Associated Press: Business News
Sun Country to Rid Some Flights
By KARREN MILLS (AP Business Writer)
The Associated Press
Web Posted : 11/26/2001 7:10 PM
Sun Country Airlines, while looking for an outside investor to keep operations running, is cutting its flight schedule.
The Minnesota-based airline announced Monday it will stop flying its 12 Boeing 727 airplanes and end regularly scheduled flights to California, Arizona, New York and Washington, D.C. on Friday.
The destinations being cut are San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, New York and Washington, D.C.
For the winter, the Mendota Heights-based carrier said it will serve its strong leisure markets out of Minneapolis, using the seven new Boeing 737 airplanes recently added to its fleet.
Sun Country will continue to serve the leisure destinations of Las Vegas; Miami, Orlando and Fort Myers in Florida; Dallas and Harlingen in Texas; Milwaukee; Cancun, Cozumel, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico; and Montego Bay and St. Thomas in the Caribbean.
"It is our hope that this temporary retrenchment, a return to our strongest markets with guaranteed flying, will allow the airline to become more financially viable and rebuild after we enter our strong first quarter," said David Banmiller, Sun Country president and chief executive.
The cutbacks came as Sun Country negotiated with potential buyers. Owner Bill La Macchia Sr. announced Nov. 8 _ after losing money for more than two years trying to compete with Northwest Airlines _ that the airline was for sale.
Among the potential buyers:
_An independent group or groups of buyers. George Wozniak of Hobbit Travel, a Minneapolis agency that specializes in low-fare travel, said he has put together a group of investors who were among potential buyers scheduled to meet with Sun Country officials on Tuesday.
_Frontier Airlines, which now operates nonstop flights between Minneapolis and Denver.
_Air Tran, another low-fare carrier based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which operates nonstop service between Minneapolis and Atlanta.
_Champion Airlines, largely owned by Carl Pohlad and Northwest Airlines, may want to acquire Sun Country to eliminate competition.
Sources close to the industry say acquisition by Southwest Airlines or Indianapolis-based ATA is unlikely.
Airline analyst Terry Trippler said a group put together by Wozniak would make sense.
"George has the outlet, he could really sell it. That would be best for the Twin Cities, best for the employees of Sun Country and best for the consumers," Trippler said.
La Macchia, who owns The Mark Travel Corp. in Milwaukee, also could return Sun Country to an all-charter operation to provide additional transportation for Mark Travel's Funjet Vacations and Trans Global Vacations subsidiaries and other tour packagers.
La Macchia has said a buyer could obtain a substantial share of Sun Country for $20 million. A controlling share or the entire carrier would cost more. Sun Country is a turnkey operation with seven new Boeing 737-800 airplanes, 12 Boeing 727-200s and a trained work force.
La Macchia bought Sun Country for a reported $41 million in April 1997 when it was an all-charter carrier.
Since he converted Sun Country into a scheduled airline in June 1999, putting it in direct competition with Northwest Airlines, La Macchia has covered at least $80 million in Sun Country costs and losses.
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