Executives at Sun Country Airlines believe a travel rebound is in sight, announcing Monday more than a dozen new routes for the summer season and nine new airports to be added to its network.
The Minnesota-based budget carrier expressed cautious optimism that the industry — nearing the one-year mark of dismal air travel demand caused by the global pandemic — will continue to see more customers booking tickets as the vaccine rolls out throughout 2021.
"The past year has been a challenge for the travel industry but with increased access to COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, we're starting to see that turnaround," Sun Country Chief Executive Jude Bricker said in a statement.
The airline, which temporarily grounded some of its fleet last spring and summer, now says all its passenger planes are routinely flying.
But with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) new requirement that all U.S. inbound travelers provide proof of a negative COVID test, executives are closely monitoring a potential dip in demand.
Beginning in May, Sun Country is giving Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport travelers a new airline option for flying nonstop to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, Mont., Jackson Hole Airport, Indianapolis International Airport, Fairbanks International Airport in Alaska and Bradley International Airport in Connecticut.
Several of the new summer destinations reflect an American population increasingly interested in vacationing in nature and near national parks. By car and air, travelers last summer flocked to the wide expanses of the Mountain West, in places known for built-in social distancing.
Sun Country remains a largely MSP-centric carrier but worked to expand outside the Twin Cities market over the last several years.
The airline announced a handful of other routes, beginning in either May or September, that play into its strategy for targeting major U.S. airports where it sees a chance to supply a cheaper option for nonbusiness travel.
This includes a twice-weekly Cancun flight from Houston or a Puerto Vallarta-Dallas/Fort Worth flight. It's also bringing Orlando flights to Indianapolis and Connecticut, among other new routes.
Sun Country on Monday also extended its current schedule through Dec. 14, 2021.
Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767