Turf war: Sun Country adds rare single new route against Frontier Airlines

Competition might be great for travelers, but Sun Country Airlines isn’t happy about it. On Wednesday, the carrier announced a new nonstop route from its base at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE). On its own, this new 622-mile route might not necessarily grab headlines — after all, Sun Country rarely announces a single route at a time. However, it comes just hours after Frontier Airlines, another ultra-low-cost competitor, announced the exact same route.

Frontier’s announcement included expanding operations across 38 airports, including five new routes from Sun Country’s busiest base in MSP. Those five new routes seemingly drew the ire of executives at Sun Country because the airline’s latest announcement is seemingly a pointed response to Frontier’s expansion.

For one, Sun Country’s new Minneapolis-to-Cleveland route commences on May 17 — the exact same day that Frontier’s starts. Moreover, Frontier plans to operate the route on a four-times-weekly basis, and Sun Country announced the exact same frequencies.

Better yet, Frontier announced attractive $19 introductory fares on its new Minneapolis routes. Though Sun Country didn’t include fare information in its press release, a quick check of the airline’s website shows that its new route also starts at $19.

In addition to the new Cleveland route, Frontier is adding service from MSP to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Philadelphia. Three of these flights will go head-to-head against the existing Sun Country service. (Sun Country doesn’t fly between MSP and Atlanta.)

So, while Sun Country isn’t boosting its existing frequencies in these three markets, the airline certainly reminded travelers that it is already an established player on these routes.

Sun Country is no stranger to a turf war. After all, its base in MSP is also a major hub for Delta Air Lines. Though Delta is a larger network carrier, the two carriers have competed for local market share over the years.

Additionally, in 2021, budget carrier Allegiant announced three new routes from MSP. Just hours later, Sun Country retaliated by adding service in the exact same markets.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but at least Minneapolis-based travelers will have more options thanks to increased competition in a few more markets.

“As the leading leisure airline in Minneapolis-St. Paul, we’re excited to add Cleveland to our expanding network. We have been wanting to serve Cleveland for some time, and our schedule for Cleveland will operate when our customers want to travel. In addition, our new customers from Cleveland will experience great customer service and affordability that differentiates us from other leisure airlines,” Grant Whitney, Sun Country Airlines chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

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