Sun Country Unbundles Fares, Will Charge For Carry-On Bags

Filed Under: Other Airlines

In mid-August it was first revealed that Sun Country would transform into an ultra low cost carrier. The Minneapolis based airline has been surprisingly full service until now, offering an attractively priced first class cabin, allowing free carry-ons, and more. Unfortunately they haven’t been able to command a revenue premium for those services, especially as the “big three” US carriers have introduced basic economy fares.

So as the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” and that’s exactly what Sun Country plans to do. The airline has even hired a former Allegiant executive as their CEO, to help them with this transformation. As I noted at the time, Sun Country’s plan seems to be to:

  • Adjust their route network so that they’re no longer just operating flights to & from Minneapolis, but rather are operating more point-to-point flights
  • Retire their 737-700s, and instead focus on only having 737-800s in their fleet
  • Maintain first class, but make the cabin smaller, and reduce the services offered, to make it similar to Spirit’s Big Front Seat
  • Reconfigure 737-800s with 180 seats, rather than the current 162 seats
  • Charge for carry-ons, etc.

Well, it looks like Sun Country’s unbundling process is now starting. Sun Country is introducing new Bundle & Go fares for tickets booked as of October 25, 2017, and for travel as of January 19, 2018.

Under this new system, Sun Country will have three kinds of fares — Grab & Go, Check & Go, and Store & Go.

Here’s a chart explaining the differences, which isn’t terribly clear:

To summarize:

  • Grab & Go fares will only allow you to carry-on a personal item (no larger than 17x13x9 inches)
  • Check & Go fares will come with preferred boarding, and allow you to carry-on a personal item, plus a checked bag (no larger than 62 linear inches)
  • Store & Go fares will come with priority boarding, and will allow you to carry-on a personal item, plus either a checked bag OR a carry-on bag (no larger than 24x16x11 inches)

For those who don’t purchase one of the above packages, here’s how much Sun Country will charge at the airport for checked and carry-on bags:

As you can see, Sun Country will charge more for carry-ons than for checked bags, as is the norm with ultra low cost carriers.

Bottom line

We’ll have to wait and see just how Sun Country’s pricing changes in a couple of days, once their new pricing model goes live. Much like we’ve seen with the legacy airlines, I suspect that we won’t see a huge reduction in airfare for those booking basic tickets, but rather that the cost of the most basic bundle will probably be similar to what they’re charging for a “full service” ticket right now.

On one hand it’s sad to see Sun Country go in this direction. At the same time, people just weren’t willing to pay extra for their relatively full service experience, so they don’t have much of an option.

But you can now add Sun Country to the list of airlines that charge for carry-ons.

  1. Awesome! When are the major airlines going to follow on with this?

    People who want their stuff with them in the cabin because it’s valuable to them to have it with them should pay for that privilege. Isn’t that what unbundling is all about?

    Cabin space is a premium, bags should go in the hold and not in the cabin, where they gum up boarding and deplaning making the whole thing very stressful. Can’t wait for flying to return to where it was prior to bag fees, where you didn’t have to drag your belongings to the gate and then crowd the gate before boarding for fear of not finding overhead space.

  2. This is not a surprise move from an airline now headed by a CEO who used to run Operations at Allegiant Airlines.

  3. I live in Minneapolis, and of course generally fly Delta. But every so often I’m stuck with Sun Country. For me, this is horrible news. I have a corporate travel department and price policies that are going to force me into flying this nightmare of a so-called airline even more. The planes are as tired as the cabin crew. They have no app, no wifi, and are generally a cattle car in the air for anyone who wants to get between MSP and point X on a dime and thinks a Days Inn is luxurious. For a while I kept hoping they would go the other way… focus on quality and customer service to combat Delta. Oh well.

  4. Bummed that SY sold out to the low cost model as they were always a good alternative to Delta @MSP if they flew the same route. The good news is that JetBlue is finally coming to town starting in May. On a side note the last time I flew SY in March the flight was 2/3rds empty going to Miami. I have to think they’ve done their analysis’ and they’re doing this for profit/sustainability reasons. Doubt I’ll fly them much anymore though, unfortunately. My favorite use for SY was MSP-BOS, BOS-MSP to connect with Aer Lingus to/from Dublin. 1st class was usually around $250 each way if bought way ahead of time. Sad to see this, but I understand.

  5. I’m curious to see if they keep the MSP-DCA flight – they started out DCA-LAN-MSP, then got slot for DCA-MSP (it was a weird situation with a lawsuit of some sort, IIRC), but it’s just one flight a day and it gets in from MSP at ~9pm and leaves at 10pm, so it’s a rather oddly-timed flight (which might have to do with slot restrictions at DCA) – also not sure what connections they offer for the MSP-DCA segment but it wouldn’t seem like there would be many/any cxn opportunities for the DCA-MSP trip. Wonder if combination of competition from DL/AA and lack of leisure market from MSP-DCA will cause them to deploy their resources elsewhere.

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