Sun Country Airlines will offer new nonstop service between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Belize this winter, making it the first commercial carrier to fly the route.
The airline announced Wednesday it will also be the first to fly scheduled nonstop service between MSP and St. Kitts and Nevis, a twin-island nation in the Caribbean. Both seasonal routes to Belize and the islands will operate just once a week, starting a few days before Christmas and ending in late April.
“At Sun Country, we pride ourselves on delivering fantastic value to our guests, connecting them to their favorite people, places and memories. Belize and St. Kitts and Nevis are amazing beach destinations that we have no doubt Minnesotans will be excited to flock to in the winter,” said Ben Brookman, vice president of network and pricing at Sun Country Airlines, in a release.
In Belize, Sun Country will fly in and out of the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport, about 10 miles northwest of Belize City.
It will also be Belize’s northernmost destination in the United States’ Midwest region, said Karen Bevans, Belize’s director of tourism, in a release. She said Minnesota is “an area of the U.S. that can really benefit from easy access to a tropical Belizean vacation when winter comes.”
St. Kitts and Nevis is southeast of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea. Sun Country will fly one round trip between MSP and the island’s Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport on Saturdays from Dec. 22 to April 20. The Belize route will also operate on Saturdays during this same period.
These routes are the latest in a series of new destination announcements as the airline’s new leadership expands Sun Country’s network, including routes outside the MSP market. Earlier this summer, the airline announced new seasonal service from MSP to Nashville and more than a dozen new routes outside the Twin Cities.
Under Chief Executive Jude Bricker, Sun Country has been refashioned this year as a leisure airline aimed at budget-conscious families. That means fewer free perks, but lower base fares. Unlike the large, mainline airlines such as Delta, United and American, Sun Country takes a more surgical, opportunistic approach to its route planning. The airline tends to add new routes on a seasonal and weekly or biweekly basis to underserved vacation markets.
The rapid succession of change over the past year has caused some growing pains as the airline rolls out new policies, aircraft interiors and third-party contracts. The biggest hit to its reputation happened last April when Sun Country stranded passengers in Mexico by canceling its last flight home for the season due to bad weather in Minneapolis. This rippled for days as customers couldn’t reach its overstretched customer call center in Eagan.
Sun Country suffered more bruises this summer as its third-party baggage handling company could not fulfill its obligations to the airline. The airline’s leadership has said it is currently working out a contract with a new vendor for its baggage handling and is training more call-center agents.