Tiny Sun Country Airlines' 'genius' decision to fly for Amazon couldn't save it from pandemic-related job cuts

A chance switch to cargo was not enough to save Sun Country employees from the downsizing that has affected almost every other airline. Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Small Sun Country Airlines, based in Minnesota, was one of the most resilient passenger airlines during the coronavirus pandemic, thanks in part to a contract to transport cargo for Amazon.
However, the airline will cut 112 jobs, or 7% of its workforce. Most of the cuts will be caused by attrition, but some employees will be on leave.
The cuts underscore how badly the pandemic has hit the aviation industry.
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Last December, about a month before the COVID-19 virus became common knowledge and rightly feared, a small airline from Minnesota signed a contract to ship packages for Amazon under the Amazon Air brand.
Unknown to the executives at the time, this move would save Sun Country Airlines. Even as passenger demand collapsed, cargo demand remained resilient, and Sun Country expects cargo to grow relative to its business activity as the pandemic continues.
However, the randomly timed switch to cargo was not enough to save the airline's employees from the downsizing that has affected almost every other airline.
This week, the Twin Cities-based airline announced it was shedding 112 jobs, representing about 7% of its workforce, the Star Tribune reported.
Although most of the cuts were achieved through attrition, 18 employees were directly affected, according to the newspaper.
Sun Country received $ 60 million in payroll assistance through the federal CARES bill, part of the $ 25 billion program designed to help prevent airline job losses earlier in the pandemic . In exchange for the aid, the airlines that received the funding were not allowed to take leave of work until after September 30.
Between the aid and the Amazon business, Sun Country was able to make a small profit in the second quarter, in contrast to the massive losses reported by most airlines.
Bookings with the airline are roughly 50% up on 2019 - better than the overall average for the US carrier, which has seen demand down 70%. The airline's size and main customer base - domestic travelers who fly on leisure or visit friends and relatives - easily leave it at an advantage as it adapts to a pandemic that has wrecked business travel.
"This is an email I hope I would never send," CEO Jude Bricker said in a message to the staff quoted by the Star Tribune. "I'm really sorry that, despite our best efforts together, we reached this point."
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