Our Sun Country Airlines Review

Hell hath no fury like a Minnesotan scorned by Solar Nation‘s transition to a funds airline. Belief me: As a Minnesotan myself, I hear it on a regular basis.

After struggling financially for years, the Minnesota-based airline ripped out first-class in favor of slimmer seats, scaled again in-flight service, and started charging charges for every little thing from baggage to seat assignments to snacks. That was five-plus years in the past, and the transformation is now full: It is now a rising low-cost service, within the vein of Spirit or Frontier.

Or is it? Many times all through my latest Solar Nation flight from Denver (DEN) to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), there have been indicators and reminders that Solar Nation is extra than simply your run-of-the-mill, bare-bones funds airline.

Learn on for the total overview.

Reserving Solar Nation Airways Flights

Let’s deal with this from the very outset: Precisely how low cost – or costly – your Solar Nation flight shall be all hinges on what extras you want.

From carry-ons to checked baggage to seat choice, the airline’s a la carte pricing mannequin means you get what you pay for on Solar Nation: The bottom fare will get you a small private merchandise to stow beneath the seat in entrance of you … and nothing else. Thankfully, Solar Nation‘s further charges are usually milder than you will discover with different funds carriers like Spirit and Frontier, in our expertise.

In my case, it began with a $76.90 one-way fare from Denver (DEN) to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP). Proper off the bat, Solar Nation tries to upsell you on bundles with seat assignments, baggage, and different perks that may immediately double the worth of your ticket – or extra.

sun country bundle

In the event you skip that choice, it is time to add your extras individually, beginning with baggageand that is probably one of the best route until you want plenty of extras.

Like many funds carriers, you will get the bottom value by including a bag to your reservation while you buy your flight. Going again and including a bag later will value you an additional $10 or extra, particularly in case you wait to take action on the airport on the day of your flight.

Checked baggage and carry-on baggage usually value the identical quantity with Solar Nation.

sun country bag fees

Learn extra about Solar Nation baggage charges

Then it is time to choose seats – and but once more, the charges had been much more affordable with Solar Nation than many different funds carriers. For instance, Frontier Airways was charging $25 to $55 for a seat task on my flight from Minneapolis to Denver earlier that day.

With Solar Nation, selecting a seat was as low cost as simply $9 … for a center seat in the back of the aircraft. Nonetheless, paying an additional $13 for an aisle seat in row 18 struck me as a good deal. In the event you resolve to not pay, you will get randomly assigned a seat at check-in.

sun country seat fees

The upsell effort continues even after selecting seats, like the choice to tack on a rental automobile together with your flight. Solar Nation additionally provided me the choice so as to add a one-time change payment waiver for $19. Until you are reserving a flight pretty last-minute and count on you will want to vary it, it is in all probability value skipping this selection: Solar Nation permits free adjustments to flights as long as it is 60-plus days upfront. And both manner, you will nonetheless be on the hook for a fare distinction.

sun country change fee waiver

Then it is time to pay. However beware: Solar Nation doesn’t settle for American Specific. The airline hasn’t accepted Amex since manner again in 2017.

sun country amex payment

In the long run, I wound up paying $89.90 for my one-way flight with a seat task again residence to Minneapolis.

At Thrifty Traveler, we do not settle for freebies. We use our personal factors, miles, or money to pay for each single flight or resort you see reviewed right heretogether with this one!

Checking in & Boarding

Within the yr 2023, Solar Nation doesn’t have a smartphone app.

Sure, actually. From the foremost legacy carriers to the most recent funds airways like Breeze Airways and Avelo, having a smartphone app obtainable for vacationers to e-book journey, handle reservations, and examine in for flights looks as if the naked minimal. However not Solar Nation: The airline sundown its app years in the past.

The Star Tribune reported earlier this yr a brand new Solar Nation app is coming, with the airline saying it’s going to go reside someday later this yr or in early 2024. For now, Solar Nation clients are nonetheless in a position to examine in on-line, then open a boarding move on their telephones, together with utilizing Apple Pockets.

Fortunately, Solar Nation participates in TSA PreCheck so you will haven’t any downside stepping into these shorter, devoted lanes as long as you enter your Identified Traveler Quantity with the airline.

sun country boarding pass

Regardless of some formidable targets for the longer term, Solar Nation flies a rising fleet of all Boeing 737s. Ours was ready on the gate to start boarding proper as scheduled, nonetheless sporting the airline’s older paint job – Solar Nation plans to proceed outfitting its planes with its new livery as they arrive in for scheduled repainting.
sun country airlines plane

Solar Nation Airways Cabin & Seats

There is not any mistaking it when strolling onboard a Solar Nation aircraft: It is a funds airline. Top notch seats are lengthy gone, changed with slimmer seats with much less legroom.

However there’s additionally no query in my thoughts that the in-flight expertise on Solar Nation is a step above that on Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant. This is why:

  • Along with commonplace economic system seats, the airline affordsHigher” seating with just a few further inches of legroom and some rows of “Greatest” seats with an adjustable headrest, further recline, and probably the most legroom on the entrance of the aircraft
  • Most funds airways have disabled reclining on their seats, however not Solar Nation
  • It doesn’t matter what row you are in, Solar Nation‘s seats have far superior padding than the ultra-slimline seats that Frontier and Spirit use on their planes

Minnesotans have bemoaned Solar Nation‘s transition from the once-beloved hometown service to a funds airline with larger charges for … nearly every little thing. However from the second you step on the aircraft, it is clear Solar Nation has charted a center floor: It might not be a full-service airline anymore, but it surely‘s not a full-fledged funds service, both.

sun country plane

Over time, Solar Nation has retrofitted its complete fleet of 737s with this new, low-cost look. Every aircraft has 186 seats onboard, all specified by a 3-3 configuration very similar to any airline flying domestically as of late.

They’re definitely not first-class seats, however the cabin begins with just a few rows of Solar Nation‘s “Greatest” seating, which sport 34 inches of pitch (the aviation business parlance for “legroom”) – just a few inches greater than the 29 inches you will discover in commonplace seats. These seats additionally every have a padded and adjustable headrest and devoted common energy sockets in addition to USB-A ports.

On my flight, these seats on the entrance of the aircraft had been obtainable for an additional $42 – $29 greater than I paid for the standard seat.

sun country best seats

But when extra legroom is what you are after, you are able to do even higher. Exit row seats in rows 14 and 15 include a whopping 38 inches of pitch. Whereas they do not have a headrest and the opposite bells and whistles you get within theGreatestpart, these exit row seats are additionally cheaper: They had been $26 or $27 on my flight.

The seats all through the remainder of the cabin are kind of an identical: a pleasant, flat navy with some easy stitching.

sun country airlines seats

sun country airlines review seats 1 scaled

Whereas these newer Solar Nation seats are definitely on the slimmer facet, they’re much more forgiving than the stiff seats you will discover flying on the likes of Frontier and Spirit. Sitting down, the padding was noticeable – and appreciated. This is a glance from the facet.

sun country airlines seats

Certain, it lacks a headrest – at the very least in case you‘re not sitting up within theGreatest” seats on the entrance of the aircraft. However these are a far cry from the plywood-and-leather seats on ultra-low-cost carriers. Consolation-wise, they’re far nearer to Delta Air Strains than they’re to a service like Spirit, in case you ask me. Heck, I’ve had worse seats flying with American Airways.

In Solar Nation‘s commonplace seats, the legroom was tight however manageable. On paper, these seats have 29 inches of pitch. In follow, the slimline seats Solar Nation makes use of means these 29 inches get you one thing nearer to the 31 inches of pitch you will discover on many Delta or United flights, since these seats merely take up more room.

At 5 ft 10 inches, I felt like I had loads of legroom. And there was greater than sufficient room to slip a backpack beneath the seat in entrance of me with out sacrificing that helpful house.

sun country airlines legroom

Do not anticipate finding seatback screens flying Solar Nation. As an alternative, there is a helpful storage compartment for inflight menus and different literature. There are additionally loads of air vents and studying lights obtainable overhead.

sun country seatback

However even the conventional seats have a function you will not discover on many funds airways: USB-A sockets to maintain your smartphones and different gadgets charged. There are two of those energy packing containers in every three-seat part. That is one thing that even Southwest has solely not too long ago begun to supply on its planes, but it surely‘s commonplace with Solar Nation.

There are additionally substantial mesh pockets to retailer your belongings at each seat.

sun country airlines inseat power

The theme of Solar Nation outdoing its fellow funds carriers continues: Every seat additionally has a full-size tray that folds down – not the tiny cabinets that you will discover on Frontier and the like. There’s greater than sufficient house right here for a full-size laptop computer if you could get some work executed.

sun country airlines tray table

You’ll be able to even recline your seat! Normal economic system seats get a meager 2 inches of recline, however each inch helps.

sun country airlines

In the event you‘re attempting to work or textual content buddies, there isn’t any full-fledged Wi-Fi onboard Solar Nation Airways. As an alternative, Solar Nation affords what it calls “AirFi,” permitting vacationers to attach with their private gadgets to stream motion pictures and TV reveals or play video games, all totally free. But once more, that units Solar Nation other than most of its low-cost rivals: Solely Spirit affords bonafide Wi-Fi onboard.

sun country airlines airfi instructions

It took me some time to get related however as soon as I did, I used to be pleasantly shocked on the choice, which even included just a few latest blockbusters. Whereas there are no seatback screens, at the very least there’s some inflight leisure, supplied you carry your personal gadget.

sun country airlines wifi

There are three toilets onboard every Solar Nation 737: One on the entrance of the aircraft and two all the best way on the rear. Whereas definitely primary, they had been in good condition and stored clear all through the flight.

sun country airlines lavatory

Service, Meals & Drinks Flying Solar Nation

Many times, Solar Nation finds methods large and small to set itself other than the flock of funds airways. And that may simply be clearest with in-flight service.

Flying Spirit or Frontier, it’s possible you’ll not even be capable to get a cup of water totally free. And overlook the drink service with a free soda or juice – that’ll value you $4 or extra.

But Solar Nation nonetheless supplies complimentary drink service on its flights, with espresso, tea, juice, and mushy drinks obtainable to anybody. Even on a comparatively brief flight, flight attendants even got here again by the cabin to supply refills.

sun country airlines drink menu

There are no complimentary snacks obtainable, although the airline has loads obtainable for buy. And very similar to the foremost full-service airways, it’s also possible to pay for a stiffer drink – although vacationers who spring for a “Greatest” seat on the entrance of the aircraft get one free alcoholic drink with their improve.

Whereas it might not be the identical beloved hometown airline model from a decade in the past, however Solar Nation nonetheless leans exhausting into its Minnesota roots with its inflight menu. There are Minnesota-made Fulton beers obtainable to buy in addition to Prairie Natural gins and vodka and a pre-mixed Outdated Normal from native distillery Crooked Water Spirits. The native aptitude extends to the snack choice with Dot’s Pretzels, Wiley Wallaby licorice, and We Are Nuts Path Combine. Solar Nation even affords what it calls a “Hometown Taste Bundle” – a $1 low cost if you buy a Minnesota-made drink and snack collectively.

sun country menu

Costs are affordable, too: $9 for a craft beer or liquor, and also you get a free bottle of Bloody Mary or margarita combine when buying a bottle of booze. In the event you want greater than a nibble, Solar Nation additionally sells extra substantial “Bites Field” and “Bistro Field” with a bundle of various snacks for $9.

How Does Solar Nation Evaluate with Different Low-Value Carriers?

Solar Nation has tried to chart a center floor between the full-service service it as soon as was and bare-bones airways like Spirit and Frontier. In the event you ask me, they’ve succeeded.

Charges could also be excessive and the legroom on its refurbished planes is tight, however the airline went with better-padded seats than the stiff, ultra-slimline seating you’ll discover on its low-cost rivals. It additionally affords in-flight streaming to private gadgets, one thing you will not discover on many different funds airways.

You want solely examine the seats on Solar Nation

sun country seats

to Frontier …

seats on frontier airlines

… to see that Solar Nation is a special breed of airline. I might moderately put my butt in a Solar Nation aircraft than fly Frontier 100 occasions out of 100.

No airline is immune from delays, cancellations, lengthy strains, or misplaced baggage – and that features Solar Nation. Typically, issues simply go unsuitable.

However when issues do go unsuitable, that is when the ache of flying a low-cost service is sharpest: Customer support is a giant space funds airways in the reduction of in comparison with main carriers. There could also be fewer brokers on the gate, fewer staff working the telephones, and fewer of the infrastructure to get better when issues disintegrate.

In my thoughts, it is worse on different funds carriers than with Solar Nation for one main motive: Scheduling. Whereas many low-cost carriers might fly simply as soon as a day (or just a few occasions every week) to your vacation spot, Solar Nation usually operates a fuller schedule with extra day by day departures – at the very least out and in of its Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) hub.

For instance, it flies 3 times a day from Minneapolis to Phoenix (PHX) within the winter, whereas Spirit flies the identical route simply as soon as.

sun country vs spirit scaled

In case your 7 a.m. departure with Solar Nation will get delayed or canceled, at the very least you’ve got obtained choices. Guide that very same flight with Spirit solely to see it will get canceled, and also you‘re probably caught till at the very least the next day.

However one episode nonetheless looms massive over Solar Nation‘s popularity: April 2018, when it stranded a whole lot of vacationers in Mexico as a winter storm hammered its Minneapolis hub. 5-plus years later, each subsequent pc outage and scheduling snafu nonetheless triggers feedback tying again to that meltdown. The airline has stated it is realized from that saga, but it surely‘s clear that many vacationers view it as proof that Solar Nation‘s transformation was the unsuitable transfer.

Solar Nation might not be the beloved hometown airline that it as soon as was, with first-class seats and serving cheeseburgers onboard. But it surely‘s additionally not a bare-bones funds airline, both.

Backside Line

Solar Nation is undeniably a funds airline in identify and in enterprise mannequin. Coupled with operational snafus through the years, that transformation alone has been sufficient for a lot of would-be Solar Nation flyers to swear off the airline.

However contained in the aircraft, it is one thing completely different. Legroom is definitely tight however manageable, with much more comfy and decently padded seats than its rivals promote at related costs. And the in-flight service with free drinks is far nearer to Delta or American than to Spirit and Allegiant, the place you pay for completely every little thing.

When the worth is correct – and it usually is – I will gladly proceed flying with Solar Nation.

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