Sun Country Airlines reached a five-year agreement to provide charter service to Major League Soccer teams across North America, including Minnesota United.
The agreement builds on a relationship between Sun Country and the league that developed when the Twin Cities-based carrier began flying MLS teams in summer 2020 after the league returned to play.
"As a result of COVID, the MLS was looking to do charter service specifically to get their season last year completed in a safe manner," said Grant Whitney, Sun Country's chief revenue officer. "We were able to prove ourselves and develop a relationship."
Sun Country Airlines has provided the MLS with exceptional service over a very challenging year and a half, Mark Abbott, president of MLS, said in a statement.
"Under our most recent (collective bargaining agreement), the league committed to provide travel by charter for a certain number of legs per season and Sun Country will be an extraordinary partner in helping MLS meet this requirement," Abbott said.
While chartered air travel is a way of life in other pro sports, such as the NFL and NBA, Major League Soccer players negotiated for more chartered service for more community and convenience.
Major League Soccer features 27 clubs throughout the United States and Canada, in addition to future expansion teams in St. Louis and Charlotte.
Sun Country will execute the charter flights while meeting the needs of scheduled service customers, Whitney said. "We have an agreement that when they need charter service, we will be there, and it will be a deal that works for both sides," he said.
Sun Country's charter business serves many college sports teams and is contracted as primary carrier for the NCAA college basketball tournaments. The airline also flies charter flights for the military and some vacation resorts and casinos.
Charter service provided about 19% of Sun Country's revenue in the first six months of 2021, the latest period for which results are available. The Twin Cities-based airline, which listed on Nasdaq via an initial public offering this spring, is due to report its third-quarter results next Tuesday.