After taking 13 flights on Frontier Airlines, I’ve figured how to get the best experience for the cheapest price. Here’s what to know.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

  • 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.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

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.

Read More: Spirit Airlines’ low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

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

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

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

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

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”

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

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

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic
Flying Frontier Airlines during the pandemic.

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest just added dozens of new leisure routes across the US in a major bid to get travelers back in the skies this summer – here’s the full list

Southwest Airlines 737
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.

  • Southwest Airlines is adding 31 new routes to its network this spring and summer.
  • Austin, Texas and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina are the focus of the expansions.
  • Additional non-stop routes are being added between secondary cities and vacation destinations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines is going all-in on the summer of vaccinated travel.

A countrywide expansion is seeing 31 new routes added to the airline’s already-sprawling leisure network with the hopes of getting more travelers to ditch road trips and get back in the skies this summer. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a major focus of the expansion and is getting its first routes since Southwest announced service to the beach town in early March.

Austin, Texas, is also in Southwest’s crosshairs with seven new routes to keep up with expanding competition. The tech boomtown has most recently been the target of American Airlines, which recently announced 10 new and expanding routes from Austin.

Read More: These 9 firms pay Austin-based software engineers upwards of $250,000 – and they’re hiring. Here are salaries and job postings at Google, Apple, Dell, and more.

But travelers don’t have to live in or frequent Austin and Myrtle Beach to get in on the action as Southwest is adding new point-to-point routes between secondary cities and popular vacation spots.

Returning Southwest flyers will also notice the airline has brought back some of its pre-pandemic amenities. Passengers now board aircraft in groups of 30 instead of groups of 10 and soft drinks including Coke, Diet Coke, and 7UP are now being served in addition to ice water during the in-flight service.

Here’s where Southwest Airlines is flying in 2021.

Between Myrtle Beach and Baltimore

baltimore maryland
Baltimore, Maryland.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Baltimore launch on May 23 with as many as three daily flights. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines.

Between Myrtle Beach and Chicago

chicago illinois
Chicago, Illinois.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Chicago launch on May 23 with one daily flight to Chicago’s Midway International Airport. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from Spirit, United Airlines, and American Airlines, all three of which connect Myrtle Beach to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Between Myrtle Beach and Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Nashville launch on May 23 with two daily flights. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between Myrtle Beach and Dallas

dallas
Dallas, Texas.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Dallas launch on May 29 with one round-trip flight operating only on Saturdays, utilizing Dallas Love Field. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from American Airlines, which connects Myrtle Beach with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Between Myrtle Beach and Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Pittsburgh launch on May 29 with one round-trip flight operating only on Saturdays. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from ultra-low-cost carriers Spirit and Allegiant Air.

Between Myrtle Beach and Atlanta

Atlanta Georgia skyline
Atlanta, Georgia.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Atlanta launch on June 6 with one daily flight. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from Delta Air Lines, Atlanta’s hometown airline that offers as many as five daily flights to Myrtle Beach.

Between Myrtle Beach and Columbus, Ohio

columbus ohio
Columbus, Ohio.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Columbus, Ohio, launch on June 6 with one daily flight. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from Spirit, which offers three-times-weekly service between the two cities.

Between Myrtle Beach and Indianapolis

indianapolis indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Indianapolis launch on June 6 with five-weekly flights on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from Allegiant, which offers twice-weekly service between the two cities.

Between Myrtle Beach and Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and Kansas City, Missouri, launch on June 6 with twice-weekly service on Saturdays and Sundays. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from Spirit, which offers three-times-weekly service between the two cities.

Between Myrtle Beach and St. Louis

st. louis missouri
St. Louis, Missouri.

Flights between Myrtle Beach and St. Louis launch on June 6 with twice-weekly service on Saturdays and Sundays. Southwest’s only competition on the route will surprisingly be from United, which will offer three-times-weekly service between the two cities on May 28.

Between Austin and Sacramento, California

sacramento
Sacramento, California.

Flights between Austin and Sacramento, California, launch on May 9 with one daily flight. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between Austin and Burbank, California

ABC Burbank California
Burbank, California.

Flights between Austin and Burbank, California, launch on June 6 with one daily flight. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between Austin and Miami

Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida.

Flights between Austin and Miami launch on June 6 with one daily flight. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from American, which offers as many as four daily flights on the route.

Miami has been experiencing an increase in visitors and new residents during the pandemic as Florida has remained largely open since last spring. Southwest began service to Miami International Airport in November, which Insider experienced on a recent flight.

Between Austin and Minneapolis

minneapolis minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Flights between Austin and Minneapolis launch on June 6 with one daily flight. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from Delta, which offers as many as three daily flights on the route, and ultra-low-cost carrier Sun Country Airlines, Minneapolis’ hometown airline.

Between Austin and Orange County, California

newport beach
Newport Beach, California.

Flights between Austin and Orange County, California, launch on June 6 with one daily flight. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between Austin and Salt Lake City

salt lake city utah
Salt Lake City, Utah.

Flights between Austin and Salt Lake City launch on June 6 with one daily flight. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from Delta, which offers as many as three daily flights on the route and connections across its intercontinental network.

Between Austin and Destin, Florida

Destin, Florida
Destin, Florida.

Flights between Austin and Destin, Florida, launch on June 6 with twice-weekly service on Saturdays and Sundays. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from American, which added Saturday-only Destin service in its most recent route expansion from Austin, and Allegiant, which offers twice-weekly service starting May 28.

Between Denver and Richmond, Virginia

richmond virginia
Richmond, Virginia.

Flights between Denver and Richmond, Virginia, launch on May 9 with one daily flight. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from United, which offers daily flights between the two cities.

Between Las Vegas and Palm Springs, California

palm springs
Palm Springs, California.

Flights between Las Vegas and Palm Springs, California, launch on May 9 with one daily flight. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between St. Louis and Miami

miami beach
Miami, Florida.

Flights between St. Louis and Miami launch on May 9 with daily service. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from American, which also offers daily flights between the two cities.

Between Nashville and Long Island, New York

Montauk Point, Long Island, New York
Montauk, New York.

Flights between Nashville and Long Island, New York, launch on June 6 with daily service. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between Chicago and Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine

Flights between Chicago and Portland, Maine, launch on June 6 with daily service. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from United and American, both of which offer daily flights from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Between Dallas and Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman
Bozeman, Montana.

Flights between Dallas and Bozeman, Montana, launch on June 6 with twice-weekly flights operating on Saturdays and Sundays. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from American, which offers daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Between Phoenix and Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman, Montana.

Flights between Phoenix and Bozeman, Montana, launch on June 6 with twice-weekly flights operating on Saturdays and Sundays. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from American, which offers daily flights.

Between Chicago and Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman, Montana.

Flights between Chicago and Bozeman, Montana, launch on June 6 with twice-weekly flights operating on Saturdays and Sundays. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from United and American, which offer daily flights to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Between Kansas City, Missouri, and Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston south carolina
Bozeman, Montana.

Flights between Kansas City and Charleston launch on June 12 with one round-trip flight operating only on Saturdays. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between Dallas and Sarasota, Florida

Siesta Key beach at Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota, Florida.

Flights between Dallas and Sarasota launch on June 12 with one round-trip flight operating only on Saturdays, utilizing Dallas Love Field. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from American, which offers daily flights between the two cities from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Between Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota, Florida.

Flights between Grand Rapids and Sarasota launch on June 12 with one round-trip flight operating only on Saturdays. Southwest’s only competition on the route will be from Allegiant, which offers twice-weekly flights between the two cities.

Between Milwaukee and Destin, Florida

destin florida
Destin, Florida.

Flights between Milwaukee and Destin launch on June 12 with one round-trip flight operating only on Saturdays. Southwest will have no direct competition on the route.

Between Salt Lake City and Tampa, Florida

Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida.

Flights between Salt Lake City and Tampa launch on June 12 with one round-trip flight operating only on Saturdays. Southwest’s competition on the route will be from Delta, which offers daily flights between the two cities.

Between Las Vegas and Chicago

Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada.

Flights between Las Vegas and Chicago launch on May 9 with four-times-weekly flights on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Southwest will have no shortage of competition on the route including American, United, Spirit, and Frontier.

Read the original article on Business Insider