Sun Country Airlines’ President and CEO Jude Bricker announced in an email on Wednesday the airline’s newest cabin changes following the restructuring of the airline with a low-cost business model. The shift from Sun Country’s traditional full-service model comes 6-months following the sale of the Minnesota-based airline to Apollo Global Management, a New York investment firm that bought the airline for an undisclosed amount.
The email, sent directly to customers, focused solely on the airline’s cabin product, with the airline’s current all-Boeing fleet seeing large changes made to its interior. Instead of the current 2-class configuration with a first class and economy class, the new interiors will feature an all-economy configuration divided into 3 sections: premium seating, extra legroom seating, and standard seating.
Premium seating will be the airline’s low-cost equivalent of a first class, taking up the first 5 or so rows of the aircraft. The new section will feature more legroom and extra recline but will be in a 3-3 configuration as opposed to a 2-2 configuration to increase the total capacity of the aircraft. Additionally, complimentary meals for premium passengers will be phased out.
The next section will be extra legroom seating. According to the tentative seat map provided by the airline, this section will solely occupy the right side of the aircraft and extend back to the over-wing emergency exit rows, where it takes up two rows on both sides of the aircraft. If the airline maintains this seat map, it will be one of the only airlines to have its sections divided across the aisle instead of by increasing row.
Lastly, the airline’s standard seats will remain the same and be the bulk of the aircraft’s seats. The standard seats will be on the left side of the aircraft adjacent to the extra leg room seating until the emergency exit row seats at which point every row will have standard seats only.
Despite moving to a low-cost business model, the airline will keep complimentary soft drink service and full-size tray tables, install in-seat power outlets and have a steaming-based entertainment option for passengers with mobile phones or tablets. Additionally, cheeseburger lovers can rejoice as the airline will be keeping and expanding its buy-on-board menu options.
It’s clear that while the airline is incorporating some low-cost concepts from airlines like Spirit and Frontier such as charging a la carte for carry-on baggage and other extras, it is keeping some of the hallmarks of a full-service airline, which will help keep its customer base as the airline competes with Delta Air Lines, which both share Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as a hub.
The airline plans to extend its schedule into November and December, opening those months for sale on Friday, at which point passengers looking to book flights will see the new seat map changes. Passengers on flights from now until then won’t see a major change, which will limit confusion in the transition period.
The announcement comes just two weeks before the airline begins flying its expanded point-to-point summer schedule on routes such as Seattle-Anchorage, Dallas-Las Vegas, Austin-Cancun and others. The airline’s interest in point-to-point routes, even just for the summer period, shows its interest and potential commitment to the ultra-low-cost business model employed by Spirit and Frontier that have seen some success in the U.S.
As for Sun Country, its email to customers ended by stating that these are only the beginning of the changes that the airline will make as it transitions into its new business model and that its customers can expect further changes.