Sun Country Is Discontinuing Their Elite Program

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Several months ago, Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines announced that they’d transform into an ultra low cost carrier. For years the airline has been surprisingly full service, offering free carry-ons, a competitively priced first class, and more. However, clearly they haven’t been able to command much of a revenue premium for their superior onboard product.

The airline hired a former Allegiant Air executive as their CEO, and it’s clear they’re now trying to align themselves more with Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, etc. With their new business plan, Sun Country will:

  • 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

It looks like the airline is now cutting their services in another way. Up until now, the airline offered an elite program. Specifically, the status was called Ufly Rewards Elite, and could be earned by accruing 50,000 points in a calendar year. Members earn 10 points per dollar spent, so really that’s the equivalent of spending $5,000 per year with Sun Country, which isn’t insignificant. With this status you received the following:

  • Priority check-in at ticket counter
  • Priority screening, where available
  • Priority boarding
  • Waived fees on the first two bags
  • Seat selection without a fee
  • Complimentary First Class upgrades (space available; granted at airport gate only)
  • Waived change fees
  • Complimentary in-flight digEplayer in Coach Class (on select flights)
  • Complimentary beverage and snack item in Coach Class
  • Dedicated toll-free ELITE member support line

I guess this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but as of March 1, 2018, Sun Country is discontinuing their Ufly Rewards Elite status. The airline will continue to award passengers points, though there won’t be any corresponding elite recognition for frequent flyers.

Why would Sun Country eliminate their elite program? Because as they transform into an ultra low cost carrier it’s not feasable to offer these things. In other words, you can’t have people booking $30 fares and then getting two free checked bags, priority boarding, free snacks and drinks, seat selection without a fee, seat upgrades, etc. That’s just not how the unbundled ultra low cost carrier business model works.

Furthermore, as they make this transformation, chances are that they won’t offer many of these services. For example, I doubt they’ll maintain priority check-in, priority boarding, priority screening, digEplayers, etc.

Reader Zach reports that Sun Country is matching the points earned in 2017 as a parting gift for the program being discontinued, which is at least something…

  1. I would argue it not only is ‘feasible’ but even makes financial sense to offer and elite program for ULCCs. Look at Frontier as an example. Their elite program is not laden with benefits, but offers enough perks to cancel out the primary negative items that make ULCCs so unattractive. Maybe try comparing being elite on F9 where benefits are ADDED to the experience, to being an elite on the US3, who are actively DESTROYING those benefits on basic economy fares, and making elites pay more $ for the privilege to use what they’ve already earned.

    What Sun Country should have done was pare back the benefits, not annihilate the elite program altogether. I guess time will tell…

  2. Is it true that Sun Country held a lot of corporate contracts for businesses in the MSP area? Seems like their just willingly handing all of that business over to Delta at this point. Bizzare.

  3. Depressing

    Sun Country was awesome.
    They keep Delta in check
    But they really were an awesome airline in their own right.
    A smaller Minneapolis version of Alaska or Virgin

    Now looks like I’ll be a Delta hostage again


    Well, if they can keep their reliability while having low cost then maybe it’ll work out fine

    I love Spirit’s Big Front Seat, but hate their reliability

    Maybe Sun Country can give me both

  4. There goes that lucrative credit card deal.

    Not making this up—the Sun Country credit card actually exists.

  5. Unfortunate. Goodbye Sun Country. As an Elite member I am disappointed. Giving extra miles does not make up for taking away 9 months of elite status services that I was awarded and so enjoyed from the Sun Country we all new and loved. I am not looking to fly MORE on an ultra low cost carrier with LESS services. There are already plenty of those options out there. Delta will likely become my new go-to airline. Bad move Sun Country.

  6. Seems like really bad form not letting it run till the end of the year.

    Also, if they’re just going to be a ULCC, what’s their point of differentiation? I fail to see why anyone would choose Sun Country over Spirit / Frontier, which are much more established.

  7. This is what happens when you hire D- executives without any vision or creativity from Allegiant. I feel sad for Sun Country employees because they really do take great pride in their work and now they are going to have to follow the bad decisions of their new CEO.

  8. Good first class ,STUPID move, people who want crappy carriers like spirit and Frontier and Allegiant should stay there and leave Sun Country alone

  9. Sun Country is screwing themselves and the execs cant even see it. I guess there will be more gates for Southwest and JetBlue at Humphrey once Sun Country goes belly up

  10. The main reason I flew Sun Country was because of their affordable first class. Unfortunately, I have not been flying lately (for reasons that have nothing to do with any airline), but I looked forward to using Sun Country as much as possible for domestic travel and possibly Latin American travel in the future. Their first class was actually superior to Delta’s, and their customer service in general was wonderful and local. They’ve even put together special flights for special occasions, like the recent solar eclipse or the playoff game in Philadelphia next weekend.

    It was great to know that I could go to my favorite destinations in the U.S. without Delta or flying cattle class on Spirit or Frontier.

    Is there ANYTHING the bean counters won’t ruin? Shrink the first class section? It has only six seats as it is.

    I can foresee passengers like me abandoning Sun Country, which will in turn prompt the bean counters to reduce service even further. Strap hanging, anyone?

  11. Agree that new execs aren’t very bright. Cost of retaining Elite members loyalty was peanuts – priority boarding, extra checked bag, digit players and occasional first class upgrade (only if unsold seat available 30 min before take off), and finally one free drink and food item.

    I qualified for Elite in 2018 – received 60,000 points as compensation when told in January “sorry sucker, thanks for all the extra business in 2017, now go pound sand – oh, and by the way, thanks for your continued loyalty”

    The 60,000 points was equal to a round trip plus a one way flight. I’ve since spent all the miles I accumulated over the last 4-5 years of Elite status and paid to fly SY twice in 2018. Back to Delta or switch to Spirit for cheap flights – smart move SY execs. A first year business student could have run the numbers to show you gave up $4-5 million in 2018 revenue that cost you almost nothing.

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