Green losing West Coast connection with departure of Sun Country on October 28

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Offerings at T.F. Green continue to get slimmer, as the Rhode Island Airport Corporation announced over the weekend that Sun Country Airlines will end all four of its routes out of the Warwick airport after October 28, 2019.

“This is an earlier end to the season than planned,” airport spokesman Bill Fischer wrote in a press release sent on Saturday. The four routes include two that had been flying nonstop since the airline began service out of Green this April (to Minneapolis/St. Paul and Nashville), and two that just started nonstop service earlier this month (Las Vegas and Nashville).

Fischer explained in the release that the Minneapolis/St. Paul route was due to operate through the beginning of January, while the Vegas, Nashville and New Orleans routes would have operated until the beginning of April 2020.

Passengers have the ability to receive a refund if they booked a trip beyond October 28 using Sun Country. It is apparent that low passenger numbers out of Green contributed to their decision to pull out of the state prior to their original plans.

“Passengers who booked flights post [Oct. 28] will be contacted regarding refunds,” the release reads. “We have been informed by the airline that their aircraft are being re-deployed to more profitable routes during the peak winter months.”

According to passenger flight data available on RIAC’s website – which unfortunately is only as current as June, 2019 – Sun Country carried 21,822 total passengers in three months.

Once again – similarly to when Norwegian Air Shuttle announced last month that they would be pulling their remaining three routes to Ireland from T.F. Green after this week – the airport cited financial concerns related to the grounded Boeing 737 MAX jet, which has now been barred from flights pending an investigation for over half a year following two deadly incidents within five months of one another in October of 2018 and March of 2019.

“The 737 Max situation continues to put a higher demand on airplane availability and there has been a ripple effect across the industry because of that situation,” the release from Fischer reads.

Overall, flight numbers as of June indicate that Green is having a down year in airplane passengers compared to 2018. At the end of June in 2018, Green listed a total passenger count of 2,108,202 – which represented a 19 percent increase over that same span in 2017. But in 2019, that number has come back to ground, decreasing 9.5 percent to 1,906,166.

It has been anything but a turbulence-free ride for T.F. Green over the past couple months.

Sun Country, which as recently as May was poised to have five routes out of Warwick – including a foothold into the West Coast with Vegas and an exciting offering to the Dominican Republic that never materialized – is now instead poised to completely leave, with no certainty as to whether they will return. Norwegian’s departure will bring a list of foreign offerings that once included Ireland, Scotland, Norway and the French Caribbean down to one slightly less exotic destination in Toronto, Canada.

Even the press release expressed a pointedly cautious optimism about the future of Sun Country at the airport.

“We are looking forward to having Sun Country Airlines restart seasonal service next April; however Sun Country Airlines is still evaluating their schedule for April 2020,” it reads.

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