Sun Country Airlines on Tuesday ended its relationship with Delta Global Services for ground services at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and it will run those operations itself from now on.
The move scrambled the jobs of more than 200 people and came sooner than planned because of the coronavirus-related travel slowdown.
"Sun Country has been considering bringing MSP airport operations in-house," Kirsten Wenker, a company spokeswoman, said. "Given recent events, we are executing this transition now and will take over MSP airport operations from DGS effective today."
DGS workers were put on inactive status Tuesday afternoon, but some expected to be shifted to other parts of the airport, where the firm provides ticketing, gate and aircraft services to Spirit, Frontier and Delta commuter airlines.
Sun Country also invited DGS workers to apply for positions similar to their existing work and any other open jobs the airline has.
The change happened as Sun Country, along with other airlines, sharply reduced its flight schedule amid a steep drop in demand as leisure and business travelers hunkered down to slow the spread of the deadly virus.
Sun Country has cut its flight capacity by 60% in the past few weeks and parked much of its fleet near its headquarters and hangar on the west side of MSP.
The airline is using the lull to take back control of some services it gave up more than two years ago and others that it relied much longer on third-party contractors to perform.
Before 2018, Sun Country contracted with Swissport International Ltd. to manage its ramp services and baggage handling while it used its own staff for passenger services, including ticketing and boarding.
After the airline changed owners in 2017, new executives decided to outsource the passenger-services work, which included towing aircraft, loading and unloading baggage, cleaning airplane interiors, checking in passengers and handling cargo and U.S. mail.
In February 2018, Sun Country hired a Canadian firm, Global Aviation Services Inc., to do that work, which required about 350 people.
But Global had difficulty with hiring, leading to staffing shortages that led to long check-in waits for Sun Country passengers and other problems.
By summer, the two companies abandoned their contract. Sun Country in September 2018 hired DGS, a former subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, to run ground operations at MSP.
But by ending the arrangement with DGS, Sun Country will have full control of all operations around its planes at MSP.
"This will be the first time Sun Country has staffed both below- and above-wing operations internally," Wenker said. "Providing an exceptional experience out of MSP is important, and we want it to be the gold standard of any airport we operate from."
Separately, Wenker said the airline is applying for a portion of the $25 billion in assistance set aside for passenger airlines in the coronavirus-related financial relief law passed by Congress last week.
Sun Country and its pilots have been negotiating over whether some pilots may need to be furloughed because of the suspension of flights. Those talks have been put on hold while the airline waits to see the amount it may receive under the new federal law.
Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241