Minneapolis/St. Paul-based Sun Country Airlines is accelerating its transition from leisure carrier to ultra-LCC with a full-fleet cabin interior renovation set for completion by the end of 2018, according to a letter from Sun Country president and CEO Jude Bricker distributed to customers this week.

Bricker described the plan as “a huge undertaking, the largest investment in our passengers’ in-flight experience in the history of the company … a complete refresh of the interior of all of our aircraft.” The airline is expected to invest $20 million in the project, a Sun Country spokesperson confirmed.

Sun Country’s operating fleet at present comprises 20 aircraft at its seasonal low, after starting the year with 27 aircraft. The company plans to end 2018 with 30 aircraft. The all leased-in fleet is a mix of largely Boeing 737-800s, along with several 737-700s, which are expected to be eventually phased out.

Bricker, who took over as Sun Country CEO in July 2017 after 11 years at Las Vegas-based ultra-LCC Allegiant Air, said the company was still finalizing full details of its new seat options but allowed that each seat would feature in-seat power access, a full tray table, recline ability and “comfortable leg room.”

A seat map accompanying Bricker’s letter revealed a 183-seat layout, in which the first-class section—currently 12 seats in 2x2 configuration—is replaced by a premium seating section of 27 seats in a 3x3 layout. The rest of the aircraft is entirely in a 3x3 configuration, featuring 36 seats with extra leg room and 120 standard seats. The redesign represents a 9% rise in the number of seats altogether, from 168 at present.

Bricker asked customers to be patient during the transition. “When we are done, the result will be a great flight at a great price for every passenger,” Bricker said.

In 2017, Sun Country flew approximately 2.5 million passengers. While the airline has largely built a business ferrying customers in cold-weather climates to leisure destinations in the US, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean, Sun Country is transforming its model to gain a piece of the rapidly growing North American LCC travel sector.

Bringing in former Allegiant COO Bricker was one step toward that goal; in April, the airline was sold to New York investment firm Apollo Global Management, which will help to bring in further capital and guidance, and according to former Sun Country chairman Marty Davis, leaves the airline “well-positioned for continued expansion and its evolution beyond its Minnesota base.”

A look at the airline’s flight map shows its expansion beyond purely leisure/warm-weather destinations is already established, with point-to-point routes between Sun Country’s Minneapolis/St. Paul base to Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, New York, Boston and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Being the largest privately held fully independent airline in the US, Sun Country is not obligated to offer its financial results publicly, but according to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the airline’s net profit increased 73.4% year-over-year in 2017 to $28.3 million.

Mark Nensel mark.nensel@informa.com