Note: this is a vintage airline review! Sun Country has switched to an ultra low-cost business model since I published this, so I’d recommend reading my Sun Country 737-800 Standard seat review to see what the basic economy experience is like today.
The following is an in-depth review of Sun Country 737-700 economy class from San Diego to Minneapolis (and back). As you’re about to read, it’s actually a fairly decent basic economy product – so don’t go wrinkling your nose at it quite yet.
Segment 1: San Diego to Minneapolis
Today was one of those days. You know, the kind that just flows by minute-by-minute and hour-to-hour as smooth as hot melted chocolate and you just can’t help but to feel good inside.
I haven’t had a travel day that went this smoothly in a long time, and it was so nice to travel with absolutely no pressure (and nary a hiccup) the entire way. Seriously – everything went great, and I wish that it could always be like this. Let me tell you all about it…
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Minneapolis, MN (MSP)
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Duration: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Seat: 22A (economy class)
Here’s the video I created to document this flight:
This flight to Minneapolis wasn’t scheduled to depart until 12:55pm, which gave me ample time to be lazy a bit in the morning. I say “a bit” since my idea of being lazy usually involves exercise of some kind (bike rides or running), but I did sleep in a little so I guess that qualifies as proper laziness!
Anyway, being able to start a busy travel day with some exercise usually puts me in a pretty good mood so I was already feeling like the king of the hill even before I got to the airport.
The goodness continued in very large doses once I arrived. The security line took all of 5 minutes to get through, and there wasn’t even a line at my favorite food spot here at SAN. I swear Camden Food Co. isn’t paying me to say this, but starting any trip with a Heathwhich panini swimming around in my belly is the perfect amount of fuel I need to keep me going throughout the day. Well, for a few hours at least.
I had a bit of extra time to kill after breakfast, but doing a lot of plane spotting all over Terminal 2 West is a great way to stay busy. I remember back in my aviation photography days spending all day here walking the entire terminal back and forth taking pics of anything that moved, and I specifically remember thinking that the time just flew by.
I guess that means that you can put an airplane in front of my face and I’ll be mesmerized for hours. Or something like that…
Boarding was called right on time, which was completely expected based on how my day had been going so far. It seemed as if nothing could go wrong today, and I didn’t want to jinx it, but I just knew that the rest of the day was going to be just as good. Let’s not get ahead of myself though. Here are some pics of the boarding process.
The interior of these Sun Country 737-700s isn’t much to rave about, but it did hurt me a little inside as I walked past the first class seats and shuffled my way back to the bowels of economy.
It was completely full load today, but luckily there were no screaming kids or annoying seatmates anywhere to be found. At least in my row. Pushback and take off was as beautiful as ever as it is here in San Diego.
Cabin service started roughly 20 minutes after departure, but with me being all the way back here in row 22, it was a bit of a wait before the flight attendants reached our row with that snack and beverage cart.
But I was perfectly content to wait – after all, I still had that awesome Healthwhich churning inside of me keeping me happy and feeling not at all anxious for a cup of water and a cheap economy class snack.
The flyover states rolled beneath us one by one as we pushed east, but there was a bit of weather out there which blocked much of the view along the way. No worries though. I mean, how often do we get to look down on clouds, right?
I find it kind of sad that flying is the equivalent of an annoying bus ride to most people, and somewhere along the way the miracle of flight has been lost. What the heck happened? Not too many passengers seem interested in looking out the window these days. Weird I tell ya.
It had been a very long time since I was last in Minnesota during the summer, and I completely forgot how green and beautiful it can be way up here. And those lakes! They weren’t kidding when they said that Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and I could almost hear the buzzing of mosquitoes flying about as we made our approach into to MSP.
Make no mistake about it folks – this is mosquito country, and you don’t dare going outside unprotected this time of year.
It was a beautifully hot and sunny summer afternoon here at MSP when we touched down, and as we were taxiing into the terminal I turned on my phone and I saw that my mother had texted me a photo of my grandfather enjoying a drink on the flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis.
They were about an hour behind me, and all along I was curious as to how he was doing on the trip so far. I wasn’t worried though. This guy plays golf and bowls twice a week, so a two and a half hour plane ride should’ve been easy for him. And it was.
Apparently we were the first plane to arrive for this early evening bank of flights, because the terminal was completely empty when we docked – but one by one the rest of those gates filled with other bright blue and orange Sun Country 737s coming in from all over the place.
They run a pretty good operation here at MSP, and their terminal almost feels like a small regional airport rather than the huge monstrosity that it is over on the Delta side. It’s kind of refreshing actually.
Segment 2: Minneapolis to San Diego
The trip to Minnesota ended up being really nice. It was really fun to hang out with grandpa again, together with the entire family at my sister’s house enjoying beautiful midwestern US summer weather. I’d like to point out that although he may be 90 years old, he wore me out.
We golfed, we cut down trees, and we played billiards and ping-pong. The entire time. Where the hell does this guy get so much energy? As I said before, if I have half the amount of strength and energy that he does when I’m that age (if I make it that long), I’d be thrilled. The guy is a machine.
Now completely worn out and exhausted, it was time to head back home to San Diego…
Minneapolis, MN (MSP) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Duration: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Seat: 6F (economy class)
Although my flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 10 AM from MSP, I still had to get up at the crack of dawn to make the hour and a half drive from my sister’s house. Yeah, she lives out in the sticks. Well, technically there are more corn fields than forests where she lives, but you know what I mean.
There was a rumble of thunder in the distance as I rolled out of bed and into my rental car, but otherwise the mood was calm and still. It’s been along time since I’ve experienced a stormy midwest summer morning like that, and I was totally having flashbacks to my boyhood in Michigan.
can’t we ever get storms like that in San Diego? I love being in Southern California more than anything else, but a little variety in the weather would be nice from time to time!
Remember how I said that the Humphrey terminal (terminal 2) at MSP feels like a small regional facility? I was getting that vibe tenfold this morning after dropping off the rental car and walking through the front door.
Terminal 2 is nothing like terminal 1 (Delta’s home) and it feels like a completely different airport. As a matter fact, if you would’ve dropped me there blindfolded and asked me to tell you where I was standing, all I would’ve been able to mutter would have been something like, “uuuuhhhhh…”
I’m not at all complaining about this feeling like a regional airport though. As a matter fact, I quite like the Humphrey terminal and I think that it fits the spirit of Sun Country Airlines perfectly. It’s hard to explain exactly, but Sun Country feels like a down-home / modest regional airline to me, and I get the sense that they like to stay low-key. The Humphrey terminal matches this feeling spot on.
This “small town” feel is also why having a short layover in Minneapolis is ok (as long as you’re flying out of terminal 2 at least).
It’s an older facility, and you can tell that it’s been there a while, but it was still clean and simple, and it was very easy to navigate through. There are no fancy shops or restaurants here like there is over in terminal one, and that’s not a bad thing. Just a clean simple airport without the fluff.
The gate agents were offering first class upgrades on this flight for $199, and while it did sound tempting, I wasn’t really sure it would’ve been worth it. I had already eaten breakfast, and I wasn’t feeling any burning desire to sit in a slightly bigger seat for a few hours.
Not for $200 at least. Those upgrades didn’t last long, however. There were plenty of other people with burning desires of their own who scooped them up right quick.
The weather was still a bit gray and gloomy as we pushed back and taxied around the airport for a bit, and I was quite looking forward to getting above that cloud layer and seeing a bit of sunshine. It was a bit of a wait though, as there seemed to be a lot of congestion around the airport this morning and all we were doing was moving ahead 20 feet and then stopping for several minutes. Over and over again.
We eventually got out of MSP and climbed above the clouds, and that’s where this turned into one of my least-eventful flights in a long time. The first thing I did was stuff my earbuds into my ears and tried to start catching up on some podcasts.
I say “tried” because I fell asleep within 20 minutes of departure and it was all a blur from there. Economy class sleep sucks, as I can never stay asleep longer than five minutes due to my head falling straight down into my lap. I’ve tried neck pillows in the past, but they don’t help. I actually find them to be more uncomfortable then having my face fall into my lap every five minutes, and to this day I’ve yet to find a comfortable way to sleep in economy.
Also making sleep difficult was the fact that the Podcasts we’re still playing, and they were causing me to have some really trippy dreams between head bobs. You have no idea how bad I was yearning for Asiana A380 business class right about then…
I eventually gave up on trying to sleep just as we were crossing the Grand Canyon, which was actually a good thing because the weather was clear and I got it awesome look at the entire thing.
I’ve flown over the Grand Canyon many times in the past (too many times to count) but this was the first time since my family trip to Arizona last spring. It was pretty awesome to look down on the Grand Canyon this time and be able to recognize all the roads that we drove on and all the spots we stopped at during that trip!
San Diego rolled out the red carpet for us with a beautiful clear and bright morning with awesome views of the entire region during the approach. I’ve had some pretty bad luck this year flying into San Diego in gray and gloomy conditions, but not today. They don’t call it Sun Diego for nothing!
It was right about lunchtime when we arrived, so instead of going home right away I opted to grab a quick (and obnoxiously expensive) lunch from the food court.
It was either that or struggling to create something edible with stale bread at home. It’s hard to justify the cost of such an expensive lunch sometimes, especially when there is food at home, but it had been a long trip and I was tired…so what the heck. Special occasion, right?
I walked out of the airport that afternoon feeling like I finally had a pretty good understanding of what Sun Country is all about. I already tried Sun Country first class back in December 2016, and with these two economy class segments on this trip, I can confidently say that they run a pretty good operation.
Now let’s just hope that the new CEO doesn’t screw things up with his plan to switch to a low-cost business model. It would be a real shame to see such a good airline join the others in the race to the bottom.
Remember when I said Sun Country first class is better than Delta first class? Well, I can almost say the same for economy. I found a flight attendants to be generally happier (subjective I know), but the seats and the snacks were exactly the same. The only real advantage that Delta has over Sun Country in economy is the in-flight entertainment product.
With Delta, you get a big video screen in the seat back in front of you, and most content is free. If you want to watch a video on Sun Country, you have to pay to rent a digital video player. That’s not a big deal to me, but it may be for some. I’d still choose sun country over Delta when flying to Minneapolis – in any class.