Liz Scholz was all ready to fall in love with Sun Country.
As a customer of the Minneapolis-based airline for at least the past three years, Scholz was delighted when Sun Country recently started running affordable flights to Arizona, where her parents live. She happened to take the inaugural trip of that flight, which the company treated like a big event. The chief financial officer showed up. Everyone got free doughnuts.
"Even that weird, freaky bear mascot was there," Scholz says.
Scholz went so far as to purchase "one of their stupid [Sun Country] credit cards," a move she's reconsidering in light of recent developments. First, the airline imposed baggage fees: $20 for a checked bag on a domestic flight, $30 for a pre-declared carry-on, and $40 for a carry-on the passenger doesn't specify until arriving at the airport.
Those charges are annoying, but Scholz could maybe learn to live with them. She's having almost as much trouble swallowing the airline's beer selections.
After a recent flight, a friend of Scholz's mentioned that the local airline had stopped serving a local beer.
"They don't have Surly anymore," the friend told Scholz. "How fucked up is that?"
Quite, in Scholz's estimation. She had regularly enjoyed drinking Surly on Sun Country, which offered the local craft beer at the curiously low price of $7, a steal by on-flight drink standards. Scholz would've paid at least a couple bucks more for it... but isn't interested in spending twice as much for a couple tiny liquor bottles, as one coworker said he did in this new Surly-less era.
"I said, 'Well, that means [Sun Country] won, because that means you just spent more money while on board," Scholz says.
How, without affordable drinks, will Sun Country's more adventurous fliers get mixed up in romantic (and possibly criminal) escapades?
Sans Surly, Scholz's friend reports the in-flight menu consisted of Budweiser and Michelob Golden Light, which, though strangely popular in Minnesota, is not actually local to its people. Scholz, who lives in Minneapolis, works in branding, and thinks Sun Country's making a mistake dropping a local product.
"This is part of [Sun Country's] value proposition, as a brand," she says, noting that Atlanta-based Delta Airlines recently started offering an Atlanta-based beer. "I was a little bit shocked to learn they weren't selling Surly anymore. It seems stupid, from a brand perspective."
Scholz wondered how the decision was made. Surly says the question is "better suited for Sun Country," as it certainly wasn't the brewer's idea to stop getting frequent fliers tipsy.
A spokesperson for Sun Country tells City Pages the airline is always looking to "gain efficiencies to invest in the growth of Sun Country." (Said growth could likely be calculated in different ways; last year, Sun Country was purchased by Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm.) The statement continued:
"We are consistently evaluating ways we can gain efficiencies in order to invest in the growth of Sun Country. As such, adjustments have been made to our inflight menu including the removal of craft beer for the time being. Our beer offering currently consists: Budweiser and Michelob Golden Light. Additionally, we offer wine, sparkling wine, a wide variety of liquor and specialty drinks, and snacks for purchase. Complimentary beverages are also available. As always, our customers can continue to expect our safe, reliable, and friendly service at an affordable price."
And here's how they replied to to an unhappy customer's Twitter query.
Yes, we have streamlined our food & beverage offerings. We still have great prices on flights and vacation packages, along with our friendly customer service. We hope you will continue to keep us in mind for your future travel.— Sun Country Airlines (@SunCountryAir) February 18, 2018
Scholz, for her part, might not. She's trying to book a flight to Las Vegas, and between the prices --"it's 200 bucks more than I had wanted to spend" -- and the newly narrowed beer selection -- "and I can't even get a Surly" -- she's not sure it's worth sticking with Sun Country.
"I'm even looking at flying Spirit," Scholz says, sighing. "And I hate Spirit."
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