Frontier’s All-You-Can-Fly GoWild! Pass is Built Brilliantly, But They Just Couldn’t Resist the Money Grab

Frontier

There has been plenty of news coverage about Frontier’s new GoWild! (exclamation point included at no extra charge) all-you-can-fly pass. That’s exactly what Frontier was hoping would happen, and I imagine this can already be considered a success. To me, the real victory is in the architecture of this pass product. The chance of it cannibalizing anything is low, and it will allow the airline to fill seats while making gravy in ancillaries. If only it could have stopped there….

Here is the basic plan:

  • Buy a pass that allows for unlimited travel for 1 year beginning May 2, 2023
  • Bookings for domestic travel can be made no more than 1 day in advance of travel while international travel can be booked up to 10 days in advance
  • If you have the pass, you will pay 1 cent in airfare plus all applicable taxes and fees
  • No ancillary products are included, so you will pay for a carry-on, checked bag, seat assignment, etc… if needed
  • Peak days around holidays and heavy travel periods are blacked out (there are 57 blackout dates for the first program year)
  • Pass travel does not earn miles

When the pass was first launched, it was going for “only” $599 which sounds like a great deal if you’re planning on doing even semi-regular travel. After a couple days, the price was raised to $799, but that was done at the same time international travel was added to the program. I wonder if this was the plan the entire time. Add value, raise the price, and make people think there’s scarcity here to get more people to pay up before the price rises again.

At the time of writing, Frontier said this was valid for purchase through the end of the day today, Tuesday, November 22. I do wonder if we’ll see it morph again after that time into something else with a different pricepoint. I suppose it’ll depend upon how much they’ve sold so far.

Why do I like this program? I find this to be a great fit for the ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) model. For ULCCs, the fare is an appetizer while the ancillary fees are the main dish. This has been increasingly true in recent times as ancillary fees have skyrocketed. Let me give you an example:

Looking out a couple of weeks, I found a ticket that would break down as follows:

  • Base Fare + Airline Fees: $14.07
  • Taxes/Airport Fees: $14.91
  • Cheapest Seat Assignment: $16
  • Carry-On Bag: $53

In this case, if someone had the GoWild! pass, they’d pay $0.01 in base fare and taxes and fees would be reduced to $14.60. Seat and bag fees are the same. So basically, Frontier would collect $14.06 less on the transaction than if someone bought the ticket outright because those ancillary fees are so high.

This is admittedly an extreme example. There are obviously many instances where the fares could be much, much higher. But remember, if Frontier only allows the traveler to book 1 day in advance, it knows if the seats will be empty or not. And if they are, Frontier is way better off taking the 1 cent fare and capturing all the ancillaries it can generate. It’ll easily cover the cost of fuel and more. If that traveler really needed to take the trip, they wouldn’t have waited until 1 day prior anyway.

Internationally, the 10-day window has some elegance in its own right. Yes, there’s more risk to Frontier, but international travel tends to get booked further in advance. Frequency is lower, so travelers need more certainty, and they need to know they’ll be able to get back into the country on a guaranteed booking. This solves that issue, assuming they aren’t going for more than 10 days.

Overall, this looks like an excellent program to get money in the door and generate a ton of free press without diluting existing travel. But Frontier may have gotten too greedy. Specifically, some of the terms are problematic.

1) I think people are interpreting this program to effectively say, “hey, if we have an empty seat onboard, it’s all yours.” That is very clearly not what’s happening. The terms say “Flights and seats are subject to availability; last seat availability is not guaranteed.” This is VERY nebulous, and while I assume Frontier is saying this so it can sparingly block travel on random peak flights, it’s entirely possible that Frontier could get too aggressive with the capacity controls. That would generate far more bad press if that happens. Hopefully the airline doesn’t play that game, but it’s cause for concern.

2) This is an auto-renewing program, and it renews at the retail price effective at the time of renewal. As of now, that price is set at the low, low rate of $1,999. Let’s buy two! How many people do you think will forget to cancel and get stuck paying that price? This is exactly what Frontier is betting on. This piece of the puzzle just feels cheap and dirty, and I don’t like it.

3) Once you book a flight, then the regular Frontier change/cancel fees apply. So if I booked a flight for tomorrow and then something happpens and I have to cancel, I will lose all value since Frontier’s fee is going to be higher than the value of the credit in most cases. This includes government taxes/fees which Frontier will just pocket.

4) As noted in section 12 e) 1, “Other than the Renewal Price, Frontier may modify the terms and conditions of the GoWild! Pass™ at any time without notice.” That’s, uh… come on. With this wording, it would suggest that Frontier can do basically whatever it wants and keep the amount paid for the pass since that is due up front.

Of course, number 2 above can be avoided with basic diligence, and number 4 is entirely theoretical. On number 3, considering bookings happen only 1 day prior to travel — at least for domestic — this shouldn’t be a huge problem. I think I’d be more concerned with number 1 than anything, but we just don’t know.

I don’t want to overstate the negative points, because I think there’s still good value to be had here for the right traveler. If Frontier doesn’t try to get too stingy, it will come out of this smelling like roses for offering something fun and unique while generating a bunch of extra revenue on seats that will almost certainly otherwise go unsold.

29 comments on “Frontier’s All-You-Can-Fly GoWild! Pass is Built Brilliantly, But They Just Couldn’t Resist the Money Grab

  1. I think you meant $14.06.

    “So basically, Frontier would collect $4.06 less on the transaction than if someone bought the ticket outright because those ancillary fees are so high.”

  2. I have seen people commenting on buying it because they can do F/R trip frequently and Frontier has direct flight between the them. My concern for those users is Frontier made no promise (as they should) they won’t shift their route planning strategy (aka chop routes that is mot making money). Unlike bigger network carriers, Frontier may not even have any reasonable connection options for the customer to choose after the route changes. The customer may end up with a worthless pass after the chop. This can be especially true for folks betting on a seasonal route that they do not know is seasonal.

  3. Who is going to be the first person to decide they want to fly to every airport in Frontier’s network under this scheme ?
    CF – do you fancy the challenge ?

      1. There was news on variouscavgeek websites in Austria, Germany and Italy a few days ago of someone who hss visited 1,582 airports… yes over a thousand. 100 seems rather modest in comparison. Bet it wouldn’t be *that* miserable… you just need to take a deep breath when you start

  4. This raises a thought in my mind…… If you pay an airline for taxes and fees, the airline is accepting the taxes on behalf of the government (or governments in the case of international travel). The fees could be for navigation charges, etc. So, if you don’t travel, I can understand the rules regarding the fare, but what about the taxes and fees? Presumably the conditions of carriage covers this, but does anyone know the answer? Thanks – and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    1. Some taxes and fees are/should be refundable. But airlines generally aren’t going to offer that up, and I imagine it will be a long, tortured process to figure out what is refundable and then actually get it back.
      Maybe a place for future DOT regulation.

    2. Frontier automatically tries to issue a ‘travel credit’ even for taxes when a refund is due. Passengers have to know to make a manual refund request on its website (surprise, the email form is hidden!) and specifically explain the taxes need to be refunded to the original FOP. Frontier doesn’t make it clear or spell this out, naturally. But I have done it, and they do eventually get around to refunding the taxes a few months later.

  5. If the flight is only confirmed at 24 hours … then how do I fly home? That is, I fly out to my destination, then I have to *hope* that I get confirmed on my trip back? Seems like a risky proposition? Perhaps that is the point of this product?

    1. Frontier is just marketing to a class of fliers who care less about their time and more about cost. It’s a brilliant way to soak up the periodic excess inventory.

  6. I have flown Frontier ALOT over the past two years, as having elite status with them means $40 transcons and $15 flights to Vegas, with zero added fees on top (I buy all my tickets at the airport to avoid the junk CIC fee).

    HOWEVER, the calculous has all recently changed, and no one is reporting on it (might be a good separate post as I think they are the first to do this?). Frontier now provides ZERO ability to speak to anyone at the airline to resolve issues. Their phone number now disconnects you and sends you to their website to ‘chat’ with a ghost that never actually connects to the chat (it constantly disconnects especially on a phone when your screen goes dark). So there is literally no way to speak with anyone employed by Frontier until you [hopefully] board your plane, because as we know Frontier has no airport employees and charges $10.00 to speak with those contractors. I have been filing non-stop DOT complaints as it’s the only way to converse with a Frontier employee when schedule changes happen.

    So there is no way I would touch this pass, even if Frontier paid me to try it out. These souls have no idea what they are buying, as they will have to deal with all those extra headaches, on top of having to deal with the Frontier flying ‘experience’. JUST SAY NO people!

    1. Thank you for writing about this topic.
      (Frontier got rid of the support and phone lines. So now you chat to a bot. But this announcement came after the purchase)
      I bought it when it was $599 so I can use to fly from SFO to Vegas and SanDiego and Portland. I have a buyers remorse now.
      People i hope you read this review and make complaint to Dept of Transportation. File a complaint.
      https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/file-consumer-complaint

      Frontier might change their terms in the middle of the contract use.

  7. Aren’t “money grabs” (writing euphemistically, of course) much of the rationale for going into business in the first place? LOL.

    P.S. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

  8. It is standby travel if nothing can be confirmed domestically until 1 day in advance. The legacy carriers had standby fares decades ago and they weren’t valuable because there was so much discount inventory available. While air fares are high right now, this product won’t last precisely because there are a very limited number of people that are willing to plan an out of town trip that might or might not happen.

    1. Serious question for you, Tim. A friend who flies for Delta told me that there is a waypoint on the OZZZ1 Arrival into Atlanta named “TDUNN”. He said it’s almost directly over Asheville, NC. Are you the namesake for that point? If yes, can you share the background story? And yes, I’m being completely serious. Happy Thanksgiving!

      1. now you know where I live:-)

        seriously, our clan has been quite successful in the New World.

        Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

        1. Okay, Tim, you’ve been holding out on us! Please share the backstory with the readers. I, for one, would genuinely like to know how and why an aviation waypoint is named for you/your family.

          1. Perhaps he has no connection with it at all and instead simply made an online persona named after an arrival waypoint into ATL.

  9. Reminds me of AirTran U fares back in the day where college students would just crowd around the gate, blocking everything because they literally did not understand the concept of “stand by.” At least we have technology to confirm people earlier now.

    I can’t recall if it was originally a Valujet or AirTran innovation but I think it worked well for them.

    1. Chris – It was a Valujet special, the old so-called X-Fares under them. As a student in the DC area, I had a ton of friends who would go out to Dulles regularly for the hop up to Boston.

      1. As a college student flying back and forth between home in DC and school in Atlanta in the mid/late 1990s, I probably used the ValuJet x-fare a couple dozen times. It was a great deal. I only remember not making my originally planned flight once or twice, but I always made it out the same day.

  10. You forgot point number 5:

    5. You have to fly on Frontier. I’ll stick with the Hard Pass! option instead of the Go Wild! pass.

  11. Got mine on day 1 as a gift, and got my wife one the next morning. But unlike the author’s experience, it was still $599, but the website said it “now included international travel”. So, the price increase definitely happened after the addition of international. Not that it really matters. They only service a handful of places in Mexico and Belize, while Puerto Rico was included at inception. And when it takes effect May 2023, everyone has the same benefits…

    And this comparing the .01 to $14 for the fare? Seriously. The idea that you can get a $14 or $19 flight at any time is ridiculous. Their “fares” *are* cheap, and most of the final cost is not the fare, but still, even if you only save 50 bucks on each one way… it only takes a RT every two months to cover the cost of the pass.

    Full disclosure, I live 60 minutes from DIA, so I get easy access to their whole route map, but I am looking forward to it. I’ve already got my 8x14x18 box ready :)

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Cranky Flier