Big changes are coming for one of the most popular airlines in the skies.
Sun Country named Jude Bricker, former COO Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, CEO on July 10. It didn’t take long for him to announce a new direction for the company.
The new model looks a lot like cheapest-flight options like Spirit, Frontier, and Bricker’s Allegiant: Keep the cost of flying at basement-level lows, and then charge for literally everything else in what is called “drip pricing.”
Carry-on luggage? Drip.
In-flight drink? Drip.
Select your seat? Drip…
Consumers are quick select the lowest cost, and don’t realize then that each drop adds up into what is ultimately a more expensive product.
This, according to Bricker, will be what closes the profit-gap between Sun Country and other airlines.
(All of those amenities previously came gratis).
Sun Country’s customer service is legendary, and one of the main things that has set it apart from the aforementioned lowest-cost rivals. This is something that the airline doesn’t want to change. Owner/chairman Marty Davis, the man responsible for hiring Bricker after removing former CEO Zarir Erani, has said, “We don’t want to nickel and dime customers. We want to stabilize it for long-term growth by finding the right rhythm between our pricing and customer service.”
But older employees are going to be phased out (bought out) to make room for cheaper, younger employees. Flight attendants, even those with just 10 or more years of experience, are being offered buy-outs that offer “…an opportunity to leave Sun Country if those individuals were not on board with the new vision,” as was written in a memo to employees by the airline’s human resources director.
But young people are good at serving $10 in-flight cocktails, right?
Another major piece of Bricker’s plan is to expand Sun Country beyond its main hub at MSP Airport. Delta, American, United, and other “legacy” airlines offer too much competition.
The ultimate goal, it seems, is to clarify Sun Country’s somewhat confusing place in the airline industry. As it doesn’t offer the perks of the legacy airlines (frequent flyer perks, etc), and isn’t as low-budget as Spirit et al, Sun Country found itself treading water (air) somewhere in the middle.
The airline filed for Chapter 11 in 2008. While they’ve been doing better since then, there clearly hasn’t been enough of an improvement.
While these changes won’t be implemented overnight, we’ll see what sort of impact they have on the bottom line of an airline that flew over 2 million people in 2016.