Sun Country is reportedly planning a shift in strategy that would put it in line with the cheap-tickets/lots-of-fees budget airlines of the world.
The Star Tribune has all the details – the paper got a copy of a memo sent to employees from new CEO Jude Bricker.
Basically, they need to cut costs. So they'll be squeezing more seats on to planes, and likely move toward a pricing model that would include a lower ticket price ... but with added fees for things like a carry-on, according to the Star Tribune.
If you've flown on one of the cheap-y airlines recently, that probably sounds familiar. The strategy is often described more softly as a "no-frills" airline, or "ultra low cost."
Whether it's ultimately a good move for the Eagan-based Sun Country or not, we won't know for years. But we can look at how other budget airlines are doing to give us some clues.
(Note: GoMN reached out to Sun Country for a comment, but did not get a response.)
People are not satisfied with the budget airlines
The first big thing: people kind of hate the budget airlines.
Every year, the American Customer Satisfaction Index asks people how satisfied they are with airlines. Take a look at this year's results – particularly the bottom:
The worst-ranked in 2016 were all budget airlines. Allegiant managed to jump United for 2017 to avoid third-worst, but Frontier and Spirit are once again at the bottom.
And those two actually have a worse satisfaction rating than the year prior. They got worse.
So that's not great.
Allegiant Airlines, by the way, is where Bricker worked before coming on as Sun Country's CEO in July.
And the seat-squeezing might become a problem. The FAA recently was ordered to re-review whether it should regulate the size of seats on airplanes. There was a safety concern from an advocacy group, and the judge called it "the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat."
(It should be noted, Sun Country's CEO in the memo said good customer service would still be a priority, according to the Star Tribune report.)
But then again, they've got passengers
Even if people don't like these cheap airlines, more and more people are flying with them.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's most recent report, both Frontier and Spirit had more passengers in June 2017 than June of 2016. (Allegiant isn't in that part of the report.)
Spirit went from about 1.7 million enplaned passengers to more than 1.9 million. Frontier went from 1.25 million to about 1.44 million.
Frontier is growing, and has been adding routes – including at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport recently. The airline says it will be able to serve 90 percent of the U.S. population with all the additions.
Spirit didn't have a great recent quarter because of costly "operational disruptions," as they put it. But revenue was up compared to the same time in 2016, and execs there still like their long-term financials.