Frontier Airlines is a discount airline. Like many of you, I have heard the horror stories of discount airlines such as Spirit so was somewhat hesitant to even try it. I have not personally ever flown Spirit so I cannot make a direct comparison, but from what I have read, the two airlines have many things in common on the surface. From the stories I have heard however, the execution appears to be quite different. Based on my family’s experiences to date, I recommend Frontier Airlines to anyone looking for low cost family travel. This review is my own and I have never been and am not currently being compensated for it (although I wouldn’t mind that at all!).
I have talked to a number of people who cannot imagine ever taking a Frontier Airlines flight. I say ‘don’t knock it until you try it’. The couple of people I have convinced to try it have not been disappointed. Yes, there are some differences compared to full cost airlines (which I do still fly as well), but I have been pleasantly surprised with experiences on Frontier and won’t hesitate to fly with them in the future.
I’m not quite sure how I ‘discovered’ Frontier Airlines, but remember our first flight being a family trip to New Orleans that we got for about $86 round trip per person including checked bags. We didn’t really have a reason to go to New Orleans, but it was a great price, it was right after school was out for the summer and I figured we could use a quick getaway. I remember before that trip that I thought to myself, ‘okay, if it’s terrible, we only paid $430 for the 5 of us and we never have to fly them again’. Well since that inaugural flight back in 2015, we’ve taken about 5 other flights on Frontier as a family. Over that time, I learned a lot about the airline including what to expect, what not expect and how to ensure I am getting the best deal. While I haven’t calculated a total savings, we save between $250 – $700 per trip for our family of 5 when flying Frontier compared to the more popular full price airlines.
Being a discount airline, there are many things you will not get that you (might) get on larger, full price airlines. Here is my take on the things you hear about most and a few you may not be aware of.
Free (or in this case not free) Carry-Ons
This is a biggie for many people. You have to pay for checked luggage at pretty much all airlines nowadays with the exception of Southwest, but most will allow you bring a carry-on for free at least. Well at Frontier, you have to pay for carry-ons. What I have found is that when i’m traveling solo it’s usually a quick trip and I only need a carry-on, but when we are traveling as a family, we always take large suitcases so we would most likely be checking suitcases anyway. Not having a carry-on just frees up our hands to manage our kids. Each child always has a backpack with them and at least one of us parents has a backpack. This is plenty sufficient for carrying toys, snacks, laptop, ipads etc. Sure, it would be great if carry-ons were free, but so far we’ve flown without them without issue. Even with the cost of a carry-on, the total cost you pay on Frontier will almost always be less than full cost airlines.
Frontier requires you to pay if you want to select your specific seat in advance. The price could be anywhere from $5 to $20 depending on when you purchase it and where the seat is located. This turns a lot of people off and I get that. We have NEVER paid in advance for seat selection and with the exception of our very first flight with Frontier, when I was not quite as Frontier savvy, have always been seated all together. Of course because they are offering discount tickets, they want to find ways to make extra money and seat selection is one of them. When we’re traveling as a family, it’s usually for a vacation so we have no reason that we MUST sit right up front to try and rush off the plane (although we have ended up there a couple of times). If you’re traveling alone, you do run a greater risk of ending up in a middle seat if you don’t pay for a seat in advance, but if you’re traveling together as a family, somebody’s gonna be in the middle seat anyway, so that’s not a worry. What I found to be the key to seats is to just ensure that you check-in once your 24-hour window hits. You can even look and see how what seats are available and pretty much figure out what seat you will get once you officially check in. Hint: They almost always give you the seats furthest back with the number seat together as people in your booking party. So I can look and see that the row furthest back with 5 seats together is X and have pretty much always been spot on. You can then wait it out a bit if you want to try and get closer to the front. It seems most people don’t purchase their seat in advance so there are always lots of seats available upon checking in at the 24-hour mark. So far this has worked out great for us.
I honestly didn’t even realize this until around our 3rd or 4th flight because I am not generally a ‘recliner’ when flying, but the Frontier Airline seat do not recline at all (as far as I could tell on our last flight). The seats are basic and without much extra cushion. A couple of the Frontier planes I have been on have been new and this was the case even on those. If you’re used to ‘Delta Comfort’ seats or always reclining whenever you fly this could be an issue for you. My husband ALWAYS sleeps on flights and while he has looked a bit awkward a couple of times, the seats have never kept him from getting his ZZzzzzz.
The only beverage you will get for free on Frontier is water. If we want something other than water, we just buy it at an airport store prior to boarding. Not sure why this would be an issue for anyone given how little you get anyway, but it is the case so there you have it.
This is pretty much expected on full cost airlines when taking a flight over 3 or so hours. On my most recent Delta flight of only 1.5 hours it was also available. Well, so far it does not seem to exist on Frontier Airlines. We have taken 2 flights to Colorado and 1 flight to California on Frontier and have not been on a plane with in-flight TV. I don’t think my kids know that it’s even a thing :). Again, for us, not an issue. Each kid has a tablet with pre-loaded movies and headphones and we’re good to go. I usually read on my tablet and my husband gets his ZZZzzzz. We’re all happy!
I have so far seen zero difference in the service I get from the gate agents to the pilots or flight attendants on Frontier versus any other airline I have flown. Like any service business, you may occasionally encounter the grumpy, not so friendly employee, but all in all, the workers at Frontier have been friendly and helpful.
So, all in all, I say go for it. Give Frontier Airlines a try. Worst case scenario you will have made it to your destination a few hundred dollars richer even if you decide it’s not for you!