Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines will drop first class from its Boeing 737 cabins, as it proceeds with an earlier-announced seat densification under a new low-cost strategy.

The airline had previously said it plans to halve its 12-seat first class cabin to six seats, but now says it will eliminate the cabin altogether.

A Sun Country spokesperson says that only about 44% of the airline's first class seats are purchased at that fare level, and 30% of first class seats are taken by passengers who do not generate revenue.

"This tells us that our product does not align with our customer," says the spokesperson.

The airline will add seats to its 737-800 fleet to bring the total seat count on board to 183, up from 168 currently. It currently operates 16 737-800s and four 737-700s, but the airline says the four 737-700s which have 126 seats on board will not be reconfigured.

The first newly configured aircraft will go into service from 1 November, and Sun Country aims to complete the modification on the fleet by end-January 2019.

In an e-mail to the airline's frequent flyers, Bricker says the airline will offer three seat options once the reconfiguration is complete. Aside from standard seats, customers will be able to purchase seats with additional legroom or "an elevated travel experience in a premium seat".

He adds that the carrier is still finalising seat details, but that all seats will be equipped with in-seat power. Passengers will also be able to stream entertainment on board to their personal devices.

A seat map shared in Bricker's message showed fewer than 30 such premium seats on board, and about 36 seats with additional legroom.

The Eagan, Minnesota-based airline is undergoing a change in strategy led by a team that worked previously at Allegiant Air. Bricker was chief operating officer at Allegiant, where he worked for more than a decade before he left that airline in May 2017. Allegiant's former vice-president of marketing and sales Brian Davis joined Sun Country this year as its senior vice-president for commercial.

In January, the airline began charging for carry-on bags as it unbundled fares, in the first step of an effort to lower costs. Bricker has said that while the airline does not aspire to be an ultra low-cost carrier like Allegiant or Spirit Airlines, he believes that Sun Country could learn some lessons from the discount airlines.

Sun Country was recently sold to private equity firm Apollo Global Management by the Davis family, less than a year after Bricker came on board.

Source: Cirium Dashboard