Frontier Reduces Change Fees, Allows Name Changes, and Generally Gets Customer-Friendly

Frontier rolled out a slew of changes last week, and most of them are very customer-friendly. In fact, these moves make it seem like Frontier has decided that its niche is going to be actually taking care of customers. If it can use that as a differentiator, more power to the airline. So far, I love the moves as a traveler. Let’s see if it brings more business to the airline.

Before we get started on the changes, it’s important to remember how Frontier sets up its pricing. The airline has its base Economy fare, a buy-up to Classic, and then the top level Classic Plus. The idea has been to bundle various fees into the higher levels to encourage people to buy up to higher packages. This announcement will help build more value into the higher levels. Here’s a chart with some of the benefits (click it to enlarge). See the Frontier website for the full list of what’s included in each type.

Frontier Fare Types

Now, let’s talk about what’s new here.

Change Fees Dropping
At one point, Frontier had matched the big guys with a $150 change fee. That was quietly reduced to $100 and now it’s going down to $50. But that’s only for Economy. Classic and Classic Plus fares will have no change fee at all. You have to imagine some of this is to deal with Southwest and its lack of change fee with its increasingly overlapping presence in Denver.

Bag Fees Dropping
The first bag is $20 on Frontier, but if you check-in online, you’ll now save $5. This tells me that a lot of people aren’t bothering to check-in online, so Frontier needs to use an incentive to help change that behavior.

Bike Fees Dropping
Before, there was a flat fee for checking your bike. Now it will just count as a regular bag. So if you pay the bag fee (or you’re on a ticket with no bag fees), then you can just check a bike instead of a suitcase. In outdoorsy-Colorado, Frontier’s home, this should be a big selling point. This also matches the Southwest policy while United still charges an extra fee.

Name Changes Now Allowed
Most airlines shudder at the thought of allowing name changes, but Frontier is jumping right in . . . with a catch. If you have an Economy or Classic ticket, you can give your ticket to someone else for a $50 fee. Classic Plus customers pay nothing. But there is one more thing. The name change will also require paying the difference between the original ticket and the fare available on the day of the change. So it’s like any other ticket change.

There are a couple times where this could be advantageous for the new customer. If the original ticket is in a booking class that’s currently sold out, then this will be cheaper than just buying a new ticket directly. If the flight is completely sold out, then this becomes even more important. In those cases, then it’s a big value to both side of the equation, but in more normal circumstances, it will benefit the original customer and not really anyone else. Still, it’s a great benefit because now for no more than $50 (assuming the new customer pays for the total fare), the original customer can get rid of a ticket instead of having to sit on a credit that might never get used.

Hello, Frontier Express
The turboprops and sub-50 seat regional jets are now going to be branded as Frontier Express to show that the onboard product is different. That’s great, but there’s no difference noted between the larger EMB-170/190 airplanes with no TV and the Airbus airplanes with TV.

Beyond these announcements, Frontier is making changes to its Guest Commitment which created some unparalleled benefits. I’m not entirely sure which of these are new and which are old, but here are some of the points that grabbed me.

Pay for Delays
If your flight is delayed 2 to 4 hours and it’s Frontier’s fault (not weather, etc), you get a $50 certificate for future use on Frontier. If it’s 4 to 6 hours, you get $100 certificate and a meal voucher. If it’s more than six hours, you can double that to $200.

Bag Fees
As we discussed yesterday, if your bag doesn’t travel with you, you get the fees refunded. Even if you check a bag and didn’t have to pay a fee, they’ll still give you a voucher worth the amount of what the fee would have been had it not been waived.

Stretch Seating Refunds
If you paid for Stretch seating (extra legroom) and didn’t get to sit in it for one reason or another, you’ll get a refund.

Rebooking If It’s Not Frontier’s Fault
Let’s say you’re delayed and it’s not Frontier’s fault. The weather’s bad, air traffic control, etc. Frontier will actually put you on another airline with which it has agreements if it can’t get you on Frontier within 3 hours, unlike other airlines. Unfortunately, Delta stubbornly doesn’t have one, but American, United, and Continental do. Southwest doesn’t, of course, since it doesn’t play nice with anyone.

I like what I’m seeing here. Frontier is trying to make policies more customer friendly. I’m sure some of this is related to the increasing competition from Southwest, but it can’t all be for that reason. Now it’s up to the traveling public to actually shift business to the airline so these changes can be justified.

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