- Frontier Airlines boasts cheap tickets but fares can quickly add up with extra fees.
- Everything from advanced seat assignments to carry-on bags incurs a fee.
- I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and know how to make the most of flying on the low-cost carrier.
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Frontier Airlines is one of the country’s fastest-growing airlines with a sprawling network that always seems to be adding new routes.
The airline’s strategy is offering flyers cheap non-stop flights to leisure destinations, and that’s in demand now that Americans are raring to get back in the air following an extended pandemic. But while Frontier may fly the same type of aircraft as its full-service competitors like American Airlines and United Airlines, the onboard product couldn’t be any different.
As with any ultra-low-cost carrier, Frontier is built for savings and that’s reflected in every aspect of the flying experience. Seats, for example, are bare-bones with minimal padding, menial tray tables, and as little as 28 inches of legroom on some planes, according to SeatGuru. But that doesn’t mean flights can’t be enjoyable.
Frontier flies from my local airport on Long Island in New York and I’ve had many an opportunity to journey on the ultra-low-cost carrier by taking advantage of its rock-bottom pricing. In my years of flying the airline, I don’t think I’ve paid more than $30 for a round-trip flight when traversing the East Coast as far south as Miami and have had a good experience nearly every time.
Here’s what you need to know when flying Frontier in order to get the best experience.
Know what you’re paying for
Flyers should know that their $15 one-way ticket isn’t going to get them much more than a ticket to ride. Everything from an advanced seat assigned to the drinks onboard the aircraft is going to incur an extra fee.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you know what to pay for and what not to pay for. Personal items like a backpack can fly free of charge and so I avoid the baggage fees by skipping the carry-on and using a backpack for my items if the trip allows.
The seats onboard Frontier are also unlike anything passengers would find on a full-service airline. They’re thin “slimline” seats with no headrests, in-seat power, or even full-size tray tables. Legroom is also significantly reduced, which can make for an uncomfortable ride for taller passengers.
Ultimately, they’re not the most comfortable but I also know my limits when flying an airline like Frontier. I tend to get squirmish when flying Frontier after around three hours, especially if in a crowded row, so I wouldn’t generally book a flight longer than that.
Flyers wanting the extras can pay for them and those wanting seats comparable to a full-service carrier can book “stretch” seats in the first few rows of the cabin. They include full tray tables, extra legroom, and full recline capabilities.
Travelers with too high of expectations will ultimately be disappointed by Frontier but I’ve found that managing those expectations will result in a better experience.
Why I never pay for a seat and how to get a better one for free
I’ve taken 13 flights on Frontier and I’ve only been assigned a middle seat a total of one time. The science isn’t exactly clear on how Frontier randomly assigns leftover seats but my trick is checking in exactly 24 hours in advance and I’m typically given an aisle or window seat.
I prefer a window seat and so I always check with the gate agent to see if any have opened up if I’m assigned an aisle or middle. The gate staff are usually more than willing to help out and will often assign the closest open seat to the front.
And now with the pandemic, I ask if any full rows are open. On my most recent flight from Las Vegas to Seattle, a near-three-hour journey, I asked if there were any full rows open for social distancing and managed to get a row closer to the front all to myself.
As I found when flying basic economy to Europe in January 2020, there’s very little you can’t get for free when asking politely, even when flying on the cheapest ticket.
Why I subscribe to Discount Den and how to get it for “free”
Discount Den is a paid membership product where customers get discounts on flights in exchange for a $59.99 annual fee. It’s separate from the MyFrontier loyalty program and perks can include discounts, free tickets for children, and buy one, get ones.
The savings are more pronounced on more expensive flights as the cheaper flights in Frontier’s network will only see a modest savings of only a few dollars. A $95 flight I booked from Islip, New York to Phoenix in June, however, was only $77 thanks to the program. The $18 savings was around a third of the annual fee so if I had two more flights with that amount of savings, I’d break even.
But I didn’t outright pay to join the program. I joined in January and discovered that I could use travel credit from a Frontier flight that I had canceled during the pandemic to pay for it, but only if I bought the membership while booking a flight.
Frontier sometimes offers signup bonuses when joining the program to make it an even better value. I signed up and was given a $50 voucher to fly on Frontier so the program basically paid for itself.
The only downside is that there are no perks when actually flying. I still have to pay for a seat, I don’t get to board any earlier, and I don’t receive any baggage allowance. But the discounts I get do help offset the cost of buying extras like a seat assignment or carry-on bag if I absolutely need them.
Frontier’s pandemic safety measures
Like most major US airlines, Frontier flyers must wear masks when flying and acknowledge a health declaration that basically says flyers haven’t contracted COVID-19 recently and haven’t been exposed to the virus. But that’s about where the similarities stop.
All travelers flying Frontier must submit to a temperature screening at boarding. If a flyer shows a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, they’ll be denied boarding.
On the plane, Frontier has not blocked middle seats and does not proactively notify of full flights. Customers are also on their own to social distance, either by asking the gate agent to move to an empty row or asking the flight attendant to be re-seated.
The in-flight service has also been suspended with no snacks or drinks, besides bottles of water, available for purchase. Bottles of water are available on request for $2.99 or flyers can bring their own drinks from the terminal.