Andy’s family lives in Denver and we were due to make a visit to see them in January. Unfortunately, this is ski season and airlines hike up the weekend flight rates since people will pay it. I did some searching to see if we could get something relatively cheap as our flight dates were flexible. I was very happy when I found round trip flights on Frontier Airlines for $130 round trip. This was half the price of other airlines.
I was a little nervous about booking with Frontier Airlines as I read a lot of bad reviews and horror stories online. After reading a few of the reviews, it seemed that people just didn’t understand the business model of a la carte airfare pricing. I have previously flown on Air Asia and Ryanair, so I knew the type of fees and service to expect for the trade off of a possibly very low cost airline ticket.
Frontier Airlines Optional Fees
You have to pay for both carry on and checked baggage. There is a loophole that if you bring 1 small bag that can fit under the seat, there is no charge. On our trip to Denver we shared 1 carry on bag. After our trip, I realized that we overpaid since 1 carry on split between 2 people is the same as both of us bringing a backpack.
You have to pay to select your seat, otherwise you’ll get assigned a random seat at check in. The fee is not excessive, but I don’t want to pay $3 for each of us both ways to select a seat. I always prefer to be seated next to Andy, but if we’re separated it’s not a big deal. Luckily we have always been seated next to each other on discount airlines, strangely enough we typically both get aisle seats across from each other. I have yet to encounter a middle seat that wouldn’t trade for an aisle so we can sit together.
You have to pay to upgrade to the equivalent of economy plus on a traditional airline. This includes the first several rows as well as the exit rows. If these seats are not occupied, you are not allowed to move to them without paying the upgrade fee.
The seats are pretty narrow and close together on Frontier Airlines, especially when the person in front of you reclines. Andy and I are both relatively small so we’re willing to put up with a little discomfort for a few hours to save some money.
Drinks & Snacks
You have to pay for all soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and snacks. Soft drinks are $2, alcoholic drinks are $7 and snacks are $3. I think that these prices are pretty reasonable, especially when you are coming from the airport which has to have the most unreasonably priced drinks anywhere. If you don’t want to pay, you can always get water for free.
Frontier Airlines has direct TV on many of their planes. You are able to watch TV on your own screen for a fee which varies based on the length of the flight. In addition to streaming TV they also have movie channels. If you don’t have an iPad or laptop to watch a movie on, it’s actually not that bad of a deal.
Frontier Airlines Experience
Our first Frontier Airlines experience was our flight to Denver. We arrived at O’Hare (ORD) and headed to terminal 3 to catch our flight. It was difficult to find our gate number as all of the departure boards in terminal 3 were American Airline owned and only posted American Airline flight info. We downloaded the Frontier Airlines app to pull up our gate number but it was completely useless, essentially just a mobile version of the website which also did not have the information. We asked a security worker where the Frontier gates were and he pointed us in the general direction. Once further down the terminal we found a very small screen which had flight information for the non-American Airline flights including Spirit, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines.
Once at our gate we were told that the flight was delayed. We got several different reasons why it was delayed – one was that the plane needed a part fixed and another was that our plane was being given to the flight headed to Costa Rica. Either way our flight was 2 hours delayed so we headed to the bar to kill some time. Two hours later, we headed back to the gate. Once we arrived, we were told that it was delayed another hour. We headed back to the bar to have another drink. Finally, 3 hours after we were supposed to depart, we were on the plane. The most frustrating part of the delay was that I took a ½ day of work to leave early and catch our flight. Had I known that we were leaving so late I would have just worked more so I didn’t burn through vacation time.
Since we didn’t pay to reserve our seats, we were in the back of the plane. The seats were quite small and didn’t offer much in the way of legroom, but Andy and I aren’t big people so it wasn’t a big deal. I liked that the seats were leather instead of fabric as they just seem more clean to me. The flight itself was uneventful and we declined to pay for drinks or snacks, opting instead for complimentary water.
Prior to our Denver flight, we booked a flight to Vegas on Frontier Airlines as there was a fare deal for February. When you live in Chicago, you need to get away to somewhere warm at least once every winter. Sadly, a few weeks after I booked my flight, I saw that American Airlines was offering an even better deal with better flight times. We were not able to cancel our flight without losing money so kept it as it was.
On the way down to Vegas we were really bummed out that we got assigned seats in the very back row of the plane since there is no recline and we’d be the last ones off the plane. Much to our benefit, we were the only ones in the back row meaning that we both got a whole row to ourselves. We were so excited that we scored “poor man’s first class” and were able to lie down and sleep.
We were hoping for the same luck on the way back home as we had a red eye flight and the back row was empty once boarding was completed. The flight attendants told us that we couldn’t move back to those seats as the crew needed them. I call total BS on this as there are jump seats that are made for the flight crew, and for safety reasons I would be extremely nervous if all 4 members of the flight crew were in the very back of the plane at the same time. It wasn’t worth pushing as we got an entire row to ourselves which made getting some sleep, at least for me, a little easier.
I would fly Frontier Airlines again if the price and flight time was right. I actually received a $30 credit due to our delayed flight to Denver, something that I don’t think that the traditional airlines would offer, at least not without a complaint. The worst part about Frontier Airlines cheap fares are that they are typically at non-peak times so they require taking time off of work or leaving at off-peak times, which might not be worth saving a few bucks.