Flight Leaves Without Anyone’s Checked Luggage, Airline Won’t Pay to Deliver Bags

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Sun Country Airlines has transformed itself into a low cost carrier. They brought in a CEO from Allegiant. They’re abolishing their elite program. They’re eliminating first class.

And in a sign, perhaps, of things to come they stranded hundreds of passengers in Mexico in April. They cancelled flights due to weather, but they were the last flights of the season. And they decided not to send planes to pick up the passengers, instead everyone was left to buy walkup tickets on other airlines. They claimed to have done it because they thought it was the best thing for customers.

Copyright: tupungato / 123RF Stock Photo

Now comes word that Thursday night’s flight SY117 from Minneapolis to Las Vegas took off without any of its passengers’ luggage. The airline called it an ‘error.’

I’ve certainly seen airlines decide to leave without luggage when baggage systems are delayed and they don’t want to delay the flight (and cause additional downline delays for more passengers whose flights would be on the aircraft). It’s unfortunate, and of course customers aren’t informed of this until they land generally. Although some full service airlines update baggage tracking via their mobile app.

However an error — not knowing whether baggage is on board — troubles me more. The pilot should be aware of this prior to pushback. I have to imagine ‘quickly’ is prior to takeoff, and that the airline simply decided not to turn around and load bags. They were already slightly delayed, and the plane would be making a return trip to Minneapolis later that night as SY120.

Sun Country is providing a refund of checked bag fees for the flight and a $50 voucher towards future travel. What struck me though is that for most passengers the wouldn’t pay for bag delivery, a majority of customers on the flight had to return to the airport to pick up their luggage the next day. They don’t explain what criteria was used for which bags they were willing to deliver.

The return trip to the airport — by car, burning gas and parking, or by Uber or cab at roundtrip expense — is as much a burden as not having bag arrive until the next day.

Remember of course if you’re in that situation — even with Sun Country — that the credit card you used to purchase your tickets may cover this. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for instance will cover up to $100 per day for 5 days in expenses you have to incur without your bags when delivery is delayed 6 hours or more.

Now that Spirit Airlines is adding inflight internet, Sun Country seems to be on track to vie for intentionally worst airline in America.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This airline will be dead within two years. Mark my words. They can’t compete with NK and F9, and the business travelers in MSP they once had have all switched to DL. Dumb, so dumb.

  2. Gary, I think you’re a bit out of date.

    According to the latest statistics I was able to find (DOT appears not to be a big believer in real-time data), Spirit’s on-time performance is now better than that of both AA and UA. And Spirit’s lost-bag rate is the lowest of any major airline in the United States.

    Also, Spirit’s average cost/km flown is 14 cents versus 29 cents for AA.

    None of that makes them a great airline, obviously, but they’re not anywhere close to being the “worst” airline.*

    * Full disclosure: I’m under six feet tall, and I’m not fat.

  3. @tom

    none of what you write means anything, statistics is meaningless to some one who was forced to buy a walk up fare and the sun country will not deliver the bags even though it was airline’s fault for not loading them in the first place. This makes them the worst airline, regardless of their ontime or any other statistics.
    I will not fly them now because they would do it again, that is leave pax hanging to buy walkup fares.

  4. @tom what information are you seeing because UA and DL have far superior on time performance compared to Spirit over the last 12months at least and their cancellations rates have been superior compared to Spirit. Spirit is a joke of an airline and god forbid they have a mechanical diseruption or you’ll be stranded for days.

  5. @Tom I’m arguing precisely that Spirit has gotten better, adding wifi is one example (they also joined precheck, but of course sun country was already a participant from their full service days)

  6. They hired people from Allegiant Airlines.

    Does anyone really expect them to be any better than Allegiant Airlines which itself is among the worst airlines flying these days?

    Such a shame…because Sun Country until recently really was a great airline.

    I know this from personal experience when I embarked on one of the most painful journeys in my life to see my mom in her final hours, and unlike everyone else in my family who flew on another airline (whose flights were either very late and/or never took off – it was during January), my pair of Sun Country flights (which everyone else turned down in favor of flying the airline whose flights were all late [with some even arriving too late to say goodbye at all], were actually so good, that even all these years later (10 now), and as horribly painful as that trip was, I will always remember fondly the extraordinarily good service on the Sun Country flights I took on that otherwise exceptionally painful trip.

    How good?

    Well, on the way there when it was clear that this was no ordinary trip (I was uncharacteristically stone cold silent except for a minute or two midflight when I burst into tears and was inconsolable) the flight attendants were just right – neither overly attentive nor making me feel as if there was something “wrong” with me for largely keeping to myself.

    It was clear I was in pain; they saw that and really got things right in the flight going there to say goodbye.

    Then, after the funeral service in Florida, with weather in NYC (yes, this was when Sun Country had 2x daily JFK-PBI flights) horrible and all flights to NYC were prohibited from taking off (ground stopped) for endless hours, the airline kept the door of the plane open while at the gate, told passengers they could disembark to get food and/or remain nearby in the terminal, and then, when it was already getting close to 11pm and it appeared like the flight would not depart that night, after I had thrown in the towel and was heading towards the taxi stand, one of the flight attendants came rushing out of the terminal chasing me down to tell me the ground stop was going to be lifted, and our flight was cleared for takeoff that night.

    She escorted me back into PBI, through security quickly (there were many delayed flights that night to/from many cities so while not rush hour busy, security was still open and had some lines), back into my seat, and although it was a little after midnight when we finally pushed back, I arrived home safely on another excellent Sun Country flight.

    Meanwhile, after endless delays, including pushing back from the gate (for flights that had nearly identical scheduled departure times and waiting for several hours on the tarmac) but never taking off, the rest of my family disembarked from their flight around 1am at PBI and arrived much later the next day…

    It was one of the worst trips ever for me – and yet, as airline experiences go, it was also one of the best trips ever, too.

    From start to finish – buying the original ticket; changing it effortlessly when my mom took a turn for the worse several days earlier than expected that required moving up the departure on very short notice (literally hours between receiving phone call of sad news to departure time for flight to pack and get to JFK Airport – no small task in NYC), and then, of course, the extraordinary effort of the flight attendant chasing me down after I literally left the building.

    All for a coach airfare, too.

    Does it get any better than that?

    RIP Sun Country…for if this rotten service and horribly cheap and incompetent mismanagement continues, as @William notes above, your days are surely numbered… 🙁

  7. Based on all the recent stories about Sun Country, I will never fly on this airline. Management is nothing more than a bunch of low class money grubbers. The pilot probably knew exactly what was happening, but did as he was told so he wouldn’t lose his job.

  8. The pilot must have known. Its a safety issue – weight & balance. If the crew didn’t know, this is a serious matter for the FAA.

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