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.

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

  1. This also appears to be restoring the brand’s strength from the confusion and dust up with some services being marketed as Midwest, and some as Frontier, etc.

    Is Republic’s Frontier subsidiary profitable?

    • I LOVED MIDWEST BEFORE THE BUY OUT!!! That was a very classy airline! So sad the new owner trashed it into greed, and changed the best in seating, service, comfort, etc. for more seating, and put together like a child’s tree fort. The aesthetics of Midwest cannot be better, but certainly were trashed! I hope someone of intellect, someday, brings back an airline just like Midwest offered!

  2. I like the changes!

  3. Brad says:

    And remember, no extra charge on FRONTIER for planes with no holes!

    • 121Pilot says:

      Brad,

      I’m an Airbus driver myself (not for Frontier) but I have to say your comment was immature and inappropriate. Southwest wasn’t the first to have such an incident and they won’t be the last Remember too that everyone involved (including Boeing and the FAA) commented that this was a failure that had not been expected and would cause a serious rethink of ageing aircraft certification standards. Frankly as the Airbus fleet ages it’s only a matter of time before something unexpected pops up with those aircraft. Slamming Southwest for flying convertibles is akin to doing the same to USAir for water landings.

  4. Marc says:

    Seriously? This should not be celebrated as something special. I work in the customer relations department of a large european carrier and we have been doing all of the above for years and years now.

    We DONT charge you for your first bag. Bikes cost a mere 20 euros and are fully insured. Name changes have always been allowed on our tickets. It does cost 30 euros plus the price difference to the new ticket. Same goes for rebooking.

    And, seriously, pays for delays? We pay up to 600 euros cash if we delay a flight by more than 3 hours and its our fault. And if your bag does not travel with you and is delayed for more than 24 hours its a good ammount of cash aswell.

    And Im not gonna even mention that we of course refund misarranged seats and rebook customers to other airlines for free…

    Seriously, if you call THAT customer service then I ask you never to step onboard most european carriers, because we sure know how to treat our customers well!

    Just my two cents,

    Marc

    • Dan says:

      Yes, seriously.

      I can’t exactly fly your large European carrier on any route that Frontier serves. For passengers with that option, this is big.

      Pay for delays — have you really been doing that for years? Voluntarily? I won’t confuse a voluntary move from a carrier with some type of law (EU 261) REQUIRING a payout.

      P.S. As someone who’s flown BA, KLM, KLM Cityhopper, and AF at one point or another over the years, I can’t say my experience was that much better than that on a comparable US carrier. And let’s not forget that Europe is home to the original uber-cheap, charge for everything Ryan Air.

    • BW says:

      Marc you must not work for Iberia. They delayed my bag into Barcelona where I had to get on a cruise ship. Got my bag 2 days later in Marseille and ended up with about 50 euros for the whole deal, even though the BSO agent said I had a much larger allowance.

      • Marc says:

        Work for a german airline actually

        • matt says:

          Marc,

          I’m hazarding a guess at LH, but nevertheless, this is significant in the US because in a world where oil is on the spike, we are seeing airlines push harder and harder for improved revenues by charging for everything. Frontier puts that into perspective and clearly believes that they can generate a revenue premium by offering the customer more – so yes for a major LCC to take a step in this direction in the Midwest is something to be celebrated… (JetBlue & Virgin America offer similar attitudes on the coasts) but nevertheless.

          Cheers

  5. Dan says:

    Cranky,

    Thanks for the update. This actually makes me consider F9 the next time that the airline is a consideration for me. To me, the change fee thing is huge. Nothing stings worse than having to pay $150 to change a ticket. It makes me hate the carrier. $50? I’d pay that with a smile on my face.

    Do you have any sense of the difference in fares between each fare type? Is the classic plus a fare that the average joe would consider prohibitively expensive?

    • CF says:

      I don’t know the usual difference, but I plugged in LA to Denver for random weekdays in July.

      Economy – $99.70
      Classic – $124.70
      Classic Plus – $164.70

  6. Actually, Southwest does charge for bikes, a modest $50. They make exceptions for folding bikes that fit within the normal luggage size requirement, but so what? Why would anyone disclose they have a bicycle if it fits within the standard luggage size? Cyclists have been disassembling their bikes and disguising them for years to avoid punitive airline charges like Delta’s outrageous $200 each way.

    Kudo’s to Frontier for finally responding to Southwest in Denver, it only took them what, 5 years? Let’s see if Delta drops some of their fees by 2016, 5 years after Southwest acquires AirTran.

    • CF says:

      Hah, you’re right. I misread their fees but it is in fact a $50 fee unless it fits within the 62 inch limit.

    • matt says:

      Thats not really fair Jason, since the RAH acquisition there have been a great deal of changes to the product. Frontier is still a (relatively) young carrier that continues to comb the product to determine where they can generate a revenue premium…. Yes Southwest has made a difference, yes Frontier has responded with a number of changes over the past few years (most in regard to route structure and frequency alterations) – but the product is beginning to look uniform and is shaping up to become a great competitor to WN.

  7. It always seemed stupid and mades the airlines look like idiots when there is a $150 change fee on at $50 ticket. You would think if the ticket price is lower then the standard change fee, they would use a percentage instead. And yes we all know it doesn’t cost $150 to type a few keys in the computer to rebook your flight and exchange your ticket, or do a name change for that matter.

  8. james says:

    Adding to Jason’s point above: If a bike is disassembled and packed up into a box, fitting the dimensions and weight limits of any other checked bag, then NO airline should ever charge an extra fee just because there happens to be the elements to create a bicycle inside. jetBlue got taken to task on this a few years back when a traveler did exactly that and got socked with a fee after volunteering he had boxed up his bike. Consumerist ran it, and they ended up refunding the “bike fee”

    Unlike surfboards and skiis, which are unweildy and require special handling, a bike fee should only apply if I walk into check in wheeling my bike to the counter. And no one who has any ounce of respect for their bike would ever do this.

    Thankfully I do live in Colorado so haven’t traveled elsewhere with my own skiis or bikes yet. I do have a couple friends who travel with their own scuba gear, who assure me that bikes and skiis are nothing compared to what they deal with.

  9. Oliver says:

    Perhaps the CEO’s experience on “Undercover Boss” really helped him and the management team understand how to grow a customer friendly animal in the skies! Good job Frontier!!

  10. Ian L says:

    Good moves, Frontier. I’ve flown them more times/miles than any other airlines (usually DEN-SAT or DEN-AUS, most recently DEN-SFO) and their customr service has been excellent.

    That said, Southwest recently has matched Frontier price wise in Denver to SAT and AUS and their 737s (73Gs or 735s I think) are a litte more comfy than E70s that Frontier uses to serve SAT (but not by much). The bigger deal though is rewards. For people like me who fly ~800 mile flights, I can get reward flights much more quickly on Southwest. The correlary to this is that SWA’s credit card offers a better prduct than Frontier’s. Due to this, Frontier is more expensive to fly, and my next flight is (paid for by rewards on) Southwest.

    As for Classic vs. Classic Plus vs. Economy, on the flights I’ve seen Classic is $25 per flight more than Economy. Classic Plus is $40 per fight above that. Prices converge as you get closer to flight time, to the point hat I’ve seen identical pricing across all classes of service. You won’t see zero pricing differences like that on Soutwest.

    Now if only Frontier would get their act together with WiFi. Maybe then I’d prefer E70s to A319s…SW’s WiFi product is quite iffy to say the least.

  11. Ian L says:

    As for Frontier Express vs. mainline F9 vs. E-Jets, it’s not perfectly clear but I know that I’m flying an EJet when I see “operated by Republic” on a flight. Since I bring my own IfE I don’t mind the difference much, though the new seats on E70s aren’t exactly the height of luxury.

    What’s interesting is that Q400s hold the same amount of pax as E70s, yet they fall into the same category as E35s/E45s. Then again, Q400s won’t get WiFi.

    • matt says:

      I don’t know Ian, they are in the midst of redoing the cabins and the new E170 stretch seats are pretty comfy (plus wider and only one person next to you) – of course thats only in row 1-4, not so crazy about the rest of the airplane….

  12. Kevin S says:

    Of course it has EVERYTHING to do with Southwest Airlines. Frontier has had years to introduce customer friendly practices and didn’t until they lost market share to Southwest Airlines.

    Thank you Southwest Airlines for keeping the industry (legacy and low cost carriers) honest. Another example of the SOUTHWEST EFFECT.

  13. SAN Greg says:

    This is cause to be very concerned Cranky. If all the airlines started to do this it may threaten the Cranky brand!

  14. Rabbit says:

    I book a lot of travel for people, and I usually like booking them via Southwest if I can due to the better prices, usually set times and most of all: no change fee. My coworkers are constantly changing their schedules, so I wind up racking up change fees on most of the other major airlines. I’ve had 100$ tickets jump up to $300 mostly because of the ridiculous $150 change fee.
    Although they’ve become more friendly, I hope they’ve improved their actual customer service centers.
    I’ll be checking out Frontier more often for flight options – thanks for the heads up!

  15. Robert S says:

    These are good moves by Frontier, even if some of them appear to be reactions to some of Southwest’s policies. So now it’s 2 free bags and no change fees on Southwest vs. reasonably priced same day confirmed changes on Frontier (Southwest requires paying full fare which can run $hundreds). So in Denver this leaves United as the one with uncompetitive policies. United charges the full $150 change fee even for their 1K members.

    • matt says:

      Unfortunately United has trapped enough pax into mileage plus that they can do that for now…. It remains to be seen how much demand will be altered by these policies, who knows United may have to counter…. I’ve also been hearing that Frontier wants to be a part of an alliance by year end – if thats the case, United may start to see some of its loyal customer base in DEN dwindle….

  16. SubwayNut says:

    One perk no longer available I just noticed is DirecTV is no longer free for Classic and Classic Plus tickets! Now its just free only for Ascent and Summit Members. Don’t know when this changed just went to look at booking a flight and noticed that the perks have changed! The free TV was never the reason I’d upgrade to a Classic ticket (but I did watch it when I had it) just the two free bags, used that perk when twice after spending the summer in New york before heading back to Colorado.

    • Andrew says:

      Classic and Classic Plus tickets still give you free DirectTV on the Airbus. The reason why it isn’t listed is because of the E70 and E90′s….in order to not over-promise and then not be able to deliver if a passenger is only flying on E70/E90 flights.

  17. astra says:

    I can’t help but wonder why ALL Republic-operated flights on the Embraers aren’t branded as “Frontier Express”? You get a different seat design, no direcTV, etc… In the past, when 170s and 190s were operating for Frontier, they were branded Frontier JetExpress and when they were operating for Midwest, they were branded “Midwest Connect.” Wouldn’t you think a regional aircraft needs a regional brand to immediately inform passengers and adjust service expectations?

    • Well its an open question how “regional” the 170s and 190s are. At some airlines (e.g. US Airways) these are mainline jets, at others they’re operated by a regional contractor.

      As mentioned above, they’ve stopped advertising the DirecTV on Classic and Classic Plus so they don’t promise something they can’t deliver..

      Oh and if we’re going to get into seat design questions, this would mean every airline would need to advertise almost every plane type with a different brand..

  18. Ftan says:

    1st & 2nd checked Bag $20 each?????Is there any discount for bags omg this is insane! What happen if i take 2 carry-on bags? Im moving out to Houston and I cant pay that much, what should I do? :/

  19. Rick says:

    I recently booked tickets on Frontier for the first time in years. I usually fly Southwest. I booked the Classic ticket to save on the bag charge and the no charge change fee. Then a week and a half later the price dropped. With Southwest, I could just cancel my ticket, rebook at the lower fare and have the residual value for a year to use later. And I could do all this right on their website. But when I inquired about doing the same at Frontier, I was told there would not be a credit for the difference if I cancelled. Another reason to stay with Southwest.

  20. Honestly, I’d rather pay an upfront fee than have to deal with being nickled and dimed everywhere I turned.

  21. propy says:

    It’s 2014, now, and there have been some changes. The first bag now costs $25, not $20. The compensation for a delayed flight starts at $30, not $50. Frontier recently raised fees.

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