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AirBear
02-05-2020, 07:26 PM
https://thepointsguy.com/news/sun-country-airlines-stretched-to-seams-with-rapid-growth/Sun Country Airlines is bursting at the seams as growth ratchets up this year with the addition of its first Amazon flying.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)-based carrier will introduce the first of 10 Boeing 737 Freighters for the e-commerce giant (https://skift.com/2019/12/17/how-tiny-sun-country-struck-an-unlikely-deal-with-amazon-to-transport-packages/) in April, while continuing to expand its passenger flying to four new destinations (https://thepointsguy.com/news/sun-country-adds-4-new-cities-amid-seasonal-route-expansion/) in May. All of this comes as it continues to absorb its 2019 growth, and develop its new connecting bus service (https://thepointsguy.com/news/bus-to-plane-sun-country-bets-on-landline-to-extend-regional-reach/) in Minnesota.

“We’re stretching at the seams at little Sun Country,” Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker said at the Routes Americas forum (https://www.routesonline.com/events/208/routes-americas-2020/) in Indianapolis Wednesday.


Under Bricker’s leadership, Sun Country has grown from an airline with 22 737s in 2017 to one that will have 45 jets, including the Amazon freighters, by July.

The privately-held carrier saw its net profit jump by more than a third to $47 million during the year ending in March 2019, the latest U.S. Department of Transportation airline financial data shows.

But growth, even profitable growth, does not come without its headaches. Sun Country faces challenges hiring the staff needed to get — and keep — all its new jets in the air, and just managing that growth to ensure it does not have an operational meltdown.

“With 2.5% unemployment, the upside is just about everybody in the Twin Cities can buy a ticket, the downside is staffing is really difficult,” said Bricker. “It’s not a function of people don’t want to come work for us, the problem is I’m trying to double the operation in 18 months”



Other airlines, including Allegiant Air (https://crankyflier.com/2019/12/02/allegiant-is-the-latest-to-get-operational-religion/) where Bricker worked for years, have faced similar challenges. Operations are a notable area of stress for high-growth carriers, with the likes of JetBlue Airways (https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/19/business/19jetblue.html) and Spirit Airlines (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spirit-airlines-results-idUSKCN0VI0XR) all facing public issues before implementing a renewed focus on reliable performance.

These challenges have not deterred or otherwise slowed Sun Country’s growth. In 2020, passenger capacity is due to be flat though overall “block hours” — a measure of how many hours an aircraft is in revenue service — will increase roughly 15% year-over-year due to the Amazon deal, said Bricker.

One focus will be the success of Sun Country’s Landline bus partnership that launched in November (https://thepointsguy.com/news/sun-country-airlines-launches-new-landline-bus-connections/). The first two routes, between Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and Duluth (DLH) and Mankato (MKT) in Minnesota, have seen mixed success with the former “great” and the latter having “not quite taken off,” said Bricker.

The airline’s aim is for travelers to leave their cars at home and take the bus — with a Sun Country flight number and all — to the its flights in Minneapolis. The service allows passengers to check bags through to their final destination in both Duluth and Mankato, and then enjoy a bus ride with free Wi-Fi and complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic drinks on the ride to the Twin Cities.



Sun Country is focused on continuing to build demand for the bus routes, which act as essentially a regional flight on the ground, said Bricker. It hopes to expand the service to additional points, including Fargo (FAR), Madison (MSN) and Sioux Falls (FSD), in the near future.

For now Sun Country is gearing up for its freighter launch in April, and all the details that a new business segment entails. Beyond that, Bricker said business is strong and the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX — a jet it does not operate, nor has plans to operate — has not put pressure on the airline.


Positiveg
02-05-2020, 07:37 PM
From the TPG’s article on the new destinations:

“Sun Country Airlines will land in four new cities next summer, amid a 12-route seasonal expansion from its Dallas/Fort Worth, Madison and Minneapolis/St. Paul bases”

Did I misread that or will there be DFW and Madison bases opening up?

Starchkr
02-05-2020, 09:15 PM
From the TPG’s article on the new destinations:

“Sun Country Airlines will land in four new cities next summer, amid a 12-route seasonal expansion from its Dallas/Fort Worth, Madison and Minneapolis/St. Paul bases”

Did I misread that or will there be DFW and Madison bases opening up?

Those aren’t domiciles. I think they are using the word base to describe where flights are originating from.


3rdGen
02-06-2020, 04:13 AM
From the TPG’s article on the new destinations:

“Sun Country Airlines will land in four new cities next summer, amid a 12-route seasonal expansion from its Dallas/Fort Worth, Madison and Minneapolis/St. Paul bases”

Did I misread that or will there be DFW and Madison bases opening up?

only pilot base is MSP. No word on new bases for us. FAs have a base in DFW.

beech1980
02-06-2020, 04:43 AM
No new bases. This new seasonal growth is not really all growth. Over half of the routes and focus cities they flew last year were a failure. They grabbed the dart board, threw the darts at the map and bam! New growth...
it’s basically reshuffling of the deck. This airline has no route structure and moves in and out of cities on a monthly basis. There are about 12 cities served on a year round basis and the rest is seasonal, and at best for 6 months. When they realize that those routes didn’t work they try another one. As a commuter you will never be able to rely on a consistent route structure and schedule to make bidding palatable. Until they can get beyond the 30 plane model it will be the same game as the year before. If you live in MSP it’s a much different story. 5 on 2 off as a reserve commuter is not a way to live.