Sun Country Airlines
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|Commenced operations||January 1983|
|Hubs||Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport|
|Focus cities||Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Southwest Florida International Airport
|Frequent-flyer program||Ufly Rewards|
|Company slogan||The Hometown Airline|
|Headquarters||Mendota Heights, Minnesota, US|
Sun Country Airlines is an American airline headquartered in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul suburb of Mendota Heights, Minnesota and based at nearby Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. It operates scheduled and charter flights to destinations in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean (including Cuba from 2015 and Costa Rica) as well as ad-hoc charters.
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 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.
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 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 added, 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 a 737–800 "The Spirit of Braniff". This plane was the focus of the 2005 "Mid-Continent Airlines/Braniff 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.
Following the replacement of interim CEO Jay Salmen by Stan Gadek, former CFO of AirTran Airways, Sun Country went through a major recession in 2008. 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. 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. 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, 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. On Christmas Eve, full pay was restored to all employees. Employees were also promised back-pay with interest.
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. 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).
Sun Country Airlines currently flies to 35 destinations throughout the Caribbean, United States, Mexico and Costa Rica. Of these destinations, 15 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 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. In March 2015, Sun Country started operating scheduled charter flights between Cuba and New York.
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 820SY entered into service in November. N820SY has the scimitar winglets installed to increase fuel savings over other winglets.
|McDonnell Douglas DC-10||12||1986||2001|
Frequent flyer programs
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. The Ufly Rewards Plus program was similar to Southwest's "Rapid Rewards" program, JetBlue's TrueBlue program and Spirit's "$9 Fare Club".
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 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 and soon to include, Anchorage, Washington D.C. and Boston. Plans to expand the program in the future include Hertz car rentals, sightseeing packages and attraction packages.
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- "The Braniff/Sun Country Connection". The Braniff Family. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
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- 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.
- "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 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
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- ABC News. "U.S. News - National News". ABC News. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
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- Condor: Announces Interline Agreement With Sun Country Airlines®
- EK Baggage Allowances and Rules for Interline Partners
- "Sun Country Airlines Fleet Details and History". planespotters.net. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
- "AeroTransport Data Bank". aerotransport.org. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
- "Ufly Rewards Plus updates". Suncountry.com. October 20, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
- "Sun Country Airlines launches Sun Country Vacations". Business Wire. December 9, 2009. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
Media related to Sun Country Airlines at Wikimedia Commons