My cousins, sisters, and I had a great time in Las Vegas, but if I go back, I’m pretty certain I won’t be flying Frontier Airlines. Their slogan, “A whole different animal,” is cool. Their jets are colorful. Each has a wild animal painted on its tail. And as we took to the air the attendant announced that polar bears, “Alberta and Clipper,” would be flying along with us.
That animal thing was pretty cute, although I’m not sure what those critters meant in the overall scheme of things. What I am sure of is that from online check-in to return trip touchdown I felt like we were being punished for booking our trip with Orbitz instead of flyfrontier.com.
1- The “Basic” Fare punishment
Our Orbitz purchase confirmation said the seats were “Economy.” Frontier online check-in listed them as “Basic” going and “Economy” returning. Despite what it said in writing, Frontier customer service explained that it didn’t matter what Orbitz said, or even what our Frontier website itinerary said, our tickets were “Basic” because we booked them at Orbitz.com.
So what’s the difference? Frontier invented the Basic fare class a few months back. It’s strictly a discount travel site fare. With Basic fare you get a seat and a seat belt; but for pretty much everything else, you have to pay fees that other airlines don’t charge.
2- The Seat Assignment Penalty
If you prefer a window, aisle, or center seat, you’re welcome to choose… if you pay $8 during online check-in.
3- The Carry-on Bag Punishment
Both Delta and USAir/American allow a personal item and a carry-on for free. Frontier allows a free “Personal Item,” a purse, backpack, etc., but no larger than 18 by 8 by 14 inches. Anything bigger is a “Carry-on,” for which you will pay a $25 to $100 fee depending on size, weight, and whether you pay in person or online.
4- The Checked bag Fee Switcheroo
Most airlines charge a fee for checked bags because handlers have to move and stow them, but this is where Frontier does a switcheroo. They charge a fee for both checked and carry-on bags; but a checked bag costs less than the bag you carry onto the plane without help. Checked bag fees begin at $20 if paid during online check-in. Note – If baggage handlers rip the strap off an expensive bag, Frontier says you get nothing.
5- The Stretch Seat Seduction
If you want a nicer, comfier seat, you can pay $15 per trip segment–$60 extra per person per round trip to Vegas. Stretch seats have more leg room and recline further… right into the knees of the person behind you. That wasn’t very comfortable for me or for my sister, who’d recently had knee replacement surgery.
6- The Snack Denial
Delta and USAir/American offer a cheap snack and a beverage freebie. Frontier Basic travelers get nothing. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and water cost $2 each. I decided it was a rather mean policy when the attendant asked if I wanted to buy a beverage, then leaned in to the guy in the window seat and said, “You get a free beverage, John. What would you like?”
7- The In-flight Entertainment Embargo
During our four-hour flight, Frontier offered no in-flight movie, no personal radio earphones, no Go-Go in-flight wireless, not even a copy of SkyMall to numb my brain. Each seat did have a pay TV, activated via credit card swipe.
A Nickeled-and-Dimed feeling
The squeeze for extra nickels and dimes came across like a back-door ploy to make up for whatever commission Frontier pays to Orbitz. There were five of us flying together, so that nickel-and-dimed feeling was multiplied by five. Extra fees increased our Basic fare for five from 1,793.05. to 2043.05. More if you add in two pieces of damaged luggage.
Those constant flight attendant reminders about booking on the airline website were also pretty annoying. I know now that I could have received the “best fare and more benefits” at flyfrontier.com. It just doesn’t matter.