Here’s what Sun Country could’ve done to treat its passengers better

The Cranky Flier — Brett Snyder — doesn’t want to hear any more about how tough things are for Sun Country Airlines or debates over whether the airline legally could abandon its customers in another country (it can). The airline blogger acknowledges that running an airline is hard and the nation’s laws protect companies like Sun Country.

But today he gives the company his Cranky Jackass Award because — come on! — it abandoned its customers in another country, and is still trying to talk its way out of responsibility for doing so.

That’s right. Sun Country has its fleet flying hard, and it doesn’t have the slack to send a rescue mission down to pick up those people who are stuck. So what did it do? It just punted. That is not a solution. People who likely got a bargain flying at the end of the season were now told to go buy a ticket on another airline out of pocket. You can be sure they had to pay a whole lot more than they did in the first place. Of course, a refund should be an option for people who need to get home. But Sun Country should provide more options for those where cost is a greater concern.

I sent follow up questions asking if the airline had thought about other options, but I didn’t receive a response before publishing. Here are just a few of the things Sun Country could have done.

    1) Find some spare aircraft time and send a rescue mission. I know, Sun Country says it has no spare aircraft time. But guess what? You can cancel one of the three daily flights to Vegas and reaccommodate those passengers so you can send a plane to rescue the Mexican tourists. There has to be some way to make this work.

    2)Charter a plane. This isn’t cheap, but it’s an option. If the airline wanted to prove it was the ULCC with a heart, then this would have given good press for miles.

    3)Put people on other airlines. It’s true, the big guys don’t have interline agreements with Sun Country, so the airline would have to just pay for tickets out of pocket on most. But Sun Country does have an interline agreement with Alaska, and Alaska flies to both of those places. This seems like a cheap solution for Sun Country, especially in Cabo where Alaska has a lot of flights back to the US (if not Minneapolis) and a lot of seats available to sell in the next few days. Mazatlán is tougher since Alaska has much less service, but it’s still an option that could be offered to some people. But Sun Country could have just bought the tickets outright. Maybe, what, $150,000 total to do that? It’s worth it.

Snyder says he agrees with the shift of Sun Country from a “well-liked hometown carrier” to an ultra low-cost airline, “but part of the pitch was that the airline was going to keep that ‘Minnesota nice’ attitude. This says very loudly, very publicly, otherwise,” he writes.