An ultra low-cost airline plans non-stop flights between Portland and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, next spring, increasing options for travelers at the state’s largest airport.

Sun Country Airlines will start seasonal, twice-weekly service June 18. Sun Country, based in Minnesota, offers year-round flights to the U.S. West Coast and seasonal service to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

“Sun Country prides itself in taking folks to great destinations,” said Jessica Wheeler, the company’s director of communications, in a phone interview. The Portland service is part of an expansion that includes 16 new routes from Minneapolis to Madison, Wisconsin and Dallas, Texas.

“There is an appetite to come out to Maine and see New England,” Wheeler added. “I think there is a great connection there and we think there are a lot of folks who want to go between the two.”

Sun Country offers low fares, but charges more for baggage, premium seats, priority boarding and other extras. Round-trip flights between Portland and Minneapolis-St. Paul in July will cost from $156 to $198, according to a search on Sun Country’s website. Passengers can presently only book flights from June to August.

Minneapolis is currently one of the top 10 destinations from the Portland airport that does not have non-stop service, said Zach Sundquist, assistant airport director. Last year, about 12,000 passengers flew from Portland and changed in other cities to reach Minneapolis-St. Paul, he added.

In recent years, the airport has tried to get new carriers to serve some of those top destinations. Last year, Frontier Airlines started seasonal service to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and Denver. United Airlines early this year also started non-stop service to Denver.

“We’ve been doing a nice job getting our air carriers to tick off some of those top destinations,” Sundquist said.

There is non-stop service to 22 destinations on nine airlines through the Portland Jetport and airlines have added routes in the past few years. More than 2 million passengers came through the jetport in 2018, setting a new record.

Portland has good air connections on the Eastern Seaboard, but its non-stop westward routes are a little thin, said jetport Director Paul Bradbury. Even though Sun Country will only offer a twice-a-week, seasonal service, it might help fill in those connections.

“This is certainly another good start to moving that west flow,” Bradbury said in an interview.

Portland’s airport has the space to keep up with growing passenger counts and new flight destinations, although capacity gets tight at peak travel times in the morning, mid afternoon and early evening. A major expansion of the passenger terminal completed in 2012 set up the airport for growth, Bradbury said.

Even though the airport plans no major infrastructure projects, there are some needed upgrades to passenger bridges, airplane parking and deicing apron, equipment for a third security checkpoint, changes to the baggage area and parking.

“Thankfully, the terminal expansion we did in 2012 was really planned to hit the service level we are at and will take us a bit beyond that,” Bradbury said.

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