Since low-cost airlines like Frontier are becoming more relevant, we produced this general review in an attempt to answer some of your questions about the airline.
We know you’re wondering about lots of things, like:
What are Frontier Airlines ticket options and what does that get me? What are Frontier’s baggage fees and what about hidden fees? What do Frontier Airlines seats look like? Is Frontier a good airline to fly?
Read on for basic company statistics, ticketing/fare options, insights into those pesky extras (including baggage fees), seat specs, inflight amenities, customer satisfaction rankings, and more.
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Airline: Frontier Airlines
Category: Low-Cost Airline
Frequent Flyer Program: EarlyReturns®
Tag Line: Low Fares Done Right.
About/Mission Statement: “… We make a bigger commitment to our customers — the ‘Done Right’ promise. This means providing you a real choice — with options that allow you to customize your flight to match both your wants and your wallet. And we are committed to providing safe, on-time and reliable service while at the same time treating you with Rocky Mountain hospitality like only we can provide.” (source)
Main Hub: Denver, CO
Frontier Airlines in a low-cost airline, meaning they follow the standard low-cost strategy when it comes to fares. Frontier advertises a basic ticket that covers your flight and a personal item — that’s it. Anything else is an added fee.
Frontier offers 3 options for ticketing:
- Basic Fare
- The WORKSSM
- The PERKSSM
Basic Fare: As we mentioned previously, Frontier’s basic fare is just that: basic. This option covers getting you from Point A to Point B in a standard seat with 1 personal item.
Frontier’s The WORKSSM & The PERKSSM options are “bundles.” What’s a bundle you ask?
Frontier conveniently bundles extras together and offers them to you at a discounted rate in 2 different tier options.
The WORKSSM: The WORKS is Frontier’s top-tier bundle. The cost starts at $59 one-way and varies by route; it’s also based on a round-trip purchase.
This option includes the following “frills” at what Frontier claims to be a discount of at least 50% vs. adding them a la carte.
- The ability to refund your ticket
- No change fees
- Seat selection
- 1 carry-on bag included
- 1 checked bag included
- Priority boarding
Hot Tip: The WORKS can only be purchased at the time of booking. So, if you want this bundle, don’t miss it the first time around!
The PERKSSM: The PERKS is Frontier’s second-tier bundle. The cost varies by route, and it’s also based on a round-trip purchase.
This option includes the following frills at what Frontier claims is a discount of over 30% vs. adding them a la carte.
- Seat selection
- 1 carry-on bag included
- 1 checked bag included
- priority boarding
As you can see, The PERKS does NOT include the ability to change or cancel your reservation. You can add The PERKS at any time, even if you purchased your flights through a third party.
Discount Den: Frontier Airlines offers an email savings service called Discount Den℠ for a $49.99 annual fee.
If a customer subscribes to Discount Den, Frontier advertises exclusive access to the lowest available fares. They also state that the more you fly, the more you’ll save.
Here’s what you (reportedly) get:
- Exclusive access to the lowest fares
- Unlimited savings for 1 year
- Fares available for 6 people on the itinerary (as long as the subscriber is one of the passengers)
- First look at new offers, promotions, and destinations
- Earn EarlyReturns miles with every purchase
Frontier Baggage & Other Fees/Add-ons
Since Frontier is a low-cost airline that lists fares accordingly, you can expect some extra fees related to your trip. Unless, of course, you’re the type who can fly comfortably with only a personal item!
Instead of hiding the add-ons, Frontier gladly explains why they keep fares so low — to give customers a choice: “You only pay for what’s important to you.”
If you purchased The WORKS or The PERKS bundle, you already have 1 carry-on bag and 1 checked bag included in the cost. If you did not purchase either bundle, you can expect to incur higher baggage fees (see full details here).
Additionally, baggage fees increase as time goes on, so you’ll want to purchase your allowance as soon as possible (ideally, at booking).
|Carry-On||1st Bag||2nd Bag||3+ Bag|
|Online (up to 24hrs pre-departure)||$38||$38||$45||$80|
|Via Call Center||$40||$40||$45||$85|
|Airport Ticket Counter||$45||$45||$50||$85|
*Prices are per one-way flight.
Hot Tip: If you purchase a carry-on bag, you’ll automatically gain Zone 1 boarding.
Size/Weight Limits: Passengers should note the following size and weight limitations for each type of baggage.
If your baggage is overweight, oversized, or both, expect to pay additional fees per flight.
- Overweight baggage fee: $75
- Oversized baggage fee: $75
Other Fees & Add-Ons
Seat Selection: Frontier encourages all passengers to choose their seats at the time of booking. If you purchased The WORKS or The PERKS bundle, this fee is already included.
If you purchased a Basic Fare and didn’t pay to choose your seat, Frontier will assign you a seat from what’s left at check-in.
While they state they’ll try their best, Frontier makes no guarantees about seating your party together if you don’t pre-purchase.
|Standard Seating||Stretch Seating|
|Flyfrontier.com (up to 24hrs pre-departure)||$6+||$20+|
|Airport Ticket Counter or Self-Service Kiosk||$11+||$25+|
*Prices are per one-way flight.
Hot Tip: For EarlyReturns Elite members, seat assignment fees are waived and upgrades to Stretch Seating are free if available at the time of check-in.
Call Center Reservations: $10 per passenger for bookings made through the call center
Paper Receipt/Itinerary: Undisclosed amount; Frontier reports a fee will be charged for any paper itineraries or receipts by mail.
Itinerary Change: $99; not applicable to passengers who have booked The WORKS (itinerary change is free)
Name Change: $75 per person PLUS any fare difference between the fare already paid and the current fare for the same itinerary at the time the name change is processed.
Same Day Confirmed Flight Changes: $99
- Nonalcoholic beverages from $2
- Snacks from $3
- Beer, wine, and spirits from $7
- Frontier also offers food and beverage packages for a slight discount.
Unaccompanied Minor: $110 per one-way flight (nonstop flights only; Frontier does not accept unaccompanied minors on connecting flights)
Pet Cabin Fee: $75 per one-way flight
How to Avoid Paying Excess Fees & Travel Expenses
Some fees are just unavoidable when traveling, but you can keep from paying these out of pocket by using the benefits of certain credit cards.
Below are credit cards that offer airline credits as one of their benefits, which will cover the cost of certain fees (e.g. baggage, inflight purchases, seat upgrades, etc.)
|Credit Card||Fee Reimbursement Details|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®|
Annual Fee: $0 for first year, then $89
|With this card, you can use your miles to cover any qualifying travel purchases of $100 or more, including baggage fees (which is perfect for families that travel and incur travel expenses). Simply apply your miles to these expenses when your statement arrives! |
|Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card|
Annual Fee: $450
|$300 travel credit per calendar year (covers all travel related purchases)|
|Citi Prestige Card|
Annual Fee: $450
|$250 air travel credit per calendar year (covers all travel related purchases)|
|Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card|
Annual Fee: $450
|$300 airline fee credit per calendar year (covers all travel related purchases)|
EarlyReturns® Elite Status: EarlyReturns is Frontier Airline’s Frequent Flyer program. If you happen to reach EarlyReturns Elite status, you get certain perks including a number of waived fees.
In order to reach Elite status, EarlyReturns members must fly 20,000 miles or 25 one-way flights within a 365-day rolling calendar year (12 months).
Once EarlyReturns Elite status is attained, the following benefits are awarded:
- Zone 1 boarding (priority check-in, boarding, and security)
- Complimentary carry-on bag
- Advance seat assignment
- Free upgrade to stretch seating (if available at 24-hour check-in)
- Extra fees waived (call center reservation fee, award redemption fee, unaccompanied minor fee, same day confirmed fee, same day, and standby fee)
- Last seat availability (use miles to redeem any available seat)
Frontier Seat Specs & Inflight Amenities
So what will my Frontier flight look like? Let’s get into the seat specs and inflight amenities.
Seat Specs: Frontier has 2 different seat types on their planes, Standard and Stretch. Seat pitch and width vary slightly depending on which plane you’re on, but it can get pretty tight! Additionally, these seats do not recline.
- Stretch (all planes): 36″ pitch (rows 1-3), 38″ pitch (row 13), ~18″ width
- Standard A319 V1: 31″ pitch, 17″-19″ width
- Standard A319 V2: 28″-29″ pitch, 17″-19″ width
- Standard A320 (V1 & V2): 28″-29″ pitch, 17″-19″ width
- Standard A321: 28″-29″ pitch, 16.5″-19″ width
The following table is a breakdown of seating on each Frontier aircraft model.
As mentioned above, most Frontier Airlines seats have a very short pitch — actually, the shortest in the airline industry (see table below).
When you combine a 28″-29″ pitch with a 16.5″ width as experienced on some A321 seats, it makes for a pretty tight fit. Plus, most of the seats have TINY tray tables.
|Frontier Economy Class Pitch Comparisons (Single Aisle Aircraft)|
|Alaska Airlines||Boeing 737-800||31”-32”|
|Frontier||Airbus 320 & 321||28”-31”|
|JetBlue||Airbus 320 & 321||32”-34”|
|Ryan Air||Boeing 737-800||30”|
|Spirit||Airbus 320 & 321||28”|
|Virgin America||Airbus 320 & 321||32”|
Inflight Amenities: Since Frontier is a low-cost airline, this means many of the inflight amenities passengers have come to expect on other more popular airlines are absent.
- Frontier does not provide inflight Wi-Fi, video streaming capabilities, or any type of onboard entertainment at this time.
- Refreshment service is limited to paid beverages and snacks only.
- Frontier does not have electrical outlets onboard for passenger/commercial product use.
Frontier Airlines claims all of these cuts save passengers money. But is a super cramped seat really worth it?
Are people happy with their Frontier flights? Well…that depends.
Of course, you’ll see a number of complaints due to general lack of research into what you actually get for your money with a low-cost airline. Anyone who knows the basic low-cost structure will know to expect extra costs (or a pared-down experience).
Frontier even openly discusses and advertises how they are able to keep their fares low…so there shouldn’t be any surprises. However, it is a bit tough to calculate what your total cost is going to be until you reach the final steps in your booking process.
But we talked a lot about fees and extras above. So what else are people complaining about?
Most Common Complaints
The September 2017 Air Travel Consumer Report filed by Transportation.gov ranks Frontier Airlines 11th out of 12 in regards to consumer complaints, sitting just above Spirit.
From January 2017 through June 2017, the data collected was 270 complaints from 7,965,326 passengers, or 3.39 per 100,000 passengers. (In comparison, Southwest had just 0.5 complaints per 100,000 passengers.)
That’s all? 270 complaints in 6 months? Not quite…remember, not everyone who complains does so in an official manner. These statistics are drawn from data compiled by the OAEP’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD).
Types of Complaints (of 270)
- Flight Problems (cancellation, delay, or misconnection): 95 / 35.2%
- Baggage: 69 / 25.6%
- Reservation, Ticketing, Boarding: 31 / 11.5%
- Fares: 22 / 8.1%
- Customer Service: 19 / 7%
- Refunds: 14 / 5.2%
- Disability: 10 / 3.7%
- Over-Sales: 5 / 1.9%
- Advertising: 2 / 0.7%
- Other: 2 / 0.7%
- Discrimination: 1 / 0.4%
As you can see from the statistics, most complaints center around flight problems and baggage. These 2 issues combined represent ~60% of all complaints.
Consumer Rankings, Ratings, Etc.
We’ve listed some popular rankings and rating systems/sites here so you can see how Frontier Airlines stacks up.
SkyTrax Airline Ranking: 3-star airline
ACSI Rating (American Customer Satisfaction Index): 63% (11th of 12 largest U.S. carriers for 12-month period ending March 2017)
AQR (Airline Quality Rating): Worst of 12 largest U.S. carriers
TripAdvisor Airline Review Rating: 2.5/5 average (of 4,316 reviews)
Kayak Customer Rating: 5.6/10 (of 32,191 reviews)
In terms of performance, the September 2017 Air Travel Consumer Report states from July 2016-July 2017 Frontier Airlines was on time 74.8% of the time.
This places Frontier 10th out of 12 airlines in terms of On Time Performance (OTP). In comparison, the top airline was Hawaiian, arriving on time 88.8% of the time. Delta sits in second place with an OTP of 84.7%.
What were Frontier’s worst routes for delays as of June and July 2017? The following flights were on time less than 50% of the time:
- MCO (Orlando)-TTN (Trenton, NJ): ~42% on time
- PHL (Philly)-SJU (San Juan): ~42% on time
- CLT (Charlotte)-MCO (Orlando): ~46% on time
- MCO (Orlando)-PHL (Philly): ~47% on time
Regardless of poor OTP and decreased customer satisfaction scores, Frontier Airlines has received a couple notable awards recently.
- Federal Aviation Administration’s Diamond Award for Maintenance Excellence – 2016
- International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) – The Industry’s Most Fuel Efficient Airline
On many lists, Frontier sits right down at the bottom (alongside Spirit) as one of the worst airlines out there.
Is this mainly due to complaints surrounding low transparency with tons of added fees? Or is it more serious than that, concerning worsening customer satisfaction in regards to flight problems (delays, cancellations, etc.) and baggage handling?
Either way, the chance you’ll be satisfied with your Frontier flight seems like a toss-up, and it likely depends on your passenger personality.
If you like all the perks included with your ticket, plan to check a couple bags, and want a comfortable flight in terms of seating, then Frontier is not for you unless you plan to pay quite a bit more than their advertised base fares.
However, if you’re not bothered by a bare-bones flight, don’t have bags to check, and are OK with some customer satisfaction hiccups, then you could certainly score a pretty cheap flight.
The choice is yours!
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