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Sun Country Airlines exits Sonoma County airport, ending Minneapolis, Las Vegas flights

For the first time in four years, the number of commercial air carriers is contracting at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport with Sun Country Airlines discontinuing routes through here.

The Minnesota-based airline chose to exit the growing market rather than continue its seasonal flights between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Las Vegas, with a layover in Santa Rosa on both sides. The discount air carrier began offering service through Sonoma County in summer 2017, and will end a three-year run to Wine Country.

“I was concerned when they announced a shift in strategy,” Sonoma County Airport Manager Jon Stout said. “You don't like to lose partners or destinations like that. And Sun Country has been a great partner.”

Sun Country operated up to three flights per week between the Twin Cities and Las Vegas each summer. In 2019, the airline bumped up the start of its yearly service from August to May for the Thursday westbound and Sunday eastbound service, with stops in Santa Rosa. The move resulted in an increase in its number of passengers year over year.

Last year, Sun Country recorded more than 14,000 passengers on its 120 flights through the local air hub, representing a more than 34% uptick from 2018.

But over the last two years, the airline moved from 126-seat jets to aircraft with 186 seats. While the route remained popular in Sonoma County, it was not delivering the passenger counts the airline sought to maintain the service, Stout said.

There is a chance Sun Country may return with flights in 2021, he said, but those details are still being worked out.

The airline for now doesn't plan to continue its Minneapolis-to-Santa Rosa route, but will track future demand, a Sun Country representative said by email.

Alaska Airlines is now considering adding year-round flights to Las Vegas as early as this fall, but more likely next year, Stout said. If Alaska, which this summer will offer as many as 13 daily flights from Santa Rosa to other West Coast cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Seattle, picks up the route, it would cement the end of Sun Country's tenure in Sonoma County.

Sun Country was the most recent addition at Sonoma County airport, joining in the months after both American Airlines and United Airlines - two of the world's four largest commercial carriers - also launched service in the region in 2017.

Alaska Airlines became the first carrier to provide service out of Santa Rosa in 2007, and Allegiant Air previously spent a year in the market between 2016 and 2017.

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