Sun Country Airlines announced two new seasonal nonstop flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul: to Sarasota, Fla., and Nassau, Bahamas.
The Eagan-based airline will fly the routes during its peak winter season. It will be the first time Minnesotans have nonstop access to the Sarasota region since 2004. The twice-weekly route from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport will begin Dec. 20.
Sun Country will face competition from MSP behemoth Delta Air Lines on the Nassau route, beginning Dec. 21. The small airline will operate this flight only once a week on Saturdays — the same day as Delta.
The routes and schedule reflect Sun Country’s new strategy, which is focused on flying to more destinations during high-demand seasons for leisure travelers, but at lower frequencies.
Brian Ryks, chief executive of MSP’s governing body, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said the new flights bring MSP’s total nonstop destinations to 168. “Sun Country’s continued investment in its MSP operation is one of the reasons more and more Minnesotans are able to fly to their destinations,” Ryks said in a news release.
Sun Country’s route network has grown 65% in the last year. This means more vacation destinations for MSP travelers, but it can also lead to unforeseen frustrations.
For instance, if a weather or mechanical issue arises and the once-weekly flight is canceled, passengers either have to wait several days until Sun Country’s next scheduled flight or reschedule on another airline.
Seasonal travel can be challenging at the end of scheduled service, too. Sun Country’s infamous debacle two winters ago happened when a snowstorm in the Twin Cities resulted in canceled return flights from two Mexico cities on the last flight out of the season.
An antiquated computer system led to communication lapses and hundreds of passengers were stranded in Mexico as a result.
Sun Country said it has made improvements to its technology, communications and rebooking processes to avoid those situations when possible.
Jude Bricker, Sun Country’s chief executive, will be at Fulton Taproom in Minneapolis on Friday evening to give away two round-trip flights to each of the new destinations.
Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767