Sun Country to become no-frills airline

And now, we’ve lost Sun Country Airlines to the no-frills world of packing them in like sardines and charging them for it.

One can hardly blame the airline for the decision, reported by the Star Tribune today, to follow the path of the cheap airlines that advertise low fares and then add fees for every “frill” the customer wants. Frills like overhead bin space, and the option to carry on luggage. And leg room. The airline is planning to put more seats in its planes.

Who can we blame for this? The airline passengers who made successes out of airlines like Frontier and Spirit, two of the airlines that pioneered no-frill flying. They’re cheap, but you don’t hear a lot of stories about it being all that pleasant.

The airline is also going to try to jettison older workers, the Star Tribune reports.

It’s doing so in a “if you don’t like it, leave” message.

The company is offering buyouts to senior employees, particularly flight attendants or nonunion full-time employees with more than ten years experience. The buyouts were framed as a way to give “long-tenured employees an opportunity to leave Sun Country if those individuals were not on board with the new vision,” according to a memo sent to employees Tuesday night by Dee Powers, the airline’s human resources director.

The airline is not offering buyouts to pilots. Sun Country and other U.S. airlines are coping with a shortage of pilots.

“The idea is just to buy out older, more expensive workers and replace them with younger, cheaper employees,” said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former airline executive. In doing so, Sun Country risks losing some of the people who built its service reputation.

“It’s a high-touch airline, so the last thing in the world you want to do is cut off the people who bring that level of customer service, which may very well be the ten-plus-year flight attendants,” he said.

In his memo to employees, new CEO Jude Bricker said he wants to protect Sun Country’s reputation for customer service.

Archive: Sun Country passenger: ‘ We just want to be treated like human beings’ (MPR NewsCut)

  • Gary F

    I just flew Sun Country for the first time in June and loved it. Humphrey terminal was much easier, the employees actually looked like they cared, and flying basic rate had decent leg room. Sad, because everyone I’ve known that tried the no-frills guys weren’t happy.

    • My sister in law, coming out for my son’s wedding next month, asked whether I knew anything about either Spirit or Sun Country, which she’d never heard of.

      “Stay away from Spirit, but Sun Country is a highly regarded local airline.”

      Whoops

      • Gary F

        Depends on when the change happens. Sun Country would still be my choice of the two, for now.

        If I were king of the airline industry, I’d load the back of the plane first, seeing no one wants to check bags anymore.

        • I usually take Southwest nowadays. I hate Terminal 1. I find the SWA boarding scheme to be somewhat civilized. And I don’t like extra baggage fees.

          • Gary F

            My wife and I still have fun with the renaming of the terminals.

            Are you going #1 or #2?

          • The terminals are still Lindbergh and Humphrey, the numbers are just an add-on.

          • Al

            Same for me, but husband insists on using the numbers “because Lindbergh was a Nazi,” which I can’t really argue with.

          • But he wasn’t a Nazi. He actually used his position to spy on the Nazis during their military buildup and warned the U.S. to do likewise.

          • He was, otoh, an anti-Semite. So was Henry Ford and many of the America First leaders.

          • Yeah, that’s a sad bit of history…

  • Jeff C.

    Drat. Yesterday I emailed info to my parents about a SunCountry sale. This morning they replied that they are going to come in November. I’m going to tell them that they should look at Delta now.

  • Lindsey

    I’ve had good luck flying Spirit. Sure, it is no frills, but it is fine and they actually enforce their rules which helps make all of the processes reasonable. It’s worked better for us than United has for anyone I know.

    It also doesn’t have the same amount of entitled passengers that Delta seems to have.

    I just hope that Sun Country keeps their customer service high.

    • theoacme

      As long as Spirit and Sun Country don’t develop Fight Club flights, as Dr. Dao inadvertently found himself on in Chicago one evening…

      …hey, maybe United Airlines can sponsor that MMA league, and change the name to United Fight Club…

      • X.A. Smith

        I’m imagining a trans-Atlantic “Fight Flight;” the pros and cons, etc.

        • Scruff

          Sun Country flies 737”s . There will be no trans-Atlantic flights.

          • X.A. Smith

            Hey a guy can dream, can’t he!?

  • Dan

    Bummer. I really liked flying Sun Country, they were my first choice, I would even pay a little more vs. Delta (though rarely had to). And with the MSP hub, I could usually get a good flight. Now I’ll have one less option to choose from, I always avoid sardine airlines like Spirit, Allegiant… and now Sun Country.

    Legroom is more important to me than people who are of average height (or even slightly above average) and shorter, so I”m not predicting this won’t work for them, it just won’t work for me. But, once Sun Country loses its reputation for positive customer experiences, it will be a hundredfold effort, if not flat out impossible, to get that reputation back. Based on that, the memo, and the man who wrote it, looks like they’re all-in on becoming an Allegiant clone. Farewell Sun Country, nice knowing you.

  • Rob

    Gods bless the Lowest Common Denominator mentality of our deregulated airline industry. I don’t need to fly that often, but when I do, I avoid steerage and cough up the extra bucks for an enhanced legroom seat — or even a first class seat, which is actually wide enough for a non-fat person to be comfortable in. Helps keep the ol’ claustrophobia at bay.

  • Tyler

    Looks like I won’t be flying anything but Southwest from now on.

  • Al

    I flew Spirit for the first time last month, and the cheapskate in me found it really liberating to live for five days out of the single bag that fit under the seat in front of me. Chalk it up to yet another thing that #MillennialsKilled, I suppose.

    • Kellpa07

      Needing a quick flight to Chicago early this summer, I flew Spirit. Inexpensive, with a friendly crew, on time and arrived in one piece. Plane was full and did not have much room, so I’d consider spending more for a long flight, but it’s really nice to have a cheap option. I also like the “ala carte” idea, where I don’t have to pay for things I don’t want or need. Checking luggage, or even putting it in overhead bins is not “free,” it is “included in the ticket price.” Same with snacks, soft drinks etc.

    • QuietBlue

      I would happily exchange the ability to have a carry-on in the bin for free if it meant I could check a regular bag for free (though I’d make exceptions for things like medical items, supplies for infants, etc). I usually check a bag even if I have to pay for it just because I hate schlepping it through the airport and messing with bins on the plane.

  • Maureen Valley

    I wonder if they’ll cut the quality of First Class Service. I was pleasantly surprised to see hot towels, a decent wine glass, and top shelf food in FC. I have never had a bad experience on Sun Country….or on United….or on Delta.

  • Badboy35

    I know a frontier flight attendant. They are paid crap wages. Think fast food with standby flight benefits. This is what has become of our economy.

    • John O.

      I know a management-level person at Frontier and yes, their travel bennies are all but worthless. A case of lithium batteries has a better chance of getting on one of their flights than he does.

  • T. R. Post

    Nowadays I only fly on Southwest Airlines mainly because they still let you check two bags for free provided your luggage is within size and weight limitations.

  • John O.

    I have a number of friends who work at Sun Country and fall into that “nonunion, 10+ years” category. Many are already looking and will likely take the buyout and then get scooped up quickly by other carriers operating out of MSP. More than one thinks they will go back to their roots and focus heavily on charters to warm weather destinations.

  • John O.

    One last flight on Sunny in mid-December to see our first grandchild (due 12/3), then Amtrak back to MSP on the return leg.

  • wjc

    Just think of air travel as a bus trip in the sky and you won’t be disappointed.

  • MarySue

    SunCountry holds a unique spot in the airline industry. Too bad they don’t focus on that and build from there vs. becoming a “me-too” frills airlines. There brand will now get lost with all the others doing the same thing.

    • I wonder if their decision to hold the Trump rally the weekend before the election had any impact on business?