Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines is the latest airline to unveil a new livery, with a small twist: employees will decide by voting for one of four options below. The cutoff for voting ends at 5 p.m. Central on June 5.
Team Orange or…Team Orange?
The airline does not have an exact timeline for repainting its fleet of roughly 20 Boeing 737s, but a spokesperson did say it will phase in the new livery with aircraft deliveries and scheduled repaints.
A New Business Model
Sun Country is among the few remaining niche carriers in the U.S., a hybrid low-cost carrier that still offers amenities like first class. Big changes are expected under Jude Bricker, the new CEO. Not surprisingly, Bricker comes to Sun Country from Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, a highly successful ultra-low cost carrier.
Our customers are leisure travelers who are generally paying for their trip with their own money. While they value product and service, their behavior tells us that they care most about affordable airfare when making their travel decisions.
Changes to Sun Country’s model include:
- Eliminating first class
- Charging for carry-ons
- Diversifying its route network to focus less on Minneapolis
- Adding premium seating (likely extra legroom) for a fee
- Increasing seat count to 183 on its Boeing 737-800 fleet
The airline still plans to offer complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and will also install in-seat power and personal device entertainment. With these changes, Sun Country will still be in a unique market position, somewhere between “value” and a true ultra-low cost like Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit.
Sun Country’s network heavily caters to leisure travelers out of Minneapolis, with a plethora of destinations in Florida, Mexico, and the Carribean. The carrier found its niche:
Sun Country Airlines has adapted through the years, opening new routes across the U.S., and taking more vacationers to the tropical beaches of Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean.
Minneapolis to Mexican resort destinations or Caribbean beaches in the winter makes perfect sense, but what about summer? The airline announced a handful of summer-seasonal routes that give “dartboard” route planning a whole new meaning:
- Austin – Cancun 3x weekly
- Dallas/Ft. Worth – Las Vegas 4 weekly
- Orlando – Portland OR 3 weekly
- San Diego – Los Cabos 2 weekly
- Seattle – Anchorage 5 weekly
- Los Angeles – Honolulu 4 weekly
All of these routes are leisure-focused, which makes sense given Sun Country’s customer base. On the other hand, I have a hard time understanding why Sun Country is entering some of the most competitive markets in the U.S.?
Alaska flies 16 daily flights from Seattle to Anchorage, not to mention Delta and even JetBlue. Los Angeles to Honolulu is a popular route but is also flown by multiple carriers, including Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, and United. I guess there’s always room for one more?
Sample one-way pricing for mid-July:
For comparison, Sun Country’s one-way flight is about $50 cheaper than Hawaiian and Alaska. Here’s what other airlines are charging for the same date (all flights one-way for July 16, 2018):
- Alaska: $299
- Hawaiian: $299
- United: $344
- American: $369
- Delta: $369
Fewer Perks and Fewer Quirks
Many loyal Sun Country flyers will miss the carrier’s reasonably-priced first class fares. But there was something else unique about this carrier that will likely disappear as the carrier transitions to low-cost: quirkiness.
Sun Country made a bold (or perhaps ridiculous) move in 2010 when it launched an unusual route given it’s all-Boeing 737 fleet: Minneapolis-St. Paul to London Stansted once a week. The flight made a brief fuel stop in Gander. Not surprisingly, this route did not last. Who knows what the airline was thinking here, but at least it was something unusual.
A more sound management decision might be Sun Country’s arrangement with KLM subsidiary Transavia. Both airlines need added capacity in opposite seasons (Sun Country in winter, Transavia in summer), so they swap a few planes! A hybrid livery is seen here:
Photo Credit: Andre Wadman
It remains to be seen if some of these more unusual practices will remain in place under the new CEO. Are we looking at the next Allegiant?