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Sun Country Airlines owner warns of possible shutdown

The owner of Sun Country Airlines has warned pilots that because they can't agree on a contract, "our management team has begun the process of downsizing the airline, for what will need to be its ultimate shutdown."...

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The owner of Sun Country Airlines has warned pilots that because they can’t agree on a contract, "our management team has begun the process of downsizing the airline, for what will need to be its ultimate shutdown."

That threat was sent to Sun Country pilots Wednesday afternoon in a letter from Chairman Marty Davis, whose family owns the Mendota Heights, Minn.-based carrier.

Sun Country pilots have been unhappy about their pay and for years have been locked in negotiations with the company. Davis said he presented the pilots with what he called Sun Country’s "last and best offer" -- an offer that a leader of the pilots group dismissed as "wholly inadequate."

Capt. Brian Roseen, leader of the Air Line Pilots Association at Sun Country, said the pilots would remain the lowest paid among their peers under the company offer. He said that they want to negotiate to narrow the gap and that the National Mediation Board has tentatively scheduled another negotiating session for May 27-29 in Washington, D.C.

"We are disappointed Mr. Davis has chosen to respond to us with the threat of a shutdown even as the Association is prepared to present its counter-proposal," Roseen said.

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Sun Country President John Fredericksen said Davis’ letter to the pilots association was meant as a private communication and would not comment further on the negotiations. But he did comment on Sun Country operations.

"Nothing is going on at Sun Country that will have any impact on current customers," Fredericksen said.

Sun Country carried about 1.6 million passengers at Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport in 2014, ranking it as the airport’s third-largest carrier, behind Delta and Southwest. It has also been one of the fastest-growing, seeing 10 percent passenger growth at MSP in 2014.

The "hometown airline," as Sun Country sometimes calls itself, offers travelers a welcome bit of competition to the dominant presence of Delta Air Lines, which carries 74 percent of MSP’s passengers.

In Davis’ letter to the pilots, he told union officials that "our offer is a ’stretch’ for the company financially, but that we were willing to do so in spite of the quite concerning risk to the company’s financial future."

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