Topic of the Week: Sun Country Goes to Washington

DCA - Washington/National, Sun Country

Sun Country is heading to Washington/National airport with flights from . . . Lansing? Yep, Lansing. It won the fight for slots at National against other more established airlines. These slots were being used by Frontier to fly to Kansas City, so now the number of flights on that route will be reduced so Sun Country can go to Lansing. Was it the right move? Should another airline have gotten it? For more background, check out this article.

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16 comments on “Topic of the Week: Sun Country Goes to Washington

  1. Whilst Lansing isn’t a thrilling destination, it probably is the most consistent with the rules of the slot. Sun Country doesn’t make much sense as it is only point-to-point – no connectivity. It seems like a lot of capacity on what would be a pretty thin route. Lansing seems more like a destination US Airways would have added when they were attempting the slot-swap with Delta. Lansing would be more of a RJ / Q400 type destination then a daily 737…

  2. I said somewhere after reading about this that while it is service on a route not already served as per one of the slot rules, it seems that if there was a need for a nonstop in this market there would have been one years ago.

    And as I’ve also said before slots should be used where the most traffic needs are even if that route is already served with nonstops.

    Maybe the rule should be changed that if a new nonstop route is started that if the load factor isn’t a certain amount after a certain time period, that carrier must suspend the route and the slot used for somewhere else that has a traffic need.

  3. One aspect of this route has apparently been overlooked. Lansing is the state capital of Michigan. One would think (maybe wrongly) that there would be a fair amount of inter-governmental traffic between capital cities. Again, I could be mistaken.

  4. What would be interesting to see is how many passengers get on/off in Lansing and how many take this flight as an alternate MSP-DCA route vs flying Delta. If this ends up mostly to/from MSP, then the slot award will have been a waste as service to MCI was reduced to accommodate this. Perhaps Southwest should have tried DCA-Haggerstown-Altoona-Akron-Springfield(pick your state)-Kansas City. Then it would be serving a whole host of underserved communities from DCA.

  5. They don’t list schedules in the article yet, but if it’s just a few flights a week will that actually be used by business and government types who prefer a heavy frequency to re-schedule when needed?

    Regarding Lansing as a destination – it’s not too out of the way to be an alternative to GRR. Myself and family (Grand Rapids folk) have used it on rare occasions, and it’s an easy 60 mile interstate drive.

    1. it’s a daily, which is almost completely useless for biz travelers. times not scheduled yet but it will be constrained by the fact that it is a continuation from MSP.

  6. I’m more worried about the implications this has for Frontier and the rest of the 5 or so slots that Midwest had. Supposedly these are being relooked at well.

    From DCA, Frontier has Denver, MKE, Kansas City, and Omaha. All four are big bases for Frontier. Additionally, Frontier usually likes to consolidate its operations in a region to one airport (a la HOU). If Frontier loses a lot of its schedule due to slots going to others, it might consider packing up at DCA and shifting everything to BWI. I wouldn’t rule out Dulles either. Yes, they would lose a significant revenue and location premium at DCA, but it just might be worth it. Frontier is never the cheapest option from DCA and most certainly not when compared to BWI or Dulles.

    (Washington needs some more alternate airports…Frederick anyone?)

  7. this is absolutely absurd. a total waste of a slot. this is just disguised 1 stop service to get sun country into DCA from MSP. also, it doesn’t allow a smaller airline to get bigger at DCA, it brings in a new airline for one flight per day. whoopee! FL applied for SRQ, US applied for PNS. anybody with half a brain (which excludes most DOT and federal government employees) could see either of those would make far more sense in accordance with the slot rules.

    1. You mean federal government employees who have the power to make decisions. Growing up in the Washington suburbs, I know many who work in the federal government that are extremely competent at what they do. It’s just the people in charge and the lobbyists who as you say do have less than half a brain.

      1. i agree with you, i was being facetious but i’ll try to limit my half-brain comparisons to the people in charge and/or anybody at DOT that has anything to do w/ slot awards.

  8. This makes no sense on several fronts. Even the criteria are loaded against anyone trying to make money or run a real business. One flight/day for Sun Country in DCA is going to load up fixed costs for the carrier. Can anyone say with a straight face that LAN-DCA loads will be consistently high and profitable? Better than any or all of the alternative contenders? Watch for cheap, one-stop fares from MSP-DCA just to boost the load factor. Meanwhile, Frontier which is contributing mightily to the KC market and is building itself a decent presence (marketing, operational and financial) at DCA loses a critical frequency. Just call this another example of this administration’s efforts to “redistribute wealth.” When will some adult supervision return to DOT?

    1. exactly. i thought Frontier would be well positioned to take a step forward at DCA with multiple daily flights service to four destinations once the midwest and frontier stations were combined. losing one flight per day doesn’t kill this aspiration but it certainly doesn’t help it either.

  9. here’s an analysis of DCA service to airports near lansing (LAN), with the driving distance from airport to airport and current service from DCA:

    FNT (45 miles), GRR (55 miles), AZO (76 miles) and DTW (94 miles). DL already flies a daily DCA-GRR nonstop and, of course, there are 11-12 flights on two airlines to DTW.

    compare this to the dismal state of DC service faced by PNS and NW florida:

    VPS (62 miles), MOB (74 miles) and ECP (112 miles). none have nonstop service to DCA. plus, even though i know this isn’t a consideration for slot awards, there is very little service from any of the three DC area airports to any of the NW florida airports. one daily to PNS from IAD is the sum total of nonstop flights to this region (the new WN service from BWI to ECP is too far from PNS to merit consideration as I am using roughly 90 miles airport to airport driving distance).

    i was wrong about SRQ, US currently flies three daily nonstops. still, FL could have provided some competition on yet another US DCA monopoly route as they currently do to RSW.

    regarding MCI, i find it stunning that this slot was taken from fronpubliwest in the first place, although i don’t pretend to know the byzantine logistics of how the slots work. now MCI has only two daily flights from DCA, only one more than, ahem, LAN. :eyeroll:

    another poster hit the nail on the head. the whole problem here is not one ridiculous slot decision, it was the baffling denial of the US/DL DCA/LGA slot swap. these were EXACTLY the types pf airports that US was going to serve from DCA w/ DL’s slots. i recall that PNS (as well as TLH), LAN and MCI were on the list of 12-15 or so airports to receive new DCA service from US. sigh.

  10. It’s the one bit of the Sun Country LAN service that might work. The rest (leisure routes to Vegas, Florida, etc) is going to be squeezed by the low cost alternatives in Grand Rapids (Allegiant, AirTran) and Detroit, which are bigger markets with better schedules and more alternatives. Further, the service in Grand Rapids is only likely to get better, since that’s one city that’s large enough to survive the merger between Southwest and AirTran.

    The part that no one appears to have mentioned is that this comes in combination with a recent $750,000 SCASD grant to support new LAN service. So they’ll p*ss away a lot of govt money while failing in LAN.

  11. Sure seems to be a lot of Sun Country hate here, but given the DOT rules it’s pretty clear they picked the proposal that closest matched all the rules. Sun Country is a new entrant to DCA, they are serving a small community, said community currently has no service from DCA, etc. etc. Since NW used to make money on the route I’m sure Sun Country can do the same. Opinions of the rules aside, I see why they picked this proposal. Now I’m not sure how many people will go MSP – DCA via this route. Apparently Sun Country made money on their summer route MSP to London with fuel stop in Gander. I on the other hand would pay extra for a direct. Guess not everyone feel the same.

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