by a court appointee.[12] On Christmas Eve, full pay was restored to all employees. Employees were also promised back-pay with interest.

Rebuilding and new owners[edit]

The company emerged profitable in 2009 with an almost $1 million net profit. In March, the company had fully repaid a $5 million loan from Elite Landings, a seller of corporate jets made by Airbus. The airline also started service to Branson, Missouri, and Boston. In 2010, Sun Country made a 1st quarter profit of $8 million. On June 30, 2010, Sun Country began offering flights to five destinations from Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan.[13] The airline was awarded landing slots to begin flights, in April 2011, from Lansing and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA).[14]

In July 2011, Sun Country Airlines was purchased out of bankruptcy for $34 million by the Davis family, owners of Cambria, a Minnesota-based countertop company.[15][16] Marty Davis, CEO of Cambria, became Chairman of Sun Country Airlines. In 2015, the board hired Zarir Erani as President and CEO of Sun Country.[17]

New owners and CEO[edit]

737-700 jet with newest livery

The airline has remained profitable, with net income of $27 million in 2015, followed by a 41% drop to $16 million in 2016.[17] In July 2017, after more than a year of missed monthly earnings projections, Chairman Davis replaced Erani as interim President and CEO, with Erani moving to other duties within the Davis family of companies.[17] Jude Bricker, previously of Allegiant Air, was appointed as CEO one week after Erani stepped down.[18]

On December 14, 2017, The Davis Brothers announced they would be selling the airline to New York Based Apollo Global Management for an undisclosed amount. The airline will still be headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota and led by CEO Jude Bricker. This move is in hopes that Apollo's finances will allow the airline to "grow as it pleases". As part of its strategy Sun Country moved towards being a "no frills" airline. This includes a new bundling system called Bundle & Go (outlined below), cabin reconfiguration and streamlining of their workforce and in-flight offerings.

Bundle & Go[edit]

Bundle & Go is Sun Country's baggage, boarding and seat selection system, which charges fees for most carry-on baggage.[19]

Destinations[edit]

Overview[edit]

Sun Country Airlines currently flies to 44 destinations throughout the Caribbean, United States, Mexico and Costa Rica.[20] Of these destinations, 16 cities are served year-round. Sun Country began seasonal service to London Stansted Airport on June 11, 2010, and service ended in mid-August. Each flight had a stopover in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador. It was the airline's first service to Europe, but Sun Country used to operate charter flights to Europe with its DC-10s.[21] In May 2011 the airline began operating flights to London Gatwick Airport instead of Stansted; the flight maintained its stopover at Gander.[22] On January 13, 2012, Sun Country began service to Liberia, Costa Rica. On December 20, 2012, Sun Country resumed service to Tampa, Florida. On December 22, 2012, Sun Country began service to Huatulco, Mexico. On July 1, 2013, Sun Country began service to Chicago Midway, but discontinued MDW in September 2015. Sun Country has now also gained approval for flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Washington-Reagan National Airport. The Minneapolis-Washington route began on August 20, 2013, but ended on January 7, 2018. In March 2015, Sun Country started operating scheduled charter flights between Cuba and New York.[23] In August 2017, Sun Country began seasonal service to Austin and Santa Rosa/Sonoma County. [1]

The airline additionally provides charter service for the United States Armed Forces.[24]

Top Domestic Markets[edit]

Sun Country routes as of May 2018
Top domestic markets (Apr 2017 – Mar 2018)[25]
Rank Airport Passengers
1 Minneapolis-St Paul (Headquarters) 1,064,570
2 Las Vegas 128,720
3 New York 100,830
4 Los Angeles 96,610
5 Orlando 91,140
6 Other 603,150

Interline agreements[edit]

Sun Country maintains interline agreements with Icelandair, Condor,[26] China Airlines as well as Emirates.[27]

Fleet[edit]

A Sun Country 737-800 on seasonal lease from Transavia, and wearing Transavia livery (with Sun Country titles), January 2018.

The Sun Country Airlines fleet consists of Boeing 737 Next-Generation airplanes. Seasonally, additional aircraft are leased between Transavia and Sun Country. During its slow summer season, Sun Country occasionally leases planes to Transavia and during Transavia's slow winter season, the airline leases planes to Sun Country (May–November are slow months for Sun Country and peak months for Transavia).

In February 2009, Sun Country leased two ex-EasyJet 737-700s and registered them N710SY and N711SY. Registration N710SY was originally used for a newly delivered 737-700 to Sun Country in 2001, but that airplane never flew a revenue flight as the airline shut-down just days after it was delivered. Coincidentally, it has now been leased back to Sun Country after being operated by other carriers in Europe. It is now registered as N716SY.

Three additional 737–800 NexGen aircraft joined Sun Country Airlines fleet in 2014. N819SY was added to the fleet in June 2014, N808SY entered service in July 2014 and N820SY entered into service in November. N820SY is equipped with winglets.

Beginning in November 2018, Sun Country will retrofit its entire fleet. In a $20,000,000 investment (the largest in the airlines history), they will gut their aircraft and install a new interior. This new interior will eliminate First Class and will feature three seat options; premium with 34 inches of pitch, a section with 32 inches of pitch, and a section with 30 or 29 inches of pitch. This will increase the number of seats on their 737-800's to 183. However, the move does not involve all of the ULCC traits. The airline says they will continue to offer free beverage service, but also add free in-seat USB power and add free personal entertainment to your own personal device. Plans also call for additional aircraft being leased to bring a total of 30 planes into their fleet. Also, a new livery will be voted on by employees to be added to new planes in 2018 and slowly added to the current fleet as planes get their regularly schedules paintings. [28]

Current fleet[edit]

A Sun Country Boeing 737-800 in March 2004.
Sun Country Airlines fleet[29]
Aircraft In Service On Order Passengers Notes
F Y Total
Boeing 737-700 4 12 114 126 To be phased out and replaced with 737-800[30]
117 129
Boeing 737-800 21 0 12 156 168 First class to be eliminated and capacity increased to 183 Seats[31]
Total 25 0

Retired fleet[edit]

A Sun Country DC-10 at Las Vegas International Airport in 1992
Sun Country Airlines retired fleet[32]
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired
Boeing 727-200 36 1982 2001
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 (includes DC-10-10, DC-10-15 and DC-10-40 aircraft) 13 1986 2001

Incidents[edit]

On the weekend of April 14-15, 2018, an April blizzard "slammed" Sun Country at its main Hub in Minneapolis. The airline was forced to cancel 40 flights at MSP. Flights from Mazatlan and Los Cabos Mexico were among the cancelled flights due to weather. However, due to the fact that the flights from MZT and SJD were the last of the season for Sun Country, the airline said that passengers would get a full refund for their trip but they would need find their own way home. This caused a public relations nightmare for the airline, prompting Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to call on the DOT to investigate. Later, President and CEO Jude Bricker released a statement that said that "clearly, going forward, we need to improve our ability to handle stresses to our system like what we experienced." He also included that each passenger in MZT and SJD would be contacted by a dedicated team and they would all receive "refunds of their original roundtrip ticket on Sun Country (which we have expedited above all other refunds), we will also cover any additional reasonable transportation costs they incurred in excess of their original Sun Country roundtrip fare."[33]

Frequent flyer programs[edit]

In 2004 Sun Country started a new frequent traveler program, "Sun Country VIP Club." In addition to the VIP-only fares, members received discounts and priority boarding, security and check in Minneapolis and other cities. The VIP Club granted access to exclusive benefits, such as special hotel rates, that were only available to paying members.

In July 2007, Sun Country unveiled a more traditional frequent flyer program named "Ufly," which offers 5 points for each one-way coach flight or 7 points for each one-way first class flight. Once 100 points are obtained, flyers are eligible for one free ticket with no restrictions.

After the Ufly Rewards launch, the Sun Country VIP Club was renamed "Ufly Rewards Plus." The same benefits remained and members now earned points for their travel. On October 20, 2011, Sun Country ended the Ufly Rewards Plus program.[34]

Today, Sun Country allows multiple members to pool their points toward flights.[35]

Sun Country Vacations[edit]

On December 9, 2009, Sun Country Airlines introduced Sun Country Vacations, a new program that allows customers to book hotels, flights and more in a single transaction.[36]

Sun Country Vacation packages are offered to a wide range of destinations including Cancun, Cozumel, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Cabo San Lucas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, San Juan, Orlando, New York, Palm Springs, Phoenix, San Diego, West Palm Beach, Seattle, Las Vegas, Tampa, Fort Myers, Harlingen, Miami, Punta Cana, Montego Bay, Anchorage, Washington D.C. and Boston. Plans to expand the program in the future include sightseeing packages and attraction packages.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Contact Us". Sun Country Airlines. Archived from the original on 2018-01-04. Retrieved 3 January 2018. 
  2. ^ https://www.airportspotting.com/sun-country-airlines/
  3. ^ https://www.suncountry.com, About Sun Country
  4. ^ "Sun County Airlines". Braniff Pages. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  5. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 26, 1988. 117.
  6. ^ "The Braniff/Sun Country Connection". The Braniff Family. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Petters Group Worldwide and Whitebox Advisors Acquire Sun Country Airlines" (Press release). Sun Country Airlines. October 31, 2006. Archived from the original on November 14, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2007. 
  8. ^ a b Fedor, Liz (28 September 2008). "Sept. 29: Sun Country workers face temporary 50% pay cut". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 6 October 2008. 
  9. ^ Muehlhausen, Nicole (August 6, 2008). "Sun Country asks MAC to help keep company flying". KAAL. Archived from the original on October 22, 2014. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Sun Country trims flights, and fares push higher". Retrieved April 28, 2013. 
  11. ^ Dunbar, Elizabeth (September 30, 2008). "Petters resigns amid fraud investigation". International Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  12. ^ Fedor, Liz (October 6, 2008). "Sun Country Airlines files for bankruptcy". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2008. 
  13. ^ Press Release (June 30, 2010). "Apple Vacations & Sun Country Airlines Announce New Air Service From Lansing". FlyLansing.com. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2010. 
  14. ^ Press Release (December 10, 2010). "Sun Country Airlines Awarded Rights to Serve Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport". Suncountry.com. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved December 21, 2010. 
  15. ^ David Phelps (July 21, 2011). "Cambria deal gives new life to Sun Country". StarTribune. Retrieved April 28, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Cambria Holdings paid $34 million for Sun Country Airlines". The Mankato Free Press. August 3, 2011. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c Painter, Kristen Leigh (2017-07-06). "Sun Country Airlines CEO Ousted; owner Davis steps in as he seeks successor for Erani". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2017-07-07. 
  18. ^ Painter, Kristen (10 July 2017). "Sun Country names Jude Bricker as new CEO". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 
  19. ^ "Baggage Policies | Sun Country Airlines". www.suncountry.com. Retrieved 2018-05-04. 
  20. ^ Sun Country Airlines | Destinations, suncountry.com
  21. ^ Carey, Susan (16 March 2010). "Discount Carrier Plans Minneapolis-London Flights". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 March 2010. 
  22. ^ Finance.yahoo.com[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ ABC News. "U.S. News - National News". ABC News. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "Sun Country Airlines – Company History". Fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  25. ^ https://www.transtats.bts.gov/carriers.asp?Carrier=SY&Carrier_Name=Sun%20Country%20Airlines%20d/b/a%20Mn%20Airlines
  26. ^ Condor: Announces Interline Agreement With Sun Country Airlines®
  27. ^ EK Baggage Allowances and Rules for Interline Partners
  28. ^ https://skift.com/2018/05/23/americas-smallest-discount-airline-wants-to-emulate-easyjet-with-cabin-retrofit-project/
  29. ^ "Sun Country Airlines Fleet Details and History". www.planespotters.net. Retrieved 2018-05-15. 
  30. ^ "Sun Country moves to an all-B737-800 fleet in low-cost pivot". ch-aviation. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  31. ^ http://m.startribune.com/sun-country-remodels-plane-interiors-eliminating-first-class-and-adding-slimmer-seats/483463871/
  32. ^ "AeroTransport Data Bank". aerotransport.org. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  33. ^ "2018-04-17 Press Release | Sun Country Airlines Operations update". www.suncountry.com. Retrieved 2018-04-18. 
  34. ^ "Ufly Rewards Plus updates". Suncountry.com. October 20, 2011. Archived from the original on May 28, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Ufly". Suncountry.com. April 19, 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  36. ^ "Sun Country Airlines to Offer Nonstop Seasonal Service between MSP, STS, AUS". HighBeam. December 9, 2009. Retrieved July 23, 2017. 
  37. ^ "Sun Country Airlines launches Sun Country Vacations". Business Wire. December 9, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Sun Country Airlines at Wikimedia Commons