Sun Country eyes travel upturn with network additions
Sun Country Airlines has revealed plans to further expand its network over the coming months amid hopes that increased availability of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations will kickstart air travel demand.
The carrier is adding 16 new routes in total, nine of which will originate from its Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) base. They include flights to Fairbanks (FAI), Houston (IAH), Indianapolis (IND) and Raleigh-Durham (RDU).
Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker expressed cautious optimism that an upturn in leisure travel was in sight, buoyed by the rollout of vaccinations. US President Joe Biden has committed to overseeing 100 million vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days in office.
“We are excited to extend our network and offer people access to even more low-cost vacation options, when they are ready to travel again,” Bricker said. “The past year has been a challenge for the travel industry but with increased access to COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, we’re starting to see that turnaround.”
From MSP, Sun Country will begin service to John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County, California on May 6, followed by IAH on May 13. Routes to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) and RDU start on May 14, with Connecticut's Bradley International (BDL) joining the airline’s network on May 21.
Flights to Montana's Glacier Park International (FCA) and Wyoming's Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) begin on May 26, followed by IND on May 28 and FAI a day later.
Between May and September, Sun Country will also start flying from IAH to Las Vegas (LAS) and Cancun (CUN); from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to SNA and Puerto Vallarta (PVR); and from Orlando (MCO) to IND and BDL.
Among the 16 routes, nine destinations are new to Sun Country’s network. They include Routes Americas 2020 host Indianapolis and the Alaskan city Fairbanks.
Mario Rodriguez, executive director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, said the organization had been working to bring Sun Country to IND for years—and a meeting at last February’s Routes Americas where Jude Bricker was a keynote speaker moved the deal closer to the dotted line.
“Sun Country has provided private charter service from Indy before, but this will be the first time they are operating scheduled commercial service,” Rodriguez said.
For FAI, airport manager Angie Spear said the 1X-weekly seasonal service from MSP provides a welcome boost for the upcoming summer season.
“Air service development has always been a priority at FAI, but even more so now as we work on rebuilding the nonstop connectivity lost due to the global pandemic,” she said.
“One of our top objectives at FAI is to make air travel affordable and accessible both to our residents and visitors. Therefore, we are incredibly proud to announce FAI’s first low-cost air service on Sun Country.”
Photo credit: Joe Pries