How Sun Country Airlines came into being

Sun Country increases revenue from cargo flights for Amazon.

Sun Country Airlines, based at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) in Minnesota, is an American low-cost airline that also flies cargo for Amazon. Sun Country Airlines was founded in January 1983 with a group of former Braniff International pilots and employees and began operations with a single Boeing 727-200.

Sun Country Douglas DC-10

Photo: Sonnenland

Knowing there was a gap in the leisure market after Braniff’s demise in 1982, the aptly named Sun Country Airlines partnered with MLT Vacations to offer charter and leisure flights from Minneapolis. In 1986, Sun Country expanded its lease of a Douglas DC-10 from Northwest Airlines, using the aircraft to fly between Minneapolis and the popular gambling destination of Las Vegas, Nevada. Sun Country continues to grow and acquired a second Boeing 727 to fly Minneapolis sports teams across the country.


Sun Country began offering scheduled passenger flights

In the early 1990s, Sun Country was sold to the Mark Travel Group and, in order to remain competitive, began offering regular passenger flights. Destinations from Minneapolis/ St. Paul included:

  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • Washington National Airport (DCA)


Photo; land of the sun

Concurrent with the expansion of its list of destinations within the United States, Sun Country also increased the number of seasonal flights to Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean. To modernize its fleet, Sun Country placed an order with Boeing for some 737NG aircraft.

Competition from the Northwest and 9/11 forced Sun Country to suspend flights

Sun Country fought fiercely with Northwest Airlines for its share of the upper Midwest market and was forced to close operations after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Gradually, Sun Country resumed flights

and began seasonal charters to California, Nevada, Florida and Mexico. In 2006 the airline was sold to Petters Group Worldwide and, despite a promising start, found itself in trouble again in 2008 as it faced higher fuel costs and the collapse of the housing market. In 2008, Sun Country filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the FBI discovered that its owner, Tom Petters, was involved in a massive financial fraud. Sun Country Airlines emerged from Chapter 11 protection in 2009 with a fleet of 14 Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 aircraft.

Sun Country makes its money in the cold Minnesota winter

Throughout its history, Sun Country has focused on offering flights from the frozen north to sunny destinations during the winter. In order to benefit from the increased demand, it has reached an agreement with Transavia Netherlands. In the winter, Transavia sends planes to Minnesota, and Sun Country sends some of its planes to Amsterdam in the summer.

According to aviation data and statistics website ch-aviation, Sun County’s fleet currently consists of the following aircraft:

  • 1 Boeing 737-700
  • 41 x Boeing 737-800
  • 12x Boeing 737-800BCF


In December 2019, Amazon acquired a minority stake in the airline with plans to repaint some of Sun Country’s aircraft in Amazon Air’s livery. Sun Country’s business model has always been heavily focused on flights to winter holiday destinations. The deal with Amazon should help stabilize sales during the off-season.

Sun Country operated its first cargo flight for Amazon Air in May 2020. On March 21, 2021, Sun Country became a public company on NASDAQ, trading under the symbol SNCY.