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.
- The new Frontier Elite program: not so good
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- Frontier’s latest ULCC move: Carry-on fees and more!
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