Details emerging on Sun Country’s LCC shift

Lots of leisure travel to and from Minneapolis on the current Sun Country route map.
Lots of leisure travel to and from Minneapolis on the current Sun Country route map. That will change under new CEO Jude Bricker.

Wondering what the future of Sun Country is now that the carrier is set to rebuild in the shape of an LCC operation? Some hints were given at the IAFS/Boyd Conference in Las Vegas this afternoon where new CEO Jude Bricker presented some of his ideas. The good news is that some benefits passengers enjoy today are staying. The bad news is that the cuts coming are some of the more fun things about the airline.

Read More: Sun Country plans ULCC pivot

One way to cut costs is to standardize on a single aircraft type. Sun Country will drop the six 737-700s currently in its fleet, switching to the –800 series for all its flights. Shrinking to success rarely works in the airline industry, of course, so that capacity loss will be offset by acquiring additional –800s on the secondary market.

The cabin layout will also change, which is not to much of a surprise. In economy class “densification” is the name of the game while the first class cabin will be halved from 12 seats to 6. Once the conversion is complete the carrier will seat 180 passengers on its 737-800s, up from 162 today. By comparison, LCCs Ryanair and flyDubai seat 189 on the 737-800s today while Southwest Airlines has 175 seats on its version of that aircraft. The good news for travelers is that even with 180 seats on board travelers should still have decent legroom. Not great, but not a soul- (and knee-) crushing 27-28″ layout.

Perhaps the most unfortunate cut for the carrier should also be the least surprising. That a first class cabin remains is a nice touch but it is rapidly moving in the direction of the “Big Front Seat” product that Spirit Airlines offers rather than a full premium product. Under the guise of “What people pay us for is the big seat,” other amenities like inflight dining are to be cut back as part of the company’s transformation.

There’s also a chance other improvements to the product, such as inflight internet or streaming media offerings will come along. Almost certain that either would be a paid option to passengers, but that’s probably better than no choice at all.

It is still too early to tell exactly what the end product will look like with all the changes implemented, but it is possible this is more of an LCC pivot than a ULCC pivot. Then again, I’m pretty sure those terms don’t mean what they used to and probably don’t help define the product all that much. So maybe not so useful as reference points.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I can understand standardizing a fleet of aircraft to save money, Seth — say, from a mix of Boeing and Airbus aircraft or from a mix of Boeing 757s and 737s — but is there really enough of a difference between the Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 models to warrant such a move by Sun Country Airlines?

    1. “Enough” is a tough word to work with, but there are some advantages in terms of booking passenger loads and such. I’m guessing the 73G is staffed with the FAA-minimum 3 FAs while the 738 has 4. Putting 4 on every flight costs more in wages but simplifies crew scheduling, too. And acquiring a handful of 738s on the secondary market won’t cost much.

      That said, they also are unlikely to earn much selling off the 73Gs.

  2. How does SC do six first class seats on the 737-800? One row of and a row of 4 sure… but logistically where does the row of 2 fit?

    1. Maybe shuffle things around and put them opposite a closet?

      I don’t know for certain but I assume they have a plan that works given the way the layout is being described.

  3. the 6 BIG seats will be at the front, 2 rows on the port- (left) side, 1 row behind the galley on the starboard

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