Some airlines are known to not share fares with certain third-party websites. Then there are airlines that don’t even share all fares with users on their own websites.
Airlines That Offer Exclusive Fares to Members Only
By offering exclusive fares that are only available to people who sign up for a membership, these three airlines are trying to earn your loyalty by giving you better prices than the general public. Often these memberships require an annual fee, but the savings can add up really fast if these airlines fly routes you take on a regular basis.
Frontier Airlines – Discount DEN
Frontier’s Discount DEN subscription gives you access to exclusive fares, which often run as low as $15 or $20 one-way. Annual membership costs $59.99 and will be automatically renewed each year unless you elect to cancel the membership before your membership anniversary date.
Membership entitles you and up to 6 people on your reservation to the exclusive fares as long as the member is traveling on the same flights. You’ll be the first to hear about new offers/destinations and also have early access to book flights whenever Frontier extends its booking schedule. This can be helpful if you want to make sure you get your favorite seat on a flight during peak travel seasons.
Frontier often has promo codes, which offer low fares to the general public on a regular basis. These discounts also apply to Discount DEN fares, but there is usually little difference in price between the standard pricing and Discount DEN pricing during these promo code sales. The better deals for Discount DEN members are when Frontier has exclusive sales that are only available to members. This includes certain buy one, get one free offers such as Kids Fly Free and Friends Fly Free.
There is no discount on bag fees for members, which is unfortunate since Frontier charges extra for any bags larger than a small personal item. Frontier’s Discount DEN members can only recuperate the annual membership fee from the special fares that are offered.
To join, simply choose the Discount DEN fare and give your email address when booking on FlyFrontier.com and you’ll also be enrolled with the same membership number in Frontier’s frequent flier program. If you’re joining just for a single flight savings, remember to cancel before the end of the year or you will automatically be charged the annual fee again. Benefits expire upon cancellation of membership.
Spirit Airlines – $9 Fare Club
The airline that started it all, Spirit’s $9 Fare Club has been a selling point for the airline for many years. Although technically member fares are no longer $9, the base fare can actually be lower since airlines are now required to advertise a tax-inclusive airfare. In fact, the actual base fare on Spirit is often just a penny.
Since members are only charged the lower $8.99 passenger usage fee (online booking fee) instead of the usual $20.99 each way fee charged to non-members, the lowest total base fare (including booking fee) available to members is still $9 each way. Add in taxes and the lowest tax-inclusive price for fare club members is around $25 one-way.
Not all member fares are that low, but Spirit’s $9 Fare Club fares are often quite a bit lower than standard fares for last minute travel and many times you can recover the cost of membership in just one flight purchase. This is especially true if you are traveling with multiple people since everyone traveling on the same itinerary as the member will get the exclusive fares.
Annual membership initially costs $59.95 and is automatically renewed at $69.95/year. Spirit also offers a trial membership for $19.95 valid for 60 days. Trial memberships are only available to purchase while booking a flight and the benefits won’t begin until your next purchase so it’s best to just pay for an annual membership if you want to use the benefits right away.
In addition to exclusive fares, Spirit’s $9 Fare Club members also receive a discount on bag fees. This can be worth it to join alone since Spirit charges fees for any bags larger than a small personal item. Members save $9 each way for both carry-on and checked bags. Again, if you’re traveling with multiple people and multiple bags, the savings add up quickly.
Unfortunately, members-only fares do not get discounted during Spirit’s weekly promo code sales, but since members can receive discounts on bag fees, there is still some value for members even if there are no exclusive fares available on your travel dates. Another notable downfall of the program is that member fares must be purchased online, so you can’t go to the airport and save the online booking fee as you can do with standard fares.
To join, simply choose a $9 Fare Club fare when booking or sign up before booking your next flight at Spirit.com. It’s best to join when you are booking a flight so you can take advantage of the membership benefits as long as possible. If you are joining to save money on a single flight itinerary, set a reminder to cancel the membership before your anniversary date so you don’t get auto-charged the recurring annual fee. Membership benefits expire as soon as you cancel your membership even if it hasn’t been a full year.
Volaris – v.club
This ever-growing low-cost Mexican airline, which recently entered a partnership with Frontier Airlines, has a club membership of its own.
By joining the Volaris v.club, you’ll always get up to a 20% discount off the base fare, a discount on your first checked bag, and an extra 22 lbs. of checked baggage if you choose a Classic or Plus fare. Plus, you'll gain access to exclusive offers. Individual annual membership costs $59.99 and can be paid on a monthly basis. Group membership costs $231 for one year and will allow you to get exclusive fares for all passengers on the same itinerary as the member. You can upgrade an individual membership to a group membership at any time throughout the year.
Volaris sometimes has promo code sales of up to 90% off the base fare for v.club members only and the savings can definitely be worth joining if you travel to Mexico on a regular basis. With the recent expansion into Central America, these discounts can also work for flights to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
To join, just click the "turn on the v.club mode" button when booking a flight on Volaris.com and you’ll be able to choose a discounted airfare, if available. You can choose either a Basic, Classic, or Plus fare depending on your travel needs. I find that it is usually cheapest to just choose the Basic fare and add any additional options you need a la carte.
It’s actually fairly easy to get away without checking a bag on Volaris since the Basic fare includes two full-size carry-on bags. There is a total weight limit of 22 lbs., but you can also pay an extra amount to increase this weight limit to 44 lbs. if you think your bags look heavy enough to actually get weighed at the gate.
Volaris also has a separate membership program for domestic travel within Mexico. The v.pass plan lets you pay a fixed monthly fee of $299 MXN pesos (~$16 USD) for one-way travel once per month or $598 MXN pesos (~$32 USD) for one roundtrip flight per month. You then only pay taxes and any bag fees for any nonstop flight within Mexico. One caveat is that this plan is currently only available by using a credit card issued in Mexico. Credit cards issued in the U.S. are not accepted for the v.pass plan.
The v.pass plan also includes access to v.club fares and could be useful for those in the San Diego area who can use Tijuana’s airport via the Cross Border Xpress bridge, which connects the US side of the border directly with the airport’s terminal. This land border crossing is a breeze since it’s only for ticketed airline passengers. It essentially makes Tijuana’s International Airport a secondary airport for the San Diego area.
Related: How to Fly Volaris
Editor's note: This post was originaly publishced in September 2018. It has been updated with current information as of June 2019. WOW Air used to be included in this list, but has since ceased operations.