Frontier’s new award fees are almost reasonable

A couple weeks back Frontier announced major changes to their Early Returns loyalty program, mostly making it worse for just about everyone except the company. Among the changes a new fee was introduced for booking award flights less than 180 days in advance. At the time of the announcement details on the fees were roughly nil; that changed on Friday as the new numbers were announced. And they aren’t completely awful.


The idea of a fee inside of 21 days is not unique to Frontier and the $50/$75 range on that is pretty much consistent with the rest of the industry. The real difference is that booking a Frontier award between 21-179 days from travel costs an extra $15. That sucks, but not so much as to be completely unreasonable. There are also a few ways to get the fee waived:

  • Use the Frontier Airlines World MasterCard to pay the taxes/fees applicable to your flight award.
  • Qualify for Ascent or Summit status in 2014.
  • Achieve Frontier Elite status for 2015.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it sucks as a customer – but when it comes to the level of fees that are being implemented across the company as they pivot to being a ULCC-styled operation this one just doesn’t seem particularly egregious. It is a relatively low fee and doesn’t completely destroy the value of the program. At least no more than the already low return rates based on revenue-based earning and fixed redemption costs.

Early Returns hasn’t been a particularly valuable award program for a long time now. And this new fee does not reverse that trend. But it isn’t nearly as bad I as thought it could be. That’s grading on a curve, to be sure, but it is still a passing grade.

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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.


    1. I consider that a relatively small issue, Gary. I so rarely book award travel that far out that I don’t think it is a significant factor on this front.

      1. While not horrendous (and still lower than US Airways’ fee), the fact is that right now you cannot book past March 1, 2015, currently ~160 days from now. They try to advertise the ‘180 day’ window, but I think it opens them up to a liability issue if they will not let someone book that trip fee-free if the schedule is not open at that point.

  1. Another ill-informed article…..

    With most of their regular “kayak” prices around $70-120 for one-ways, these fees are totally outrageous.

    1. At no point did I say anything about the fares. Also, they sell at a different price-point direct versus via OTAs.

      The fares charged on the revenue purchases don’t influence what I think of these fees.

      1. Sure it does.

        If you pay $50 or $75 +10,000 miles for a flight that would be priced at $100, they have ripped you off and all those who accumulated miles when redemptions were still almost free.

        Plus their schedule extends to what? 182 days out? 184 days out? So essentially their $0 redemption is almost unusable.

        OK this is their business and they do as they wish. But saying the fees are almost reasonable is totally uninformed.

        1. If you’re paying 10,000 points without the fee for a $100 flight you also probably lost on that deal. And I’m not sure why you’re only allowing for the $50 or $75 fees – which are comparable with most other airlines for <21 day redemption - versus the $15 fee which covers most of the time frame.

          I'm quite well informed on the topic. Among other things I actually can properly cite what the fees are. That should count for something.

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