Budget carrier turf war? Sun Country appears to retaliate against Allegiant
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A battle of budget airlines is brewing in Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP).
Sun Country Airlines announced two new routes from MSP and moved up the start of another less than a day after low-cost rival Allegiant announced plans to start the exact same routes.
Sun Country will begin flying from MSP – its busiest hub – to both Asheville, North Carolina (AVL), and West Palm Beach (PBI) on Oct. 7. That’s the same day Allegiant will start its own service from MSP to those cities.
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Additionally, Sun Country also said it’s planned service between MSP and Punta Gorda, Florida (PGD), would now start on Oct. 8 instead of in December, as originally planned. That date is – you guessed it – the same date Allegiant will begin flying the route.
Not only is Sun Country matching Allegiant’s start dates, it’s also matching its schedule. Sun Country will fly all three of the routes twice weekly, operating on the same two days that Allegiant will.
While Sun Country appears to be going on the offensive against Allegiant, it actually made the first move into a key Allegiant market.
Growth mode: Allegiant adds 4 new cities in 23-route expansion
That came back in April, when Sun Country first revealed its plan to fly to Punta Gorda.
That may seem like a low-profile route, but likely not to Allegiant.
Allegiant is the only carrier at the airport near Fort Myers, and the carrier has turned it into a busy base from which it flies dozens of nonstop routes. Sun Country’s entrance into the market would have made it just the second carrier with regular passenger service there.
Given that backdrop, Allegiant’s announcement to add Minneapolis/St. Paul to its route map earlier Tuesday was likely no coincidence. Allegiant went one step further, not only adding the MSP route that Sun Country had announced, but also added the two other destinations (Asheville and West Palm Beach) that Sun Country is now matching.
Connect by … bus?!? Report from Sun Country’s first Landline bus connection
Sun Country not only operates its busiest hub at MSP, but is headquartered nearby. Its decision to precisely match Allegiant’s new MSP routes less than 24 hours after they were announced is almost certainly a counter-strike to defend its turf.
When asked by TPG if the new routes were aimed at Allegiant, the carrier offered a statement from chief revenue officer Grant Whitney saying in an e-mailed statement that “We’re always evaluating new route and destination opportunities.”
“As Minnesota’s hometown airline of 40 years, we pride ourselves on connecting our community with their favorite people and places,” he added, seemingly wanting Sun Country’s local presence. “Expanding our network to offer the destinations folks want to visit paired with our Midwest hospitality help us to be Minnesota’s first choice for leisure travel.”
Now industry will observers will watch if the turf war escalates or holds steady.
Featured image by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.
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