Sun Country Airlines

Sun Country Airlines
Sun Country Airlines
Founded June 1982
Commenced operations January 1983
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer program Ufly Rewards
Fleet size 12
Destinations 32
Company slogan The Hometown Airline
Parent company Cambria Holdings
Headquarters Mendota Heights, Minnesota
Key people Jim Olsen
(Founder and First CEO)
Stan Gadek
(President and CEO)

MN Airlines, LLC, operating as Sun Country Airlines, is an American low-cost airline headquartered in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Mendota Heights, Minnesota.[1] Sun Country uses nearby Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) as its main hub and flies scheduled and charter flights from the Humphrey terminal to destinations in the United States, Mexico, Caribbean, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom.

The great majority of Sun Country's routes either arrive at or depart from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas-Fort Worth, or Lansing, but the airline also offers periodic charter service from smaller Midwestern cities, such as Fargo, North Dakota, and La Crosse, Wisconsin, to leisure destinations such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Laughlin, Nevada.

Sun Country operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737-700 aircraft, with an average age of about ten years. Onboard Sun Country offers first and coach class products. First class features 2-2 leather seats with automatic recline, audio entertainment, and hot meals. In coach there is leather 3-3 seating and audio entertainment. Full meal service is available in First Class, while hot sandwiches are available in coach for $3. Blankets and pillows are provided at a cost of $5 in coach. Sun Country planned to take delivery of additional aircraft from Boeing as it planned to expand in 2008. However, fuel costs delayed this expansion. Sun Country has created focus cities at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Lansing Capital Region International Airport (LAN).[2]

Sun Country was among the first airlines to operate out of the new terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which officially opened on July 23, 2005. Sun Country filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 6, 2008.[3] However, it is fully operational as of September 2010.

The airline provides charter service for the U.S. Military.[4]




After the shutdown of Braniff International Airways in 1982, a small group of Braniff employees approached Twin Cities tour operator MLT Vacations about dedicating a Boeing 727-200 to the tour operator's leisure destinations. Previously the tour operator had occasionally utilized a Braniff Boeing 727-200 overnighting at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for charters to leisure destinations. In June 1982 an agreement was signed to start a new airline, Sun Country. MLT Vacations owned 51% of the company, with the pilots and flight attendants owning the remainder. An Air Florida Boeing 727-227 advanced aircraft that had been destined for delivery to Braniff as N484BN was secured for the start-up.

Sun Country's original staff consisted of sixteen pilots, sixteen flight attendants, three mechanics, and one office person. The company's first president was Captain Jim Olsen, who also acted as Chief Pilot. His wife, Joan Smith-Olsen, acted as Chief Flight Attendant and Head of Inflight Operations. Jim Olsen retired from Sun Country in 2007. The company's first flight was January 30, 1983, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Las Vegas. In the early days of the company, employees completed numerous tasks in order to lower costs. Flight attendants stocked liquor kits and prepared meals while pilots updated manuals and assisted in catering. The entire group assisted in cleaning the aircraft exterior and interior. On-time performance was 98% the first year, due to the young age of the aircraft and quality mechanics. Sun Country was profitable after six months of operation. In addition, no debt was accumulated in the succeeding years as the company financed all growth from internal funds.

Expansion and collapse

Slow and deliberate expansion through the 1980s created steady profits for the company. In 1986 the company put into service its first wide-body aircraft, a 380-seat DC-10-40 leased from future competitor Northwest Airlines. The aircraft's intercontinental range enabled the company to fly international charters and also accommodate high demand on the company's popular Minneapolis to Las Vegas route that the Boeing 727 fleet could not handle.

In 1988 its headquarters were located on the grounds of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.[5]

Sun Country also provided ad-hoc charter lift to civic organizations, corporations, sports teams, and virtually any other group that wanted to charter an aircraft. In 1989 Sun Country became a member of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). Many charters were flown in support of the Desert Storm effort in 1990-91. For their efforts in supporting the operation, 130 of the company's employees were recognized by the United States Air Force.

After reaping record profits of $9.7 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1991, the airline acquired additional Boeing 727 and DC-10 aircraft. Additional tour operators chose Sun Country as their air carrier, and an emphasis was placed on flying from the Midwest to Las Vegas, Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

In the mid 1990s, Mark Travel Group, led by Bill LaMacchia, Jr., acquired Sun Country and began changing the focus of the small niche-market airline. Much of the 1990s were a tough period for the airline, as an aging and over-worked fleet coupled with record demand stretched the airline to its limits. New management began an aircraft refurbishing program designed at improving the experience of Sun Country's passengers. As the DC-10 aircraft aged and required expensive maintenance, the airline gradually reduced the fleet, ultimately retiring the final DC-10 in early 2001. As major airlines became more sophisticated in managing their seat inventories, the demand for tour charter flying fell off. In June 1999 the management of Sun Country launched a major transformation from a charter carrier into a scheduled airline. New service from Minneapolis and Milwaukee was announced to destinations around the nation, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit, Washington, DC, and Phoenix. The airline also announced a frequent flyer program, Smile Awards, which offered frequent travelers free flights, among other benefits. In 2000 Sun Country announced plans to replace its entire fleet with new Boeing 737 next-generation aircraft, with deliveries beginning in 2001. As Sun Country reinvented itself, heavy competition from local incumbent carrier Northwest Airlines and the events of 9/11 caused a precipitous drop in traffic and revenue. Contrary to its tradition of financial success and profitability, by the summer of 2001 the airline was bleeding money. After fighting to stay operational by cutting flights, destinations, and planes, the company finally closed its doors on December 8, 2001.

Rebuilding and Survival

A Sun Country Boeing 737-800 in the airline's current livery landing at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.

During bankruptcy, Sun Country lost almost all of its 727 fleet and four recently delivered 737 aircraft: 737-8Q8 N800SY, N802SY, N803SY and a 737-7Q8, N710SY. Sun Country retained N801SY as well as its operating certificate. In the following months, a local group of investors organized as MN Airlines, LLC purchased the remaining assets in bankruptcy court and restarted the airline.

Emerging from bankruptcy, Sun Country standardized its fleet on the next-generation Boeing 737-800. The airline initially operated combined charter-scheduled services from Minneapolis to Laughlin, Nevada's casinos and gradually added more charter destinations as finances allowed. Soon, new scheduled service was announced, focusing on Florida, Mexico, and the West Coast.

In a symbolic return to success, Sun Country acquired new aircraft in 2004 and 2005 and was profitable in 2004. To honor the company's roots and history, in 2004 Sun Country named new 737-800 N807SY "The Spirit of Braniff". This plane was the focus of the 2005 "Mid-Continent/Braniff Airways" reunion held on September 24, 2005, in the Sun Country Hangar at MSP. 350 former Braniff and Mid-Continent employees attended.

On October 31, 2006, the airline announced that its acquisition by Petters Group Worldwide and Whitebox Advisors, previously announced in July, had been completed.[6]

On March 5, 2008, Sun Country announced that Stan Gadek, former CFO of AirTran Airways, would become the airline's new CEO/president, replacing Jay Salmen who was acting as the interim CEO/president.

On April 1, 2008, Sun Country announced that it was placing 45 of its 156 pilots on furlough and was going to fly a lighter-than-normal summer schedule. The company blamed the decision on rising fuel costs, but the reality was a poor business model. Their inability to control labor costs made the impact of the high cost of fuel crippling to the airline.[7]

On April 16, 2008, the carrier, which is owned by Mendota Heights-based Petters Worldwide, cut 28 full-time and 97 part-time jobs, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The full-time jobs included major executives, while the part-time jobs consisted of mostly station personnel.

On August 13, 2008, the airline indicated it had hoped to get up to $50 million in loans or other financial help from the state of Minnesota and the airports commission.[8]

In September 2008 the carrier announced reductions or eliminations of flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also began charging $12 for the first checked bag, following most major U.S. carriers.[9]

At the end of September 2008, Gadek called for a 50% pay-deferral to all remaining employees. Also on the 28th, Tom Petters resigned after an FBI probe discovered financial fraud on a massive scale.[10][11] Following this, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on October 6, 2008, in order to separate itself from the other Petters companies that were being taken over by a court appointee.[12]

On Christmas Eve, full pay was restored to all employees. Employees were also promised back-pay with interest.

The Company has emerged profitable in 2009 with an almost $1 million net profit announced in January.

In March, the company had fully repaid a $5 million loan from Elite Landings, a seller of corporate jets made by Airbus. The airline also announced new service to Branson, MO. and Boston. And in April, it announced a 1st Quarter Profit of $8 million.

Sun Country announced on June 30, 2010, that the airline will offer flights to five destinations from Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan.[13] In December 2010 the airline was awarded landing slots to begin flights in April 2011 from Lansing to Washington-Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).[14]


Sun Country Airlines currently flies to 32 destinations throughout the Caribbean, United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and United Kingdom.[2] Of these destinations, eleven cities are served year-round. Sun Country began seasonal service to London Stansted Airport on June 11, 2010, and service ended in mid-August. Each flight had a stopover in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador. It was the airline's first service to Europe, but Sun Country used to operate charter flights to Europe with its DC-10s.[15] In May 2011 the airline began operating flights to London Gatwick Airport instead of Stansted; the flight maintained its stopover at Gander.[16]


Current fleet

The Sun Country Airlines fleet consists of Boeing 737 Next-Generation airplanes. Seasonally, additional aircraft are leased between Transavia and Sun Country. During its slow summer season, Sun Country occasionally leases planes to Transavia, and during Transavia's slow winter season, the airline leases planes to Sun Country (May–November are slow months for Sun Country and peak months for Transavia).

In February 2009 Sun Country leased two ex-EasyJet 737-700s and registered them N710SY and N711SY. Registration N710SY was originally used for a newly delivered 737-800 to Sun Country in 2001, but that airplane never flew a revenue flight as the airline shut-down just days after it was delivered. They also have leased one 737-700 which is an ex-Sterling Airlines airplane.

As of August 2011, the Sun Country Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft with an average age of 10.2 years:[17][18]

Sun Country Airlines fleet
Aircraft In Service Passengers Winglets Notes
F Y Total
Boeing 737-700 3 12 117 129 No
Boeing 737-800 7 12 150 162 6 a/c
Total 10

Retired fleet

Sun Country Airlines retired fleet[19]
Aircraft Total Year retired
Boeing 727-200 36 2001
McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 12 2001

In-flight services

Sun Country has a buy on board program offering snacks and meals.[20]

Sun Country offers First Class on all of its aircraft.

On some flights, Sun Country Airlines offers complimentary hot dogs instead of the usual offerings of pretzels and coffee.[21]

Sun Country Ufly and Ufly Rewards Plus

In 2004 Sun Country announced a new frequent traveler program entitled the Sun Country VIP Club. This program is unique in the fact that it offers flyer points and it grants members the right to airline tickets at the price of $39 plus 10 cents per mile traveled for domestic travel, or $89 plus 10 cents per mile for international travel. These VIP tickets are available up to one day in advance of travel. Membership costs $99 plus either $12 per month for an individual or $17 per month for a family.

In addition to the VIP-only fares, members receive first class discounts, first class boarding, security, and check in Minneapolis and other cities. The VIP Club grants access to exclusive benefits (special hotel rates, discounts on travel services, lifestyle benefits, etc.,) that were only available to paying members.

In July 2007 Sun Country announced its first traditional frequent flyer program named "Ufly." "Ufly" offers 5 points (coach) or 7 points (First Class) for every one-way. 20 points are being awarded for first-time signers. Once 100 points are obtained, flyers are eligible for one free ticket with no restrictions.

After the Ufly Rewards launch, the Sun Country VIP Club was renamed Ufly Rewards Plus. The same benefits remained and members now earned points for their travel.

The Ufly Rewards is similar to Southwest's "Rapid Rewards" program and JetBlue's TrueBlue program.

Sun Country Vacations

On December 9, 2009, Sun Country Airlines introduced Sun Country Vacations, a new program that allows customers to book hotels, flights and more in a single transaction. "At Sun Country Airlines, we want to provide our passengers with the best possible vacation experience," said Wendy Williams Blackshaw, Vice President of Marketing and Sales. "Customers will find that the same award-winning service and personal attention they have come to expect with Sun Country will now be extended into Sun Country Vacations."[22]

Sun Country Vacation packages will be offered to a wide range of destinations including Cancun, Cozumel, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Cabo San Lucas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, San Juan, Orlando, New York, Palm Springs, Phoenix, San Diego, West Palm Beach, Seattle, Las Vegas, Tampa, Fort Myers, Harlingen and soon to include, Anchorage, Washington D.C., and Boston[23]

It was also announced that the program will expand in the future to include Hertz car rentals, sightseeing packages, and attraction packages.[23]

Sun Country Vacations can be found at[24]


  1. ^ "Contact Us." Sun Country Airlines., Retrieved on May 26, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Sun Country Airlines - Route Map,, retrieved 2011-Jan-04
  3. ^ "Sun Country Airlines". Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  4. ^ "Sun Country Airlines - Company History". Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  5. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 26 March 1988. 117.
  6. ^ "Petters Group Worldwide and Whitebox Advisors Acquire Sun Country Airlines" (Press release). Sun Country Airlines. 2006-10-31. Retrieved 2007-01-21. 
  7. ^ Fedor, Liz (2008-04-01). "Sun Country cuts flights, pilots". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  8. ^ Muehlhausen, Nicole (2008-08-06). "Sun Country asks MAC to help keep company flying". KAAL. Retrieved 2008-10-06. [dead link]
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Fedor, Liz (2008-09-28). "Sept. 29: Sun Country workers face temporary 50% pay cut". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  11. ^ Dunbar, Elizabeth (2008-09-30). "Petters resigns amid fraud investigation". International Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  12. ^ Fedor, Liz (2008-10-06). "Sun Country Airlines files for bankruptcy". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  13. ^ Press Release. Apple Vacations & Sun Country Airlines Announce New Air Service From Lansing,, June 30, 2010, retrieved 2010-Jun-30
  14. ^ Press Release. Sun Country Airlines Awarded Rights to Serve Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,, December 10, 2010, retrieved 2010-Dec-21
  15. ^ Carey, Susan (2010-03-16). "Discount Carrier Plans Minneapolis-London Flights". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Sun Country Airlines fleet list at
  18. ^ Sun Country Fleet Information
  19. ^ Sun Country Airlines fleet list at
  20. ^ "Buy on Board." Sun Country Airlines., Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  21. ^ {cite web|url= Country Airlines}}
  22. ^ "Sun Country Airlines launches Sun Country Vacations. | Latin America > Mexico from". Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  23. ^ a b "Sun Country Airlines launches Sun Country Vacations". Retrieved 2010-06-13. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Sun Country Vacations". Sun Country Vacations. Retrieved 2010-06-13. 

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