Sun Country CEO: COVID Made Us A Better Airline

The ULCC is now 50% larger than pre-pandemic, driven by high demand from its home market.

Credit: Ocean Driven Media
Jude Bricker, Sun Country Airlines CEO, at Routes World 2022.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International-based (MSP) Sun Country Airlines has emerged from the pandemic in a position of strength, CEO Jude Bricker said.

“We have the best hand in the industry as we execute on this recovery. COVID made us a much better airline,” he told delegates at Routes World 2022.

Bricker said that high fares were driving a 40% improvement in total revenue per available seat mile (RASM) since before the pandemic, led by the carrier's booming home catchment market of the Twin Cities and surrounding area where demand is high.

He said this was driving the fast-growing airline, which is now 50% larger than pre-pandemic. Since Bricker joined the airline, Sun Country’s fleet has nearly tripled in size to 54 Boeing 737NGs, with more scheduled for delivery next year and in 2024.

Bricker said the November Thanksgiving to Spring Easter period is the peak time for demand as Minnesotans and upper Midwesterners flee the harsh winter for sunny southerly climes, particularly southwest Florida and Arizona.

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In the Q2 and Q3 months, the airline shifts capacity toward adding incremental lift in markets that connect places like Texas with Mexico, and Los Angeles with Hawaii.

The normal post-late-September Labor Day slowdown is eased by a robust charter operation for college sports teams. The LCC cuts scheduled capacity by 70% from July to September. “This is the secret sauce of Sun Country; a mode around our business that no one can replicate,” Bricker said.

Bricker cited Las Vegas (LAS) as a year-round focus because it’s “not nearly as seasonal as any other leisure market in the US because it's a weekend profile.”

Bricker said Sun Country’s model was to co-exist with “the big boys of Delta across the airfield” at MSP. “They take the business passengers, and we take the leisure passenger who don’t want to pay Delta fares,” he said.