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A Sun Country 737 on the taxiway. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Sun Country Adds 18 New Nonstop Routes

Sun Country Airlines on Tuesday announced the addition of 18 new nonstop routes to its route network. In a press release regarding the expansion, Sun Country also announced the addition of nine new airports to its route network.

The largest expansion will be out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which will see six new routes. It is closely followed by Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International, which has five new services. Other airports with multiple services include Duluth International, Green Bay Austin Straubel International and Rochester International (RST), all with two. An additional service will operate to Dane County Regional.

In addition to Duluth, Green Bay, General Mitchell, and Rochester, Sun Country is also adding Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, Punta Gorda, St. Pete-Clearwater and Providenciales in Turks and Caicos to its route network.

“With more and more people excited to resume traveling, we’re thrilled to be able to offer them the opportunity to visit these incredible vacation destinations this winter,” said Sun Country Airlines Chief Revenue Officer Grant Whitney in a press release. “We’re really proud to bring our brand of convenient, affordable travel to more cities in the Upper Midwest, so folks can enjoy the vacations they’ve been dreaming about.”

A Sun Country 737 lifts off. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Sun Country boasts that it will be the only nonstop service on 10 of the new routes it has announced, including from Minneapolis to Phoenix/Mesa, Punta Gorda, St. Pete-Clearwater and Providenciales. It will also be the only carrier connecting Milwaukee with Cancún as well as the only flying from Duluth, Green Bay and Rochester to both Southwest Florida International and Phoenix.

“It is great to see Sun Country Airlines continuing to grow at MSP International Airport, taking people to the places they want to go,” said Metropolitan Airports Commission CEO Brian Ryks in Sun Country’s statement. “Sun Country is the first airline to offer scheduled service from MSP to four of these five destinations. All five new routes will offer fantastic getaway experiences when the weather turns cold again next winter.”

The New Routes

The complete list of new routes announced, per Sun Country’s statement, is listed below:

From Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP):

Service to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA) begins November 24, 2021 operating four days weekly on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday

Service to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) begins December 16, 2021 (extended from previous schedule) operating twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

Service to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) begins November 25, 2021 operating four days weekly on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday

Service to Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) begins December 10, 2021 operating twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays

Service to Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) begins December 18, 2021 operating once weekly on Saturdays

Service to Providenciales International Airport (PLS) begins December 18, 2021 operating once weekly on Saturdays

From Duluth International Airport (DLH):

Service to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) begins December 17, 2021 operating twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays

Service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) begins December 17, 2021 operating twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays

From Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB)

Service to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) begins December 16, 2021 operating twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

Service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) begins December 17, 2021 operating twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays

From Dane County Regional Airport (MSN):

Service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) begins December 16, 2021 operating twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

From Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE):

Service to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) begins August 26, 2021 operating twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

Service to Cancún International Airport (CUN) begins December 18, 2021 operating once weekly on Saturdays

Service to McCarran International Airport (LAS) begins August 26, 2021 operating twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

Service to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) begins December 15, 2021 operating twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays

Service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) begins December 16, 2021 operating twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

From Rochester International Airport (RST):

Service to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) begins February 3, 2022 operating twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

Service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) begins February 4, 2022 operating twice weekly on Mondays and Fridays

“We know folks are excited to resume traveling, and we’re happy to be able to offer them the opportunity to travel to these destinations with us,” Whitney said, per an ABC affiliate in Milwaukee. “We’re proud to bring our brand of convenient, affordable travel to Milwaukee. We’re looking forward to welcoming local residents onboard, so they can enjoy the vacations they’ve been dreaming about.”

Pandemic Adjustments

Sun Country’s move comes as vaccinations against the novel coronavirus, which has kept the country largely under lockdown for over a year, is speeding up.

Passenger counts are averaging about a million below where they were at this point in 2019 across the country, but they are also over 10x higher than they were at this time in 2020. And with summer on the horizon, those numbers should only rise – the Biden administration wants to be back to normal by July 4, and most U.S. airlines are preparing for a substantial spike in travel over the summer.

“The last year has thrown a wrench into a lot of those plans, but what’s obvious now is that households have been saving in the last year, they’re frustrated, and they’re ready to get out. They’re ready to go somewhere,” Sun Country Airlines Chief Marketing Officer Brian Davis said.

The announcement also comes the same day that the CDC has announced fully vaccinated Americans do not need to cover their faces “unless they are in a big group of strangers,” adding that even unvaccinated Americans can be outside without masks in certain situations. As the news spreads, it is very possible another big wave of bookings may be kicked off, situating Sun Country well to immediately set up its newest services.

Sun Country’s newly-painted Boeing 737-800 at the paint shop in North Carolina. (Photo: Sun Country)

Since the pandemic began, most travelers have been flying to leisure destinations or been classified as “Visiting Friends and Relatives” (VFR) passengers. Sun Country has noted lately its trend toward serving these passengers.

“We redesigned our network to focus our flying on peak demand opportunities by concentrating scheduled service trips during the highest yielding months of the year and days of the week and allocating aircraft to our charter service when it is more profitable to do so,” the airline said in a securities filing earlier this year, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This effectively shifted our focus toward leisure customers.”

All new expansions included, Sun Country’s network now includes 93 routes across 69 airports in the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Notable Expansions in Milwaukee, Punta Gorda

Sun Country isn’t the only carrier expanding at Milwaukee. Low-cost rival Spirit Airlines announced intentions to start serving the city in February, connecting it with Los Angeles. JetBlue announced last week it plans to fly from Milwaukee to Boston and New York’s JFK.

American Airlines has announced it will resume seasonal flights between Milwaukee and Miami. And Southwest Airlines, which currently holds the largest market share in Milwaukee, will add additional flights to Florida.

Sun Country will also become the second commercial airline in Punta Gorda. Allegiant currently holds a monopoly on flights to the airport.

“We are thrilled that Sun Country Airlines has selected PGD for this new route, and we look forward to establishing a strong partnership and new opportunities for growth,” said James W. Parish, the airport’s CEO, in Sun Country’s press release.

A Sun Country 737-800 at Washington Dulles Airport. The airline solely operates the 737-800 and 737-800F after retiring its final 737-700s earlier this year. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

“I think that finally other airlines are recognizing the potential market that PGD has,” Commissioner Robert Hancik told The Daily Sun, “especially when you look at the tens of thousands of passengers that Allegiant Air is carrying out of the area annually.”​

“I think that Sun Country is going to be a wonderful addition,” said Commissioner Vanessa Oliver. “Allegiant has had great success here and they have been a wonderful partner to PGD.

In 2019, Punta Gorda saw 1.2 million passengers, down only slightly from the 1.65 million it had in 2019.

Sun Country’s Pandemic Success

This isn’t Sun Country’s first expansion this year, either. In January, it announced 16 new routes, including nine new cities across the United State and Mexico. Some of those services start in May, while others launch as late as September.

Sun Country has been especially notable for having one of the most aggressive fleet expansions of 2020. It accepted 10 new Boeing 737-800F aircraft in 2020 to support a new partnership with Amazon, for which Sun Country operates flights. Compared to the start of the pandemic, Sun Country operated nearly 30% more aircraft in October 2020.

The airline completed its Initial Public Offering (IPO) last month.

John McDermott
John McDermott
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