Here is some exciting news, Frontier is launching 42 new non-stop services this spring. If this doesn’t excite you, well, I get it. Frontier Airlines isn’t known for getting you excited about flying. But, if price is important to you, this read is for you.
Denver based Frontier Airlines is expanding their reach and undercutting the big three (United, Delta, and American). When a ULCC (Ultra Low Cost Carrier) airline operates a particular route it does seem to lower the average cost among all the other airlines operating the same route. For example, Spirit Airlines (also a ULCC) flies Phoenix to Dallas for $36 one-way, that is REALLY cheap. Because that $36 price is very attractive, American Airlines is forced to compete. Competition is always good for the consumer, case point, I just booked an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Dallas for $41 one-way. It is about 850 miles from PHX to DFW. Oddly enough, Phoenix to Sacramento does not offer flights cheaper than $90 one-way. This while being only 650 miles apart, so closer than Dallas. Reason why PHX to SMF is twice as much while being closer, there are no budget carriers operating that route. There are many other factors that play into airfare costs, but competition is a big one.
So what are the new routes? Frontier has reach all over the country (and a touch of Mexico), but here are some of the new routes I find interesting;
• Phoenix to Seattle
• San Francisco to Atlanta
• Nashville to Chicago
• Portland to Cleveland
Phoenix to Seattle currently runs $108 round-trip if you book far in advance on Frontier (the route starts flying in June). Compare this to $200 round-trip on Delta or Alaska Air. San Francisco to Atlanta will set you back $168 round-trip on Frontier, compare that to $471 nonstop round-trip on Delta or United. The reason these two big-boys can charge that price is because there is very little competition on that route. You can catch much cheaper flights from San Francisco to Atlanta if you don’t mind a layover, but Frontier will do it non-stop for $168 R/T.
What’s the catch?
okay, so Frontier does have its drawbacks. First and foremost, they charge for any baggage beyond a “personal item”. A personal item is a large purse, laptop bag, or small duffel bag.. a maximum of 8″ x 14″ x 18″. I have flown on Frontier with just a backpack – for a weekend trip – and did not have to pay any fees since I was able to fit it under the seat. The cost to carry-on (I.E. use the overhead bins) varies based on when you pay the carry-on fee. One perk with purchasing carry-on is that you do get zone 1 boarding, not a game changer, but it softens the blow just a little. Check out the baggage policy before you fly.
So you understand the baggage bug-a-boo’s, there are still a few more things you need to know before flying Frontier. They did receive the most customer complaints compared to all other major airlines last year. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons; tardiness, surprise fees, lost baggage, customer service, small seats etc.
– Tardiness – Yea, they have some delayed flights, just prepare going in and space out your layovers if you have one. When shopping flights on google.com/flights, they will display an alert if that particular flight is often delayed by 30+ minutes. If you don’t see that, chances are that flight route has an okay performance record.
– Surprise Fees – Yep, they have a lot of fees, but you can inform yourself before you fly Frontier so you aren’t caught off-guard. It costs $6 to assign your seat and $2 for beverages. Your best bet, pay the $2 for coffee since you get free refills – hehe.
– Lost Baggage – Frontier is known for losing checked luggage. Solution? Don’t check baggage. If you must, don’t pack anything you can’t live without. It is important to know every airline is responsible to pay up to $3,500 in damages for lost or delayed baggage, per the DOT.
– Customer Service – This is a no-frills flying experience. They will get you safely from point A to point B. In my experience, I didn’t find the customer service to be any different from the big carriers, just don’t expect the red carpet to be rolled out.
– Seating – Frontier seats are tight, 28″ of pitch tight. Compare that to 31″ on United and Delta, 32″ on Alaska, and 34″ on JetBlue. You do have the option to Pay for “stretch” seating on Frontier. Stretch will start at $20 PER FLIGHT if you pay in advance. The redeeming quality of the upgraded seats is that you get about 36″ of “pitch”, plus you are at the very front of the plane. The front of the plane is generally preferred for better overhead bin space, first to get drinks, and first to de-plane. (Also you are in front of the engines so it is quieter) $40 round-trip for a ton of leg room, not a bad gig if you ask me. If you just want to reserve a standard economy seat, it starts at $6 per flight to call dibs.
Another little “extra” that Frontier will sell you is The Works Package. The Works starts at $49 one-way and bundles in all the extras. So look at it this way, a standard flight from Phoenix to Seattle on Alaska Air is $200 R/T. For $208 on Frontier ($108 for the R/T ticket and $50 each way for ‘The Works’), you will get: Priority Boarding, Stretch seat with 36-38″ of legroom, one checked bag, one carry-on bag, and no change or refund fees (up to 24 hours before the flight). On Alaska for roughly the same price you will get a standard 32″ seat and a carry-on. You have to weigh the options and prices to see what it going to work best for you and your budget!