How Frontier Got Me to Pay More for a Connecting Flight Than a Nonstop

I’ve long sung the praises of Air Canada’s efforts to create fare product categories, but really, I’ve never gone through the purchase process for my own ticket. When Frontier adopted a similar structure, I felt the same way, but again, I hadn’t gone through the process myself . . . until now. I love it even more.

I have a trip coming up in a couple of months that will take me to both Chicago for a reunion of sorts and then Indianapolis to see the in-laws. The Chicago decision was an easy one – I’ll be on the JetBlue flight from Long Beach. But coming back, I had my pick of the litter. In fact, there were three appealing options, all within about $10 of each other:

  1. Frontier Lv Indy 645a Arr Long Beach 1015a (1h7m stop in Denver)
  2. Delta Lv Indy 7a Arr LAX 836a (no stops)
  3. Delta Lv Indy 815a Arr Long Beach 1209p (1h7m stop in Salt Lake)

While I normally want to fly nonstop whenever I can, I’ll take Long Beach over LAX if the connection isn’t painfully long every time. The choice of Frontier over Delta was an easy one as well. Frontier is new to town, and I always want to support the new guy. We need to fill those planes if we’re going to keep them around. (Besides, I love LiveTV.) So I went to Frontier’s website to book.

Frontier deserves kudos for actually showing the full fare amount instead of the misleading pre-tax amount that other sites show. I saw the fare I expected to see, but then I saw more. In fact, I saw this (click to enlarge):

Frontier Fare Display

Hmm, I was going to buy an Economy fare, but for only $30 I could get a Classic fare. What was that again? Oh yeah, they have a link. Here’s the comparison:

Frontier AirFairs

It was time to break out the math. What mattered here? Well, I wasn’t checking a bag, but if I was, this became an easy decision to buy up to the higher fare. I was definitely going to pay for LiveTV, though I knew we’d only have it on one of our flights. So that’s a $6 savings. I might think about paying up for Stretch at the time of check-in, but I wasn’t ready to count that yet. Really, it came down to the seat assignment. I wanted that seat assignment in advance. Was it worth $24? Yep, I bought it.

While all this was going on, I had completely blocked the other flights out of my mind. Sure, I could have had an assigned seat on Delta at the cheapest fare level, but I had already made up my mind what I wanted to fly. Frontier was able to get an extra $30 out of me, and I had no problem paying for it. It was completely fair and I expected to get more out of it than the $30 it cost.

I hate when airlines throw fees at you every step of the way, but a product like this allowed me to pay for what I wanted up front and be done with it. I wish everyone would do this.

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35 Comments on "How Frontier Got Me to Pay More for a Connecting Flight Than a Nonstop"

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Lee
Guest

Amen.

BF
Guest

This really is the future of air travel and pricing, at least I hope so.

Southwest would be smart to take a page from Frontier’s book, and not bring down the cost of their Business Select fares (same goes for the Anytime fares when there’s a “Wanna Get Away” option). Instead of Frontier’s ~$30 difference (obviously an amount that’s going to vary depending on the route), I see Southwest charging usually $125-$200 more for fare upgrades. A price differential that tends to turn off most travelers!

BF
Guest

” . . . not bring down the cost of their Business Select fares”

Must. remember. to. read. before. submitting. comment.

Obviously I don’t want that “not” in that sentence.

David SF eastbay
Member

My question would be for the free onboard stuff how do they know you purchased the higher fare to get those?

I can see the flight manifest showing who gets the free items and listing your seat number, but people can change seats. So are you given something to show the F/A’s onboard that you get those items as part of your ticket?

Ken
Guest

Just flew Frontier’s Classic Plus. Stretch is great — allegedly the same pitch as United’s E+ but somehow felt like more. With 2 bags to check that, too, was a no-brainer. Excellent service. Plus the CP is fully refundable. To me, that’s huge at this price point. I’d choose Frontier again in a heartbeat. And @david: It says Classic or Classic Plus on your boarding pass.

Ed Casper
Guest

I really think Frontier’s pricing mechanism, in many ways, represents the best of both worlds. If combined with JetBlue’s policy of one “free” checked bag, and Southwest’s cancellation policy it would be an ideal way to split the differences among pricing models. That combination of policies, at least in my humble opinion, represents fair value for both consumers and the airlines.

hk2
Guest

If you were to purchase LiveTV, isn’t it worth $12 instead of $6, because you have had to pay twice for IND-DEN and DEN-LGB. Correct me if I’m wrong.

hk2
Guest

@ hk2:
Sorry, one of your flight is not available for LiveTV. Well, still in many other connections, it’s $12 worth and more reason to upgrade to “classic”.

Andrew
Guest
When I’ve flown a LiveTV-equipped Frontier plane on the Classic ticket, the flight attendants seem to have a printed manifest that indicates who is supposed to get the “free” TV — They’ve come down the aisle usually as soon as the plane is in the air and they’re able to move around, asked me “Are you Andrew?” and then swiped a key-card in the credit card slot next to the TV monitor to activate it for me. Pretty painless. I’ve never flown on a Classic Plus ticket, but I see them getting those passengers their free liquor at the same… Read more »
Jon
Guest

I’ve only flown Frontier once, but I do like the way they do things. I flew ATL-DEN-ANC back in September. On trips beginning or terminating in ANC, 1 checked bag is free. (I didn’t see that fact publicized anywhere on their website, but I knew from speaking with others. Felt bad for those who booked a higher fare level for bags.)

DirecTV is also free on segments to ANC, as it doesn’t work over Canada anyway.

The pitch on their 319s is also about 1-2 inches better than most. Not sure if that has changed since they started adding Stretch up front…

Craig
Guest
Frontier’s fare categories offer some great values, but there’s one major problem – they could be costing Frontier business when passengers who aren’t familiar with them search for fares. I just ran a search on Kayak for LGA-DEN, flying out Apr 2 and returning Apr 6. Kayak shows the cheapest fare as $256 (Midwest, with MCI-DEN segment on the outbound and nonstop return on Frontier metal), Frontier comes back as lowest available being $307, non-stop both ways. Cheapest fully non-stop combos are $294 (Frontier out, United back), or $304 on United. Frontier fares are identified on Kayak as coming from… Read more »
Ed Casper
Guest
Andrew wrote: Allow me: REPUBLIC, FIGURE OUT YOUR FLEET. The different and disorganized customer experience is ultimately going to harm the Frontier brand, the only strong one they have right now. I appreciate that Republic has at least come out and said recently than they realize operating Midwest, Frontier and Republic as separate brands hasn’t gone as smoothly as they’d hope and a unified brand strategy and flight experience is coming later this year. Let’s hope Frontier’s approach wins out. Excuse me, but it seems that an awful lot of people, here and on other airline blogs, are under the… Read more »
Loyal Delta Flier
Guest

Um… Delta has free live TV on more and more of it’s flights. Use your own headphones or buy for $2 if you didn’t bring any. Plus they have pay internet service.

David SF eastbay
Member

Thanks Ken and Andrew, it’s good to know the type fare you purchase prints on the boarding pass and that the F/A’s are on the ball and come looking for you so set you up with the LiveTV.

Alex
Guest
Cranky I’m interested if you think it would be possible/profitable for airlines to introduce an even cheaper economy “fare product’ that limited the seating options even more. Using your example of Frontier, what if there was a $99 option but you were only guaranteed a middle seat. In economy the only thing that really makes a difference for me is the seat, as long as i can get an aisle seat I’m happy. I’ll take the cheapest ticket. Thats about the only thing I would pay a serious premium for at the time of booking. Food, flexibility, entertainment and checked… Read more »
Joe
Guest

I’m with you, Andrew. The thing that matters to me above all is where I sit on the plane (in my case, a window seat not over the wing).

I’m amazed by (and admiring of) people who don’t care where they sit on a plane. I avoid Southwest precisely because of their no-seat-assignment policy. Since they’re the current fave-rave airline of tons of people, I guess that makes you and I the outliers.

Lane
Guest

@ CF:

You will have the word Classic on your boarding pass and a list is printed for the FA’s with your seat assignment so they can swipe their card and get you the free TV.

rdrtkd
Guest

agreed

million miler
Guest

forgive me, this is turning into my favorite rant

The “menu” is nice, but why are they not showing the cost to check a bag? For that matter what is the value of the DirecTV, drink and snack if you choose the Classic Plus? Is it clear to the average Joe which flight is an Airbus to make sure you get the DirecTV? If they don’t tell me how can I make a decision…

Like the bundle idea, but they are only half way there.

chris
Guest

not to mention when you get on that embraer flown by republic pilots you are being flown by pilots who most likely dont have nearly the time and experience that pilots at a major airlines have. (I am excluding the Frontier flight because those are not republic pilots.)

remember. you get what you pay for.

scott
Guest
chris wrote: not to mention when you get on that embraer flown by republic pilots you are being flown by pilots who most likely dont have nearly the time and experience that pilots at a major airlines have. (I am excluding the Frontier flight because those are not republic pilots.) remember. you get what you pay for. Im sorry, but you base that on what? Especially considering that Republic (via the original company Chautauqua) has been around longer than Frontier??? Im not trying to cast the Frontier folks in a less favorable light, but this seems like a completely unfounded… Read more »
Wes
Guest

@Joe: I care about where I sit on an airplane, and I only fly WN. It’s pretty simple, 24 hours prior to departure, check-in online and ensure an A boarding pass. With an A boarding pass, a person is guaranteed a window seat somewhere on the airplane if that is what they so desire.

Are there people who haven’t flown WN who seriously think that 130 passengers all try to board the aircraft at the exact same time?

SAN Greg
Guest

I’ll have to add to the chorus that I like this pricing structure. Although bumpy at first, identifying “Classic Plus” pax who have bennies coming (DirecTV free snack, premium bev) probably is easier now. I have already purchased tickets to go to MSN the first week service start as I’ve never been a fan of the CRJ’s Skywest operates to DEN from there, and I try to avoid ORD. I’m with you that it’s important to “use it or lose it”.

chris
Guest
scott wrote: chris wrote: not to mention when you get on that embraer flown by republic pilots you are being flown by pilots who most likely dont have nearly the time and experience that pilots at a major airlines have. (I am excluding the Frontier flight because those are not republic pilots.) remember. you get what you pay for. Im sorry, but you base that on what? Especially considering that Republic (via the original company Chautauqua) has been around longer than Frontier??? Im not trying to cast the Frontier folks in a less favorable light, but this seems like a… Read more »
chris
Guest

1. not all majors farm out flying to regionals.

2. fly on whoever the heck you want. I dont take lightly the experience of the flight crew when I put my family on an airplane.

chris
Guest

Ill take southwest where I know the FO is not right out of flight school.

scott
Guest

chris wrote:

Ill take southwest where I know the FO is not right out of flight school.

Do whatever you think is right for you- but I think casting a broad net that accusing an entire industry of being inexperienced is a bit much.

I hope that you take more time in determining “fact” in the future as opposed to relying on TV sensationalism.

I stand by my original comment. I have yet to have a Republic crew overfly my destination or land on a taxiway… I guess I’ve just been lucky…

chris
Guest

@ scott:

overfly a destination of land on a taxiway???

how about a perfectly good Q400 falling out of the sky in buffalo

Nick Barnard
Member
Craig wrote: Frontier’s fare categories offer some great values, but there’s one major problem – they could be costing Frontier business when passengers who aren’t familiar with them search for fares. I just ran a search on Kayak for LGA-DEN, flying out Apr 2 and returning Apr 6. Kayak shows the cheapest fare as $256 (Midwest, with MCI-DEN segment on the outbound and nonstop return on Frontier metal), Frontier comes back as lowest available being $307, non-stop both ways. Cheapest fully non-stop combos are $294 (Frontier out, United back), or $304 on United. Frontier fares are identified on Kayak as… Read more »
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