Minnesota's Sun Country Airlines announced Thursday that it will offer travelers free changes or cancellations for all flights at least 60 days before departure, a nearly unparalleled policy in an industry that often heavily penalizes travelers whose plans change.
The waived change and cancellation fees take effect for all Sun Country flights immediately, down from the previous $60 fee for changes two months before departure. These changes can be made online for all flights booked directly with the airline.
Sun Country is also reducing fees for flights that are closer to departure: They'll charge $50 for changes made 14-59 days before departure, and $100 for changes less than 14 days out. The airline previously charged $120 for those alterations.
It's worth noting that each passenger has to pay these fees on each segment. So changing round-trip tickets for two passengers a month before departure would result in $200 in fees.
But these moves put Sun Country second to only Southwest Airlines, which offers free change and cancellation on all reservations. Major U.S. airlines like Delta, United, and American all charge at least $200 for changes – and sometimes much more on international flights.
Fellow budget carriers like Spirit charges at least $90 for all changes, while Frontier only waives change or cancellation fees if a flight is at least 90 days from departure.
“We are excited to offer this flexibility to our guests as they start thinking about their holiday and spring break travel,” Sun Country Airlines CEO Jude Bricker said in a statement. “At Sun Country, we’re continuously focused on improving the customer experience, and we hope these changes will provide peace of mind to our guests that they have options if plans change.”
Change fees can be a big money-maker for airlines. So bravo to Sun Country for making a traveler-friendly move. It's a bright glimmer of light amid Sun Country's otherwise painful transformation into a budget airline.
Long beloved as Sun Country's “hometown airline,” it has been a rough few years for the airline. It was bought out by a New York hedge fund, got rid of free bags and seat assignments, put more seats on its planes by eliminating First Class and using newer, slim seats with less legroom. Stranding hundreds of passengers in Mexico when a storm disrupted the final seasonal flights home last year dealt the airline's image a tough blow.
It's clear that Sun Country is trying to walk a fine line between the full-service airline it once was and the ultra-low-cost model of Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, and others. And this move certainly helps.
Kudos to Sun Country for a passenger-friendly change. You don't see those often in the airline industry.