Frontier Airlines has grown extensively since transitioning into an ultra-low-cost carrier. Some may say all you need to know is not to fly Frontier, which is often ranked as one of the worst airlines in the US. But with a little planning and knowledge on how Frontier differs from the rest of the pack, you can learn how to fly Frontier Airlines and take advantage of its super cheap flights.
Tips for Traveling on Frontier Airlines
To avoid being surprised with extra fees and regretting your choice of airline, follow this step-by-step guide on what to expect when flying with Frontier Airlines and what types of travelers can save by flying on Frontier.
What to Know Before You Book with Frontier Airlines
As an ultra-low-cost carrier, Frontier’s low fares don’t include everything you might expect. In fact, the base fare does not include much at all. All you get for the initial price you see is a seat on the plane and the space under the seat in front of you to store a small personal item. Everything else will cost extra, but if you can travel simply, you don’t necessarily need to purchase the extras.
The most difficult fee to avoid on Frontier Airlines is a bag fee. If you need to bring any bag larger than a small personal item, it will cost you. Checked bag fees start at $30 each way. If you’re a traveler that always checks a bag and only brings a personal item onboard, keep in mind that most other airlines also charge a similar fee for checked bags. Other fees are easier to avoid, and if you really want to save by flying Frontier, you’ll want to limit the extras.
So, what else is extra? If you want to choose a specific seat, pay up. This can be a difficult fee to avoid if you’re traveling with family or friends and don’t want to risk being separated on the plane. However, all airlines are required to seat children under the age of 13 next to a family member over the age of 13 without charging any extra in seat fees. If you decline to choose a specific seat, you’ll be auto-assigned a seat at check-in for free. Frontier will also charge for any drinks or snacks onboard, but you can bring your own snacks and a refillable water bottle for free.
Once you’ve decided which extra fees you can and can’t avoid, make sure to compare the total cost with other airlines to find the best option for you. Depending on what you need to bring and your personal preferences, it may make sense to fly on another carrier. Many other airlines are charging similar fees as Frontier these days, so keep that in mind when you are comparing. As far as baggage goes, Allegiant, Spirit, Sun Country, and United also only include one small personal item in the lowest class basic economy fare. Other domestic carriers will include a standard carry-on bag plus one personal item.
The Biggest Risk When Flying Frontier Airlines
It should be noted that Frontier Airlines has a very irregular flight schedule on the majority of its route network. By adding routes that are flown only a few times each week, Frontier is able to fill planes on nonstop flights in underserved markets. The lack of frequency in Frontier’s schedule can cause passengers to get stranded for multiple days in situations where flights are canceled.
Frontier does not have any interline agreements with other domestic carriers and will only be able to re-book passengers on a Frontier flight that has seats available if your flight gets canceled. If the route you are flying only operates two or three times a week, it will be extremely difficult to get re-booked on another flight. In these rare cases, Frontier actually suggests getting a refund and finding alternative transportation, which can be very costly last minute.
If you want some sort of insurance plan for this type of scenario, plan ahead and have a backup plan to get you where you need to be. If you have a stash of frequent flyer miles available, you may be able to get a relatively reasonable last minute flight on another carrier. If you have Southwest miles, you can always book a later Southwest flight as a backup ahead of time and redeposit the miles if your Frontier flight goes off without a hitch. If the distance isn’t too far, you can look at reserving a one-way car rental, which is free to cancel, or check on other ground transportation options as a backup plan.
Although delays are fairly common, it is pretty rare for a flight to be canceled completely. Since a flight cancellation is a much bigger issue when flying Frontier than another airline, this should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not you want to fly Frontier. Those with flexible travel plans and who don’t mind taking a slight gamble can take advantage of some incredibly low airfares Frontier offers on a regular basis.
How to Book a Flight with Frontier Airlines
Believe it or not, Frontier flights are almost always cheaper when you book at an airport counter than they are when booking online. The misleading “Carrier Interface Charge” you’ll see on the breakdown of taxes and carrier-imposed fees is actually an online booking fee in disguise. This fee ranges from $4-$19 each way ($8-$38 roundtrip) per ticket. For most people, it will not be worth it to trek to the airport just to buy a ticket. However, if you’re buying for multiple people, the savings do add up. If you decide to buy a ticket at the airport, make sure to check the flight schedule to ensure the ticket counter will be open.
When booking online, Frontier flights are generally slightly cheaper on FlyFrontier.com than what you’ll find on third-party sites, but it’s always a good idea to compare with other airlines on other sites. Frontier has frequent promo code sales and flash sales with prices as low as $15 each way. When you see the big sticker shock 50-90% off promo code sales, keep in mind that they only discount the base fare and not the online booking fee or taxes. This means some routes don’t really discount much, but you can still get considerable savings on certain routes. To find out about flash sales and promo code offers, make sure to sign up for fare alerts.
Frontier has a club membership program called the Discount Den, which gives members access to exclusive fares and early access to book flights when Frontier extends the booking schedule. Membership is $49.99 per year and will auto-renew unless you cancel the membership. If you are forgetful to cancel an auto-renewing membership or don’t plan on flying Frontier on a regular basis, I would pass on joining the club.
Extra Fees on Frontier Airlines During the Booking Process
When booking on Frontier’s website, you’ll be asked if you’d like to add extras at each step of the booking process. To get the lowest price, decline all extras and remember to travel super light. If you need to bring a bag larger than a small personal item, make sure to pay for your baggage during booking to avoid higher costs later.
First, you’ll be offered the opportunity to purchase a bundle. The Works bundle is only available during the booking process and includes a standard carry-on bag plus a personal item, one free checked bag, seat selection (including stretch seating), priority boarding, flight flexibility, and refundability. You’ll save by bundling over purchasing all these extras separately, but chances are you don’t need all of these extras if you’re flying on Frontier.
The best value of the Works bundle is the ability to refund your flight. Refundable airfares are normally hundreds of dollars more than non-refundable fares on other airlines. This is a much more affordable option for those that need the flexibility of booking a refundable ticket. The Perks bundle is slightly less and includes all the benefits of the Works, except the flight flexibility and refundability. The Perks bundle can also be purchased after initial booking, but it will be priced higher.
If you choose not to bundle, you’ll be asked if you want to choose a specific seat for a fee. Just click the continue button on the bottom of the screen to be assigned a seat for free at check-in. On the following page, choose the amount of baggage you plan to bring. If you only plan to bring a personal item, you’ll have to indicate that you won’t have a full-size carry-on bag. Next, Frontier will offer more add-ons like insurance or a car rental. I do not recommend adding a car rental to any flight reservation. It’s almost always a better deal to book a car rental separately, with flexible cancellation policies. Just click continue to get to the payment page.
Double check all the charges on this page to make sure you’re only paying for what you need. After completing your purchase, you’ll still have a day to cancel for free as long as the date of departure is at least seven days away. Update September 20, 2018: Frontier now has a new no change fee policy for changes made at least 90 days before departure.
Check-In for a Frontier Airlines Flight
Online check-in is available starting 24 hours prior to flight departure and available up to one hour before departure. For domestic flights, you must be checked in 45 minutes before departure. International flights require you to be checked in one hour prior to departure. Bag fees start to rise at each step starting 24 hours before your flight, so if you’ve decided more baggage is needed, add this to your reservation before web check-in becomes available.
Upon web check-in, bag fees are slightly higher, but still cheaper than adding bags at the airport. If you have chosen not to choose a seat, you’ll likely be asked once again to pay for a seat assignment. Just look for the option to continue without choosing a seat and you’ll be auto-assigned seats for free.
Does this mean you’ll automatically get a middle seat? Not necessarily. Sure, you might be stuck fighting for the armrests on both sides, but keep in mind that for every middle seat there is a window and an aisle seat, so the odds may be in your favor due to sheer numbers. Plus, as long as there are adjoining seats available during check-in, it’s likely you’ll still get free auto-assigned seats next to others on the same reservation. Of course, no guarantees, but this is a gamble I think most travelers can take. Worst case scenario, you get some healthy distance from a travel companion who you are about to spend a lot of time with at your destination.
The Frontier Airlines In-flight Experience
Don’t have high expectations when flying any ultra-low-cost carriers. Although Frontier does seem to have slightly better reviews than its biggest competitor, Spirit, the seat pitch is still a tight 28-29 inches in a standard seat. The stretch seating in the front of the plane goes up to 36 inches of seat pitch so opt to pay for those seats if you’re on the tall side or want more room to stretch your legs.
Frontier has a modern fleet of Airbuses with slim, pre-reclined seats. There isn’t much padding on the seats, so you may want to bring a travel pillow for some extra cushion. All beverages and snacks will cost extra onboard, but prices are comparable to what you’ll find in the terminal. Bring your own water bottle to fill up at the airport if you don’t want to pay. There is no Wi-Fi or in-flight entertainment so bring a book or load up your digital devices to keep yourself occupied.
Overall, think of flying Frontier as a cheap way to see a new place rather than a luxurious flying experience. It’s often the cheapest way to get from point A to point B and allows you to save some money to spend once you arrive at your destination. Comparing prices, if the choice is to fly Frontier or not travel at all, I would choose to fly on Frontier.
Header image by Luke.Travel via Shutterstock.