Minnesota low-cost carrier Sun Country announced its latest major expansion Tuesday with 10 new routes to different destinations east, west, north, and south from its Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP). Nearly all these new routes have one thing in common: Delta already flies there.
The list includes cities from coast to coast, including two brand-new additions in Canada with nonstop flights to both Montreal (YUL) and Toronto (YYZ). But Sun Country will also begin flying to big airports like Washington, D.C-Dulles (IAD) and Oakland (OAK) as well as smaller cities like Albuquerque (ABQ), Boise (BOI), and Syracuse (SYR) in New York. They're all seasonal routes set to start in the spring, typically flying just two days a week.
The Canadian routes still need final regulatory approval, but they're all on sale as Sun Country extended its schedule through Sept. 10, 2024. Here's the full list:
- Albuquerque (ABQ) begins June 19
- Billings (BIL) starts June 19
- Boise (BOI) begins June 19
- Grand Rapids (GRR) begins June 13
- Missoula (MSO) starts June 26
- Montreal (YUL) would commence on June 21
- Oakland (OAK) kicks off May 23
- Syracuse (SYR) is scheduled to start June 6
- Toronto (YYZ) would begin June 13
- Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD) restarts April 18, with four flights a week
The airline will also begin flying to Houston-Hobby (HOU) in spring 2024, in place of the far-larger Houston-Intercontinental (IAH). Sun Country previously flew to Washington, D.C-Dulles (IAD), but the rest are all brand-new destinations for Sun Country and its flyers.
It's the latest major expansion for Minnesota's rapidly growing low-cost carrier. After a pandemic setback, the airline went public, funneling that infusion of cash into doubling down on flights from its Minneapolis hub. With these additions, Sun Country will fly nonstop to more than 104 airports across North America and the Caribbean – nearly all to and from Minneapolis.
“We have more than doubled our nonstop destinations for customers flying out of MSP in the last five years and we are thrilled to offer these unique new offerings spanning the continent from Quebec to New Mexico,” Grant Whitney, the airline's senior vice president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.
And there's a common thread in Sun Country's next set of pins on the map: Aside from Oakland (OAK) and Syracuse (SYR), Delta already flies nonstop to these cities from Minneapolis, too.
That's no accident. The low-cost carrier is increasingly willing to take on Delta at its home base, hoping to steal away cost-conscious travelers and turn Minneapolis into its vision of a “two-airline market.”
“We're trying to turn Minneapolis into a two-airline market,” Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker said a year ago during an interview at the Skift Global Forum. “If you pay with your own money, you fly Sun Country. If you fly on a corporate contract, you fly Delta.”
The small budget carrier has slowly but steadily chipped away at Delta's dominance in Minneapolis, where the airline (and its regional and partner carriers) together control more than 70% of the market, driving prices higher. Data from the airport shows Sun Country flew roughly 11.4% of passengers in and out of Minneapolis in July 2023 – up nearly half a percentage point from a year ago and more than 4 percentage points from pre-pandemic levels.
That hasn't been easy. The airline faced some headwinds from its transition from a beloved hometown carrier to a low-cost carrier with slimmer seats and fees for bags, seats, and snacks. And many Minnesota travelers won't forget when the airline stranded hundreds of travelers in Mexico way back in 2018. Each subsequent computer outage and scheduling snafu has triggered comments relating it to that saga.
But Delta will surely defend its turf. After Sun Country followed a similar playbook this time a year ago, Delta responded by launching seasonal service to several vacation-heavy destinations already on Sun Country's map like Burlington (BTV) in Vermont, Jackson Hole (JAC) in Wyoming, Great Falls (GTF) in Montana, and more.