Looking to solidly its burgeoning grip over e-commerce, Amazon is enlisting the aid of Sun Country Airlines. The move will mark another pivot for a carrier that has struggled to find its footing.
As next-day delivery becomes less of a luxury and more an expectation, Amazon is seeking to build its air cargo partnerships. Already, the e-commerce giant works with Air Transport Services Group Inc. (ATSG) and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. (Atlas) but that is not enough to keep up.
In partnering with its first passenger airline, Amazon hopes to position itself to stay ahead of growing customer demand. While global air cargo traffic has stalled, domestic air cargo volume in the United States is up 20% since 2018.
A New Strategy for Sun Country
For Sun Country, a foray into the cargo business marks another pivot. Sun Country was acquired in 2017 by a venture capitalist group and re-styled itself as a budget carrier. Abandoning first class cabins and a strict hub-and-spoke route structure in Minneapolis, the carrier has branched out to Southwest-style “direct” service in many new markets.
But with its new deal from Amazon, Sun Country will add 10 Boeing 737-800 aircraft to its fleet and increase its number of pilots by 70. More ground staff will also be added. These new aircraft will be cargo-dedicated.
The move further diversifies Sun Country’s business, which includes charter, military, scheduled passengers, and now cargo service.
And according to Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker, his airline struck quite a lucrative deal with Amazon:
“These are pretty highly compensated positions…We are very excited about this. This is going to be a great growth opportunity for our company, and the important thing for the Twin Cities is it will make us a better airline for Minnesota leisure travelers.”
The new cargo service will begin next year. With it, Sun Country will operate approximately 60% passengers service, 20% charter service, and 20% cargo service.
This all started thanks to a note from Bricker to Amazon. Bricker proposed selling some of Sun Country’s 737-800s to Amazon for their growing air cargo business. It took eight months to respond, but Amazon returned with a counteroffer: fly for us instead. Apparently, the offer was too goo to pass up.
image: Sun Country Airlines