Sun Country Airlines is almost back to normal.
The Twin Cities-based airline will have more passenger flight departures this month than it did in July 2019. And its leaders expect revenue and other key metrics to soon exceed prepandemic levels.
"We're experiencing a rapid recovery," Jude Bricker, the company's chief executive, told analysts and investors Thursday, a day after Sun Country announced second-quarter results.
"Advanced bookings throughout our selling schedule continue to pace ahead of their prepandemic comps," Bricker said, referring to comparative figures. "Demand is particularly strong in domestic leisure, which represents most of our network."
Leisure flying has recovered more quickly than business travel for the airline industry. And that has benefited Sun Country, a small carrier concentrated on leisure service to and from its Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport hub.
In the three months ended June 30, Sun Country's revenue of $149 million was nearly five times higher than a year ago, the period when passenger travel ground to a halt because of the spread of COVID-19.
Revenue was 12% below the same period of 2019. Operating expenses were flat compared to the 2019 quarter.
Sun Country said it earned $51.8 million, or 83 cents a share, in the quarter. That compares with a loss of $6 million, or 13 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding $38.5 million in government aid and other one-time items, Sun Country earned $5.4 million, or 7 cents a share.
Executives expect the airline's revenue to be in a range of $170 million to $175 million in the third quarter. Sun Country had $171 million in revenue in the third quarter of 2019.
But executives expect the airline will still be operating at a lower capacity during the third quarter than it did at the same time of 2019. "We're still in the process of normalizing capacity for the current demand environment," said Dave Davis, the company's chief financial officer.
The airline's passenger capacity was 5% higher in the second quarter than in the first but it was still 17% below the second quarter of 2019. Flights are becoming more full, Sun Country said, with its passenger load factor reaching 77%, the highest since late 2019.
Charter capacity was 24% below the 2019 level, but executives said they expect that gap to narrow when Sun Country begins flying college football teams around the country this fall.
Sun Country's relationship with Amazon.com to fly cargo for the e-commerce retailer, which started last May, provided the airline with $22.1 million of revenue in the latest quarter, up 2% from the first three months of this year.
Sun Country added three planes to passenger service during the latest quarter, bringing its fleet to 34. Executives expect to add two more before the end of the year. Sun Country's cargo operation has 12 freighters.
Shares of Sun Country, which went public in March, closed Thursday at $33.65, down 96 cents.