Sun Country Airlines
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2010)|
|Commenced operations||January 1983|
|Hubs||Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport|
|Frequent-flyer program||Ufly Rewards|
|Company slogan||The Hometown Airline|
|Parent company||Cambria Holdings|
|Headquarters||Mendota Heights, Minnesota, US|
MN Airlines, LLC, operating as Sun Country Airlines, is an American airline headquartered in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul suburb of Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Sun Country uses nearby Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) as its main hub and flies scheduled and charter flights from Terminal 2-Humphrey to destinations in the United States, Mexico, Caribbean and Costa Rica. The airline provides charter service for the United States Armed Forces.
Sun Country's original staff consisted of sixteen pilots, sixteen flight attendants, three mechanics, and one office person. The company's first president 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.
Expansion and collapse
Slow and deliberate expansion through the 1980s created steady profits for the company. In 1986 the company put into service its first wide-body aircraft, a 380-seat 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 fleet could not handle.
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 was announced to destinations around the nation, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Phoenix. The airline also announced a frequent flyer program, Smile Awards, which offered frequent travelers free flights, among other benefits. In 2000 Sun Country announced plans to replace its entire fleet with new Boeing 737 next-generation aircraft, with deliveries beginning in 2001. 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.
Rebuilding and survival
During bankruptcy, Sun Country lost almost all of its 727 fleet and four recently delivered 737 aircraft: 737-8Q8 N800SY, N802SY, N803SY and a 737-7Q8, N710SY. Sun Country retained N801SY 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 the next-generation Boeing 737 narrow body. 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 announced, focusing on Florida, Mexico, and the West Coast.
In a symbolic return to success, 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 new 737-800 N807SY "The Spirit of Braniff". This plane was the focus of the 2005 "Mid-Continent/Braniff Airways" reunion held on September 24, 2005, in the Sun Country Hangar at MSP. 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.
On March 5, 2008, Sun Country announced that Stan Gadek, former CFO of AirTran Airways, would become the airline's new CEO/president, replacing Jay Salmen who was acting as the interim CEO/president.
On April 1, 2008, Sun Country announced that it was placing 45 of its 156 pilots on furlough and was going to fly a lighter-than-normal summer schedule. The company blamed the decision on rising fuel costs.
On April 16, 2008, the carrier, which is owned by Mendota Heights-based Petters Group Worldwide, cut 28 full-time and 97 part-time jobs, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The full-time jobs included major executives, while the part-time jobs consisted of mostly station personnel.
On August 13, 2008, the airline 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.
In September 2008 the carrier announced reductions or eliminations of flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also began charging $12 for the first checked bag, following most major U.S. carriers.
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 financial fraud on a massive scale. Following this, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on October 6, 2008, in order to separate itself from the other Petters companies that were being taken over by a court appointee.
On Christmas Eve, full pay was restored to all employees. Employees were also promised back-pay with interest.
The Company has emerged profitable in 2009 with an almost $1 million net profit announced in January.
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 announced new service to Branson, Missouri. and Boston. And in April, it announced a 1st Quarter Profit of $8 million.
Sun Country announced on June 30, 2010, that the airline will offer flights to five destinations from Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan. In December 2010 the airline was awarded landing slots to begin flights in April 2011 from Lansing to Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).
Sun Country Airlines currently flies to 32 destinations throughout the Caribbean, United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and United Kingdom. Of these destinations, 13 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. In May 2011 the airline began operating flights to London Gatwick Airport instead of Stansted; the flight maintained its stopover at Gander. 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 will begin service to Chicago Midway. 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.
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. Ironically, it has now been leased back to Sun Country after being operated by other carriers in Europe. It is now registered as N716SY.
|McDonnell Douglas DC-10||12||1986||2001|
Sun Country Ufly and Ufly Rewards Plus
In 2004 Sun Country announced a new frequent traveler program entitled the Sun Country VIP Club.
In addition to the VIP-only fares, members receive first class discounts, first class boarding, security, and check in Minneapolis and other cities. The VIP Club grants access to exclusive benefits (special hotel rates, discounts on travel services, lifestyle benefits, etc.,) that were only available to paying members.
In July 2007 Sun Country announced its first traditional frequent flyer program named "Ufly." "Ufly" offers 5 points (coach) or 7 points (First Class) for every one-way. 20 points are being awarded for first-time signers. 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 announced it would be ending their long established Ufly Rewards Plus "VIP" program. With no replacement plan in place to serve their most loyal frequent fliers, Sun Country began terminating customer membership beginning in January 2012 and announced it would continue terminating the frequent flier loyalty memberships on the member's anniversary date throughout 2012. "Once your membership term expires, you will no longer be able to renew."
Many successful airlines have frequent flier programs that promote positive customer experiences and reward customer loyalty to benefit from customer's lifetime value. In a 2009 NPS study done on the airline industry, Southwest Airlines led the sector with the highest customer satisfaction and also had the highest growth rate of any airline. "When customers are truly loyal to a company, their relationship changes from a simple exchange of product for money to a long-term commitment, despite price increases and/or occasional errors. A truly loyal customer also recruits new customers through positive word-of-mouth recommendations, which results in income growth for a company.".
Sun Country Vacations
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.
Sun Country Vacation packages will be 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 and soon to include, Anchorage, Washington D.C., and Boston. It was also announced that the program will expand in the future to include Hertz car rentals, sightseeing packages, and attraction packages.
Incidents and accidents
On April 18, 2013, a Sun Country Flight (SY-266), Boeing 737-700, flying from Washington to Lansing was on approach to Lansing when its wingtip struck the runway. The aircraft then diverted to Detroit. No injuries were reported.
- "Mendota Heights: Sun Country Airlines' CEO forced from job".
- "Contact Us". Sun Country Airlines. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
- "Sun Country Airlines - Company History". Fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 26 March 1988. 117.
- "The Braniff/Sun Country Connection". The Braniff Family. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
- "Petters Group Worldwide and Whitebox Advisors Acquire Sun Country Airlines" (Press release). Sun Country Airlines. October 31, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2007.
- Muehlhausen, Nicole (August 6, 2008). "Sun Country asks MAC to help keep company flying". KAAL. Retrieved October 6, 2008.[dead link]
- "Sun Country trims flights, and fares push higher". Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- Fedor, Liz (28 September 2008). "Sept. 29: Sun Country workers face temporary 50% pay cut". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
- Dunbar, Elizabeth (September 30, 2008). "Petters resigns amid fraud investigation". International Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved 6 October 6, 2008.
- Fedor, Liz (October 6, 2008). "Sun Country Airlines files for bankruptcy". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
- Press Release (June 30, 2010). "Apple Vacations & Sun Country Airlines Announce New Air Service From Lansing". FlyLansing.com. Retrieved June 30, 2010.
- Press Release (December 10, 2010). "Sun Country Airlines Awarded Rights to Serve Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport". Suncountry.com. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
- David Phelps (July 21, 2011). "Cambria deal gives new life to Sun Country". StarTribune. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- Sun Country Airlines | Destinations, suncountry.com
- Carey, Susan (16 March 2010). "Discount Carrier Plans Minneapolis-London Flights". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- "Sun Country Airlines fleet list". planespotters.net. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- Sun Country Fleet Information
- Sun Country Airlines fleet list at ATDB.aero
- "Ufly Rewards Plus updates". Suncountry.com. October 20, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
- "Net Promoter Score (NPS) | Kamran Qamar". Kamraan.com. November 6, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
- "Sun Country Airlines launches Sun Country Vacations". Business Wire. December 9, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sun Country Airlines.|
-  Braniff Flying Colors - Braniff History Page
- Sun Country Airlines
- Sun Country Vacations
- Sun Country Airlines Route Map
- Sun Country Airlines Fleet
- Braniff Airways and Sun Country history
- Aviation Incident