We don’t see this very often, but the folks at the newly-reinvigorated Frontier have decided to make some changes. While bag fees are going up $5, the big news is that the change fee is going down from $150 to $100. Huzzah!
The $150 change fee is something that just makes me angry. Considering the fare levels that are out there today, many fares have become effectively non-refundable. I was just looking for a one way from JFK to LAX, and American had a $119 all-in while United had $144. You can book it, but it’ll cost you more to change it than it will to just throw it away and start over. That’s crap. (BTW, I’ll be having my first Virgin America long haul experience for that trip – $98 all-in.)
Here you can see a chart of domestic change fees for many US-based carriers. Yes, I realize it looks suspiciously like something you might wave at a reggae concert. On the right side, I’ve included a completely arbitrary decree regarding what’s fair and what isn’t.
Why do I say this is completely arbitrary? Well, I don’t have change fee data to back me up here. All I can do is go by what seems fair considering the fares I see out there. To me, anything over $100 is completely absurd. Anything between $50 and $100 seems possibly fair, but it still may be too much for shorter haul carriers considering the fares that are out there. To me, the $25 to $50 range is the sweet spot for short haul while anything below $25 seems like a wasted opportunity. (We’ve talked about this before regarding Southwest.)
But let’s get back to Frontier. They were in the zone of ridiculousness, and they’ve now moved down into the zone of questionability. Why? Well I asked Frontier spokesperson Peter Kowalchuk, and he actually gave a pretty straightforward answer.
We’ve always been a customer-focused company. We realized a couple things. Aside from the great experience that our customers enjoy flying with us, our customers love us for our low fares. We also understand that our customers sometime need to change their plans and the change that we made in the change fee allows them to enjoy our low fares and have the flexibility they need to change their flights. . . . This fee change makes our fees more proportional to our actual fare. Airfare has dropped but fees haven’t.
My interpretation here is that, as I said above, fares have gotten so low that the $150 change fee probably results in people just throwing away their tickets because the change costs more. So now by lowering it 33%, they’re likely hoping they’ll get more than a 33% bump in the number of changes being made. I hope this actually happens, because it gives us hope that other airlines will review their fee as well.
I can dream, can’t I? But least Frontier is moving in the right direction. Kudos to the furry little animal tails.