Sun Country Airlines to launch two international routes from Milwaukee, reports a profitable first quarter

Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737-83N WL N830SY (msn 30706) (40 Years of Flight) MIA (Antony J. Best). Image: 963339.

Sun Country Airlines is planning to expand at Milwaukee with two new international routes to the Caribbean next winter.

Twice-weekly Milwaukee – Montego Bay service will start on December 26.

Twice-weekly Milwaukee – Punta Cana service will start on January 25, 2025.

On financial side, Sun Country Airlines Holdings, Inc. (Sun Country Airlines) previously reported its financial results for its first quarter ended March 31, 2024.

“Sun Country’s diversified business model produced another strong first quarter with margins that we expect to finish at the top of the industry,” said Jude Bricker, Chief Executive Officer of Sun Country. “Total revenue was up 5.9% versus the first quarter of 2023, reaching a record quarterly high of $311 million(1) while costs remained in check. We continue to grow in all areas of our business, with total block hours growing by nearly 10% and scheduled passenger service ASMs growing by over 16%. Total passenger revenue per ASM (TRASM) declined by 9.6%, driven by both our growth as well as significant capacity additions by other airlines in some of our markets. Our strong results would not have been possible without our dedicated employees who delivered the number one completion factor in the industry during the quarter.”

Overview of First Quarter

  Three Months Ended March 31,  
(unaudited) (in millions, except per share amounts)   2024   2023 % Change
Total Operating Revenue $ 311.5 $ 294.1 5.9  
Operating Income   55.2   55.8 (1.1 )
Income Before Income Tax   46.6   49.7 (6.3 )
Net Income   35.3   38.3 (7.9 )
Diluted earnings per share $ 0.64 $ 0.64  
  Three Months Ended March 31,  
(unaudited) (in millions, except per share amounts)   2024   2023 % Change
Adjusted Operating Income (2) $ 56.7 $ 58.5 (3.0 )
Adjusted Income Before Income Tax (2)   48.1   52.5 (8.5 )
Adjusted Net Income (2)   36.5   40.4 (9.8 )
Adjusted diluted earnings per share (2) $ 0.66 $ 0.68 (2.9 )

For the quarter ended March 31, 2024, Sun Country reported net income of $35 million and income before income tax of $47 million, on $311 million of revenue. Adjusted income before income tax(2) for the quarter was $48 million. GAAP operating income during the quarter was $55 million, while adjusted operating income(2) was $57 million, operating margin was 17.7% and adjusted operating margin(2) was 18.2%.  

“We had another good first quarter which is historically our strongest,” said Dave Davis, President and Chief Financial Officer.   “Our performance was particularly strong in two areas.   First, our growth was not constrained by staffing issues, leading to a nearly 10% improvement in aircraft utilization.   Second, we continued to demonstrate strong cost control with a year over year decline in adjusted CASM(3), continuing a trend started in the fourth quarter of last year.   This improvement came despite a planned investment in increased maintenance expenses.   Our balance sheet remains healthy.   During the quarter, we repurchased $11.5 million worth of SNCY shares through our existing share repurchase program.   First quarter capex was $29.7 million and we have acquired all of the aircraft we need to support our expected growth through at least 2025.”

Notable Highlights 

  • Extended the selling schedule through December 2024. The company will operate 122 routes serving 108 airports.
  • The company acquired three aircraft in the first quarter of this year. One aircraft was purchased for cash and another was taken on finance lease. These aircraft are expected to enter revenue service in the second quarter. The third aircraft was purchased early in the quarter and is the seventh aircraft that is on lease to another airline.
  • The company repurchased 755,000 shares at an average price of $15.22 during the first quarter.

Capacity

System block hours flown during the first quarter of 2024 grew by 9.6% year-over-year due to a 16.2% increase in scheduled service block hours. Both cargo block hours and charter block hours declined in the first quarter by 1.1% and 3.0% respectively year-over-year. Cargo block hours were influenced by scheduled maintenance in the quarter while charter block hours were optimized to minimize non-productive ferry flights.

Charter block hours under long-term contracts comprised 75% of the total charter flying performed in the first quarter of 2024. As the Company continues to normalize its aircraft utilization, it is pursuing more ad-hoc charter flying.

Revenue 

For the first quarter of 2024, the Company reported total revenue of $311 million, which was 5.9% more than the first quarter of 2023. The Company’s scheduled service TRASM(4) of 12.20 cents in the first quarter of 2024 decreased 11.7% year-over-year, while scheduled service ASMs increased 16.4%. The first quarter 2024 total fare per scheduled passenger of $196 was lower than first quarter 2023 by 11.3% as scheduled service revenue passengers grew 16.0%. In the first quarter of 2024, the Company’s charter service revenue was $47 million, an increase of 2.4% year-over-year. On a rate basis, first quarter 2024 charter revenue per block hour was 5.6% higher than the rate in the first quarter of 2023. This rate increase includes the impact of lower fuel prices which reduced the fuel reimbursement amount that we received from our charter customers by 20% year-over-year.

In the first quarter of 2024, cargo revenue was $24 million, a 2.5% increase versus the first quarter of 2023. The variance was primarily driven by the annual rate escalation which went into effect in mid-December 2023.

Cost

For the first quarter of 2024, total GAAP operating expenses increased 7.5% year-over-year, primarily due to a 29.0% increase in maintenance expense from aircraft heavy maintenance and a 34.6% in landing fees and airport rent as the COVID assistance used by airports to keep rates lower expired. Fuel expense decreased by 2.7% compared to first quarter 2023. This combination drove first quarter CASM to decline 5.4% and adjusted CASM(3) to decrease 0.1% versus last year.

Balance Sheet and Liquidity

Total liquidity(5) was $179 million on March 31, 2024, while the Company’s net debt(6) was $565 million.

(in millions – amounts may not recalculate due to rounding) March 31, 2024   December 31, 2023
  (Unaudited)    
Cash and Cash Equivalents $ 28.4   $ 46.3
Available-for-Sale Securities   126.4     134.2
Amount Available Under Revolving Credit Facility   24.4     24.7
Total Liquidity $ 179.2   $ 205.2
       
(in millions – amounts may not recalculate due to rounding) March 31, 2024   December 31, 2023
  (Unaudited)    
Total Debt, net $ 388.1   $ 401.6
Finance Lease Obligations   313.8     277.3
Operating Lease Obligations   18.1     18.8
Total Debt, net, and Lease Obligations   720.0     697.7
Cash and Cash Equivalents   28.4     46.3
Available-for-Sale Securities   126.4     134.2
Net Debt $ 565.2   $ 517.2

Fleet

As of March 31, 2024, the Company had 44 aircraft in its passenger service fleet, operated 12 freighter aircraft in its cargo operation and had seven aircraft that are currently on lease to unaffiliated airlines.

Guidance for Second Quarter 2024

  Q2 2024 H/(L) vs Q2 2023
Total revenue – millions $255 to $265 (2%) to 1%
Economic fuel cost per gallon $2.93 8%
Operating income margin – percentage 4% to 7% (11pp) to (8pp)
Effective tax rate 23%  
Total system block hours – thousands 37 to 38 8% to 11%

Route Map:

Top Copyright Photo: Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737-83N WL N830SY (msn 30706) (40 Years of Flight) MIA (Antony J. Best). Image: 963339.

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