ST. CLOUD – Up until a dozen years ago, air travelers could fly anywhere in the world from St. Cloud.
"It's just that your first leg would be a flight to Minneapolis," said Bill Towle, director of the St. Cloud Regional Airport.
At one time in the early 2000s, Delta Air Lines operated as many as six daily flights from St. Cloud's airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. But that service stopped abruptly in 2009, and commercial flights in and out of St. Cloud temporarily ended until Allegiant Air started offering service to a few select destinations in 2012. Since then, the airport has struggled to attract new commercial carriers and flights because of its proximity to MSP.
But a new partnership between Landline — a Los-Angeles-based ground transportation company offering shuttle service — and Sun Country Airlines promises to provide travelers the same comfort and ease as if they were flying locally.
"To be honest with you, it's as if Sun Country is flying from St. Cloud," Towle said. "You can go anywhere that Sun Country flies and you can book it on Sun Country's website. Your departure city is St. Cloud. It's just that the first leg is on a shuttle service that's going to get you [to MSP] probably as fast as if you were flying."
Landline launched in Minnesota in 2019 and started its private door-to-door service in St. Cloud in December. In June, it began offering van and coach bus service and opened a reservation and check-in area inside St. Cloud's airport terminal.
"It's set up just like it were an airline," said Towle, noting staff have the ability to check bags and make reservations for travelers.
Beginning Aug. 17, Landline plans to expand again in St. Cloud with 19 daily round trips with "Express" vans and "Select" door-to-door service, with one-way van service starting at $9. The Express service will also offer drop-off service at a traveler's home or office instead of only at the airport.
"This is just a game-changer for travelers," said Liz Thiesse, business development manager for Landline, which is the only ground-based transportation company to partner with a major airline.
Towle compared the partnership to two airlines having an interline agreement. That "means you could fly Delta, for example, to St. Louis and then you can get off of Delta and get on a regional carrier that would then take you to a smaller city," he said. "It's one ticket but your bag makes it all the way without having to get off the airplane and recheck your bag."
The agreement allows for extra traveler protections, according to Brian Davis, chief marketing officer for Sun Country.
"When a customer arrives at St. Cloud airport and checks in, they're actually checking in to begin their journey with us," he said, adding that if a Landline vehicle gets stuck in traffic or has mechanical issues, Sun Country and Landline will work together to find the best alternative to get passengers to their destination, instead of a traveler having to figure it out on their own.
Landline serves air travelers in St. Cloud, Duluth, Mankato, Rochester and Brainerd, as well as La Crosse and Eau Claire in Wisconsin. Customers don't need to fly Sun Country to use the service, nor do they need to be flying at all. Thiesse said some people just use it to travel to the Twin Cities for the day.
But the unique partnership is valuable for both companies, Davis said.
"It broadens our reach in the state of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest," he said. "We have a large air presence here but we can see through credit card data that our customers come from all over the state and the region and we're looking for ways to make service easier and to bring service to those communities."
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299