Trying Frontier’s New Onboard Experience (Trip Report)

Having chosen the United 787-9 for my flight out to Denver, I completely forgot that I needed to book a return as well. Knowing I was going to meet with Frontier, I really thought it best to fly the airline home. I’m glad I did. This was a really good experience.

Frontier’s fare was $99, well below others on midday flights. Of course, I needed to add on a few things. I could have simply chosen The Works. This is Frontier’s way of letting you rebundle if you want a better experience. Here was my option:

Frontier The Works

Indeed, $72 would have been a great deal if I wanted Stretch seating and if I valued refundability. That’s not a big step up in price to get it, but this trip was locked in. Plus, I only wanted a carry-on bag ($30) and a window seat in the back ($9). I opted for the a la carte option instead, paying $138 in total, still better than others.

The printer at the business center in our Homewood Suites in Littleton (which needs serious renovation) broke, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get my boarding pass. Frontier is finalizing a new phone app which will make this much better in the future, but fortunately, someone at the front desk figured out a way for me to email it to them for printing. Problem solved.

The next day, I made my way out to Western Kansas Denver Airport, and again found myself bracing for the worst. I had been watching the inbound aircraft, and suddenly noticed that a delay had been posted on the flight in from Salt Lake. It was going to be 2 hours late, and I figured that meant I was destined for a couple hour delay myself. Dejected, I headed toward security.

Frontier doesn’t participate in Pre Check, and I really dreaded the process. Fortunately since Frontier is on Concourse A, I could walk upstairs to the special security area on the bridge over there, bypassing the train. The lines weren’t too long, but it still took me 15 minutes to get through. Pre Check would make a huge difference.

Our A320 Frontier

After getting through, I saw my flight was still on time, and then I realized why. Frontier had pulled a spare aircraft out for us! Having met with the Frontier folks on Friday, I wondered if this was some sort of special treatment. But I looked later and Frontier had 96.1 percent of flights arrive within 14 minutes of schedule that day. With such a good operation, that spare must have just been itching for an opportunity to get in the air. The spare is an A320, so that was an upgauge for us from a 144 seat A319 to 180 seats. Sweet.

Boarding was called and people orderly lined up by zone. I was in zone 1, which I think is what happens when you purchase a carry-on but I’m not sure. I boarded Sally the Mustang, our tail animal, and headed toward my seat. The seats are brand new and looked really nice. I heard a couple people say “wow, this must be a new airplane,” not realizing it was more than 20 10 years old.

Sally the Mustang Frontier


October 12, 2015
Frontier 405 Lv Denver 1220p Arr Los Angeles 145p
Denver (DEN): Gate A36, Runway 17R, Depart 5m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 31B, Runway 25L, Arrive 16m Early
N203FR, Airbus A320-214, Sally the Mustang colors, ~80% Full
Seat 14A, Coach
Flight Time 1h49m

Once on the airplane, I made my way back, passing the smart-looking Stretch seats (below).

Stretch Seating Frontier

When I got back to my seat, I put my stuff up in the bin. There was plenty of space even once boarding was completed, as you can see in this photo.

Empty Overhead Bins Frontier

There were some open seats on the airplane, but my row was completely full. I took a deep breath and sat down. And you know what? It was comfortable. This row is a little different than others because the seat in front is an exit row and has the traditional tray table hanging off the back. (Most of the seats have half-tables.) But I think that means that personal space may feel a bit smaller than in other seats. That being said, I felt like I had plenty of legroom.

Standard Seats Frontier

The seat is of the “pre-reclined” variety so it feels like the whole thing is ever-so-slightly tilted back into a cradle position. Over time, I still found the seat bottom to be really comfortable. The back was a bit stiff, but it wasn’t bad.

I also took notice of the seat width. Frontier offers middle seats that are wider than the rest. That not only gives a little more breathing room, but it also adjusts where you’d want to put your arms on the tiny armrest. It was a surprisingly nice configuration. I tried to get a good photo of it, and you can kind of see here. Look where my shoulders fall on my seat compared to the guy in the middle.

Seat Width Frontier

As I was checking out my seat, people kept trying to move forward and the flight attendant kept pushing them back. He was more stern than I would have liked, but he rightly explained that it wouldn’t be fair to let them move into seats that others had to pay for. Some people were mad, but everyone followed directions. It must not be fun enforcing those rules.

We were ready to go so we pushed back early and had a really short taxi to runway 17R. We were in the air and on our way very quickly. The sky was a brilliant blue as we pointed our nose toward the Rockies. As usual, there were some bumps on the ascent over the mountains, but it smoothed out and the seatbelt sign went off before we leveled off.

Frontier has no wi-fi, so I had prepared with some reading material to keep me busy. The flight attendants made a pass trying to sell snacks and drinks. I declined but I did take a cup of water, which is free.

The rest of the flight passed quickly. We descended into LAX and arrived at the gate fairly early thanks to light headwinds. (Strangely, the eastbound flight on United was 10 minutes longer than this westbound flight.)

I really enjoyed my flight on Frontier and wouldn’t hesitate to fly the airline again. As long as it’s able to keep its on-time performance where it is, then Frontier should be an increasingly good option.

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30 Comments on "Trying Frontier’s New Onboard Experience (Trip Report)"

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ptahcha
Guest

Sounds like a pretty decent flight, despite all the add-on charges. Can you recline on Frontier?

After all the surcharges, what was the total out-of-pocket, and how was that compared to the rest of the fares?

Ben in DC
Guest

I like that Frontier gives you the option of buying a “bundled” fare, or doing the ala cart thing. I think that could really help differentiate themselves from Spirit (along with the reliability factor). Personally, it gives them a leg up with me. I’ll be curious to see what they have in store for Dulles. It appeared like last winter was a bunch of non-daily flights. If they are getting rid of those, I wonder if they will remain committed to the airport. For my selfish reasons, I am hoping so.

James
Guest
Even when people complain about Frontier’s pricing structure (get used to it) I tell them even an airline you don’t care for and don’t fly is still a net positive for the market as it keeps fares low and spurs new routes. For that I’m grateful. I have a few pilot and FA friends who work for Frontier, and support them when I can. Also, those mid-tier hotel PCs are extremely insecure, potentially loaded with malware. While printing a boarding pass (not tied to an account) would be ok, I would never use them to sign in to any personal… Read more »
rob
Member

You’ve convinced me – they have a too good to be true special on flights from Austin to Denver ($68 roundtrip, plus “all the extras” – with one carry on and a seat assignment in back $142)

We’ll see how it goes!

Erik
Guest

Hi Brett –

I’ve been curious to hear about travels in the new Frontier cabins, which sound like a level of misery even beyond Spirit

From the picture you took of the empty row, the pitch looks a lot more than the 28″ in the majority of un-Stretch coach. Next time you fly Frontier, can you review a trip in one of the regular un-Stretch seats, with the minimal pitch and half-table-tray?

Thanks,
Erik

David SF eastbay
Member

The seating area looks nice from the photos, but who would name their Mustang Sally? :-)

pas1375
Member

The no pre check is why I have Clear

DCSpotter
Guest

> not realizing it was more than 20 years old.
Sally the Mustang (N203FR) was built in 2002 so it would be a 13 year-old frame. With Frontier since 2009

mharris127
Guest
DC, it does say a lot about Frontier that they would (evidently) refurbish a 13 year old airplane. That does show that they care about how their planes look to their customers which does enhance their reputation. Unfortunately it looks like I don’t fit in their seats and I hate the ala-carte pricing model (I actually think we need to go back to the pre-1978 regulations in most areas of commercial aviation where the price was all-inclusive, regulated by the government — no profitability issues or bankruptcy waves in the airline industry back then thanks to government regulated fares and… Read more »
Grichard
Guest

There wasn’t really ever a time when somebody 6′ and 450# could fit comfortably in coach on a jet. And first class now is as nice as it’s ever been.

Airports stink. Lord, yes. And airplanes didn’t always used to be full. But the seating itself isn’t getting worse, frighteningly enough.

mharris127
Guest
Maybe not but I could actually fly coach (I may have only been 375-400 pounds back then). As it is now I (relatively) seldom fly due to the extreme discomfort I experience in doing so (even in first class). Even Brett has commented over the years on how seating has changed including narrowing of the seats and reducing legroom to add more seats to the plane. Others have commented on this and other sites about the reduction in the quality of meals/charging extra for them if you fly coach; charging for checking a bag (yes, I know my bags are… Read more »
Andrew mondt
Member

Sure, then we’ll be back in an era where only a small percentage of the public flew.

Xnuiem
Member

I assume this is all tongue-in-cheek….

enplaned
Guest

In 1979, average annual domestic trips per US citizen was half or less than what it is today. If we went back to a pre-1979 regime it would mean a radical reduction in the amount of flying by US citizens.

Larry Channing
Guest

How did the $184 ticket get to $72?

JMR
Guest

It’s not. All those extras bought separately would cost $184, but Frontier has this Special One Of A Kind Bundled Price Just For You, Act Now of $72. The ticket itself is $99, and so these are the extras Brett could have bought at that price.

Tar&feathr
Guest

So offense, but one can’t help to think frontiers management probably had an incentive to get a lil positive press knowing the reputation of your site and offered a lil kickback for a good review? ;)
I flown in frontier a few times and maybe because I fly to NYC allot on JetBlue, and I’m spoiled, but i detest frontier. Horrible service, uncomfortable seats, mean flight attendants, and then they gouge you for everything minus the air you breath. I just sense this report is a little too polished being you just met with their mangmt.

mharris127
Guest
I think Brett is an honest person even if I disagree with him on a few things. If he says he didn’t receive special treatment (that he knows of) I believe him. I suppose it is possible that some computer algorithm was entered into the computer in order to flag and give special treatment to him when he entered his name into their internet site to book his flight (which he would not likely know about) but I believe him when he said he did not (knowingly) receive special treatment. As for the price he was charged, from what little… Read more »
John
Guest
“I completely forgot that I needed to book a return as well”, says one of the countries leading travel concierges? ;) Just kidding. Good read. I have not flown Frontier since they went ultra cheap. I bought a family member a sale fare, $68 RT DEN-PDX and was careful to explain all options to them. The $99 seems great to get refundable plus checked and carry on. I’ll definitely try them in the future – but I’m almost completely Southwest domestically. As far as pre-check, I have Global Entry, which comes with a card. If I were flying Frontier I… Read more »
Adam r
Guest

No tsa pre indicator on your boarding pass…. No pre. End of story.

SteveFromCVG
Member

True. One would hope it would get you through but TSA would rather put an entire family that flys once every couple years through Pre.

Ron
Guest
Just looking into a trip LAX–DEN (one way), a few months out, for a family of 5. A few thoughts: 1. Frontier’s discount den is great, because one membership allows up to 6 passengers on the same reservation, so you save a lot even on just one flight. I believe Spirit is the same, though they’re less clear about it on their web site. It looks like for a single passenger, though, the discount den is a gamble — the savings on fare are a bit less than the cost of membership, so you’re betting you’ll fly them again within… Read more »
Ron
Guest
So the time came to pull the trigger, and I bought the tickets on…Southwest. Frontier’s discount den got sold out for the day I wanted, while Southwest’s fare came down to the point the total cost was only $20 above Frontier’s (with one checked bag for a party of 5). At this price difference, the balance tipped due to Southwest’s better schedule, plus to a lesser extent the bundled goodies (extra checked bags if needed, and change flexibility). Conclusion: I like Frontier’s model and would have loved to try them, but for their model to succeed they need to price… Read more »
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