Frontier’s latest ULCC move: Carry-on fees and more!


I’m taking a flight tomorrow on Frontier Airlines and so I assumed the emails this morning from them were check-in reminders. If only wishing made it so. Instead I was greeted with an announcement that “CHANGE IS GOOD” and that somehow I’d be paying less money for travel with the carrier in the future. And then they went on to describe the ways in which I’ll be paying more fees when I fly with them in the future.

Beginning today, anyone booking at FlyFrontier.com will be offered lower fares and a new way to select add-on services – including the ability to select your own seat, to purchase a carry-on bags, and to buy a checked bag. With this new approach to pricing, Frontier is committed to giving you a better overall value because you only pay for the services you will use, rather than including them in the price of your fare.

The lower fares claim is great, though the one sample fare I have didn’t actually go down. And the carrier is dropping one of their three fare options; the two remaining now exclude the mid-range choice which was essentially a bundle of the basics at a very reasonable premium. And there’s that little line about “to purchase carry-on bags” which the carrier slipped in to the announcement. Much like Spirit Air we can now expect to pay for carry-on bags with Frontier. image The prior policy also permitted passengers who booked directly with the carrier to get a seat assignment for free, even if they chose the lowest fare. That will now cost $3. And, of course, seats towards the front of the plane or those with extra leg room cost more. image Frontier has also introduced the Discount Den program. This is being offered for free to all Early Returns members  (at least for now) for membership through June 2015. As of right now the only benefit of the Discount Den is that some bag fees are reduced by $5 but only when paid in advance. And the company has made it clear that they will start charging for membership in the club after June 2015 but they have not published the pricing. Spin is fine and if they really are lowering fares then I suppose I might buy in to it just a bit. But my (very, very limited) data point says the fares didn’t really change. It is going to take a lot more than just spin to convince customers that these fees are in their best interests. The carrier has been fighting to control costs and increase revenues for more than a year now just in the ticket sales/distribution channel alone. This is another step down that path and, much like the others, is not really all that great for most customers, despite the claims of the marketing department. And I actually bought up to the bundle fare option for one of my five upcoming segments with the company, an option which is no longer available. It was actually a good value for the customer so maybe that’s why it has disappeared. Go figure.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

7 Comments

    1. I guess it is all about expectations. I have very low ones so I expect they will be reasonably met. I paid pennies (almost literally; $36 r/t for each of the two on Tuesday) for these first flights and for the other trip in July the fare was in line with other offers and more convenient airports and the bonus leg-room seats included. I expect that I’ll get to and from the destinations with minimal pain and suffering.

      Seems it will be hard for them to do too badly in that context.

  1. Being based in Denver, and the fact that they offer many direct flights to where I go, I have come to use Frontier quite frequently. I usually book the Classic fare which for $40-50 more allows for one checked bag and seating in the Stretch area (first 4 rows). With the elimination of Classic, the Classic Plus category is running at least $100 above the basic fare. So now, I will have to pay at least double to get the same. Also, for the upcoming couple flights that I booked a couple of days ago, the flights are now quoting out (with Classic Plus) significantly more than what I paid. I’m not sure where this fare discount is occurring, certainly not on the flights I am taking. My rt flight to RSW is quoting out at about $700 vs. the $420 (incl Stretch & 1 bag). I never minded paying a little extra with Frontier because they offer direct flights to many places that we go and we could get Stretch seating, but I guess that I am going to have to get used to connecting and no extra leg room! Obviously, Change is NOT good for me!

  2. Just flew F9 for the first time in about 7 years. It was dirt cheap. I survived for an hour. But that’s about it.

  3. I agree, when I discovered Frontier’s Classic fare (at least in its most recent iteration), it quickly became my fare of choice, especially to/from markets where I couldn’t get a nonstopper anyway. The ~$50-$80 each way upgrade scored you a better-legroom seat, checked bag, a carry on, a cocktail, plus priority check-in, security and boarding. This is a far better combination of benefits than any other airline I know of offers for in-advance booking of an even modestly-upgraded seat (DL gets you just boarding and legroom; United, legroom only, etc.). Which is, no doubt, why it has gone away. Too bad, because it really had captured my loyalty for some of my regular trips.

    One thing I would point out is that, while I was doing test bookings, I’m seeing flights in mid-August that still have the Classic Plus upgrade at $80 on each way (two segments, SFO-DEN-IND and back). So maybe if you can book well in advance, that’s a way to take advantage of the new fare structures or use up some of your remaining Frontier miles. On the other hand, depending on how this goes for Frontier, it could also be a way to get yourself a refund and the opportunity to book a last minute trip on another airline after they’ve cut your route.

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