Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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Elite status has long been a way for travelers to get rewarded for their miles flown and their dollars spent. But as frequent flyer programs have decimated in value over the years, many travelers wonder: Is airline elite status worth it anymore?
For most travelers starting from scratch, the answer is likely no. However, for current elite members, status matches with competing airlines provide a great way to extend the shelf-life of your benefits in a brand-new program.
As a current Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion member, I was just one of many disappointed travelers when Delta announced it would significantly increase the requirements to retain status. Instead of being a “free agent” and choosing any airline based on flight times and prices, I’ll use my status-matched elite statuses to receive benefits on other carriers.
Despite not having flown with Frontier Airlines for a decade, I decided to give the low-cost carrier another opportunity. This was mainly because I would be granted Frontier Miles top-tier Elite 100k status, thanks to a status match offer.
Read on to find out what I learned, and decide if it’s worth matching your status to Frontier Miles.
Frontier is a no-frills airline. Your ticket gives you a guaranteed seat (but not a seat assignment) and a personal bag — anything else will cost you extra. These ancillary expenses add up quickly, but holding elite status with the carrier can help you bypass these costs.
Its Frontier Miles loyalty program has 3 levels of status: Elite 20k, Elite 50k, and Elite 100k. Even at the lowest Elite 20k level, you’ll get a free carry-on bag and seat assignment, saving you nearly $50 in à la carte expenses.
At the mid-tier Elite 50k level, you’ll also enjoy complimentary stretch seating at booking. With 5 to 7 additional inches of legroom, your seat will be even more spacious than a legacy airline’s average domestic economy seat.
But at the Elite 100k level, you’ll get all of the above, plus a complimentary Discount Den membership (discounted fares on eligible flights), a checked bag, and your benefits applied to up to 8 travelers on your reservation. This can equate to hundreds of dollars in savings every year.
Frontier recently announced changes to its elite status program effective in 2024, switching to revenue-based earnings when flying. Other updates include new names for its current, distinctive tiers that will soon mimic most loyalty programs we’re already familiar with:
The good news is that the new program’s value-add is even more significant — making a status match much more appealing. In addition to all of the benefits discussed above, Frontier Diamond (Elite 100k) members will enjoy no change or cancellation fees at least 7 days before departure, up to 2 checked bags, a pet fee waiver, and the ability to gift Gold (Elite 25K) status to a friend or family member.Hot Tip:
Through December 31, 2023, Frontier is offering a status match from 45 airline, hotel, or cruise loyalty programs. However, the top-tier Elite 100k level is only available for airline elite status holders.
Here are the status match fees you should be aware of, which are due at the time of application:
The Frontier status match application is simple: you’ll provide your first and last name, email address, and Frontier Miles loyalty number.
You’ll also need to have your current elite status documented and ready to go. To ensure your application is approved quickly, have a screenshot ready of your current elite status level and loyalty number.
Frontier says that applications take under 72 hours for approval, and you can track your application status through the Status Match email. Upon paying my application fee, I received my new status reflected on my Frontier Miles account within a few days.
All status match applicants will hold their elite status level until December 31, 2024. To requalify for elite status, you’ll need to meet the standard program requirements or wait for another status match opportunity.
I’ve avoided flying budget carriers since I always travel with a carry-on and prefer to select my seat assignment. Frontier also does not offer any inflight Wi-Fi, a major thorn for those who need to be connected in the air for work.
Ultimately, I paid the $149 fee to match from Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion to Elite 100k, primarily because Frontier has a significant presence at my home airport of Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) — 18 nonstop routes, to be exact. I fly to Orlando International Airport (MCO) often and have previously chosen Delta for all my travels.
But the prospect of spending $19 for a Frontier flight in the future — instead of $150+ on Delta — seemed particularly enticing. Sure, I’ve gotten the occasional Delta first class upgrade here and there. But the more I travel, the more I realize that I’m just interested in getting from Point A to Point B — especially for flights under 2 hours where there’s no meal or extra benefits to justify the price of first class.
With my newly minted status with Frontier, I can still enjoy all the benefits I enjoy on Delta for a fraction of the price.
However, status matching isn’t free. Before applying, you’ll want to assess whether it’s worth ponying up the $99 to $199 fee. Of course, status matching to Frontier will only make sense if the carrier has enough appealing routes near you and if you’ll be able to take advantage of your benefits in the next year.Hot Tip:
Did you know you can get complimentary hotel elite status just by holding the right credit card? The Platinum Card® from American Express offers Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (upon enrollment). You can then use this status level to match to Frontier Miles!
Now for the fun part — putting my benefits to the test.
I booked a round-trip ticket on Frontier from Raleigh-Durham (RDU) to Orlando (MCO) for $95. For comparison, Delta charged $300 for the same Main Cabin ticket. I was already happy saving $200+ with my first trip — more than the status match application fee.
My flight departed at 4:40 p.m., and boarding began promptly at 3:50 p.m. with elite members marked as Zone 1.
All other travelers needed to pay for carry-ons in advance. This boarding zone distinction helps the gate agents know if their personal and carry-on bags comply with Frontier’s strict size restrictions.
I picked seat 2A in advance, which was not only at the front of the plane but offered extra legroom. There were a few missing amenities you may expect from other carriers, including outlets, entertainment options, and the ability to recline.
Many Frontier flyers pay to check their bags as it can be cheaper than the carry-on bag fee. Therefore, I liked the ample room to stow my carry-on bags in the overhead bins.
The flight attendants were courteous and professional. It helped to know in advance that the inflight service was limited and you’d need to pay extra for snacks or drinks — I decided to pack my own beforehand.
We landed 30 minutes ahead of schedule and went to the gate, where we deplaned almost immediately.
Thanks to my elite status, I’m no longer averse to flying a budget carrier like Frontier Airlines. Just because Frontier is a low-cost carrier doesn’t mean it skimps on safety, as all domestic airlines are subject to intense Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards and regulations.
Carriers like Frontier or Spirit may offer a bare-bones experience, but elite status may be just the “hack” you need to make it a stellar one. The current status match cycle may last only a short time, so you’ll want to get your applications in sooner rather than later — especially since the new 2024 benefits are so good.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
If you participate in the current status match cycle, you’ll enjoy your Frontier elite status until December 31, 2024.
You’ll need 20,000 Frontier miles to achieve Gold (currently 20k), 50,000 miles to achieve Platinum (50k), and 100,000 miles to achieve Diamond (100k) status, earned by flying or spending on a Frontier credit card. Frontier is also adding a Silver tier in 2024 that requires 10,000 miles.
All Frontier elite members enjoy a free carry-on bag and seat assignment. The higher-tier status levels enjoy free extra legroom seats, while top-tier members get a free Discount Den membership, a free checked bag, family status, and more.
The 20k and 50k elite status application fee is $99, while the 100k elite status fee costs $149. If you’ve previously applied for a status match with Frontier after November 1, 2020, you must pay an additional $50 application fee.
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