MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Chairman of Sun Country Airlines says he has started to shut down the company.

The Air Line Pilots Association confirmed that in an email sent from Sun Country’s Marty Davis, he states the airline has begun downsizing because management and pilots can’t agree on a new contract.

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The Minnesota-based company operates some 20 daily flights out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to cities across the country, as well as to Mexico and the Caribbean.

The contentious negotiations between the airline and the pilots union — which have dragged on for years — led to strong words written by Davis.

“Our proposal was represented as our last and best offer, and it is!” Davis said. “Now we will move on.”

ALPA forwarded the email to Sun Country pilots Wednesday night. The association says they still want to negotiate a deal with the airline.

What the airline chairman said privately in the email contrasts with how CEO John Frederickson responded publicly. Frederickson told WCCO Thursday afternoon that they will not discuss details of the negotiation with the media.

“Nothing that is happening in this process will have any impact on current Sun Country customers,” Frederickson said.

He added that Sun Country is “still very much in the process of negotiating with the union.”

The ALPA released a statement Thursday night expressing disbelief that the airline had “begun the process of downsizing.”

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“Mr. Davis’ e-mail asserts that after five years of negotiations, the first comprehensive economic proposal presented by the company is also its ‘last, best and final’ proposal,” the chair of the ALPA, Capt. Brian Roseen, said in the statement. “In essence, it’s a take-it or leave-it offer.”

Roseen claims the proposal still leaves the pilots the lowest-paid 737-scheduled service pilots in the country.

He told WCCO Thursday pilots will be back at work Friday, even though union members voted unanimously to strike if needed in February.

“Sun Country pilots intend to show up for work tomorrow and continue to do our jobs the way we always have — safely, professionally and courteously,” Roseen said.

The union says more negotiations are tentatively set for the end of this month.

They also plan to provide a counter-proposal at that time. It may not be until the end of the month before we have more answers.

Patrick Hogan from the Metropolitan Airports Commission says Sun Country has not indicated any plans to reduce service at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“Our hope is the airline and the pilots’ union will reach an agreement and will continue to grow their service here,” Hogan said.

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This negotiation between the two parties has been going on for five years.

Jennifer Mayerle