Frontier Airlines: is it Really That Cheap?

You’ve probably seen the very low cost fares of frontier airlines if you’ve been looking for a flight across the U.S. We definitely saw them when we recently flew from our home in North Carolina to Denver for our 3-week road trip through Colorado and Utah. We were a little confused at first, too. How could an airline actually charge around $100 per seat for a ticket across the country? Is Frontier Airlines actually this cheap? Is it too good to be true?

Here’s our experience with Frontier. (And no, they didn’t pay us anything to write this. We purchased our own tickets and did our own research.)

Our Experience with Frontier Airlines

The short answer is… no, it’s not that cheap, because Frontier charges you for a few extra things you have to pay for depending on how you’re traveling. But the good news is that most of these things are actually optional, and you can indeed just pay the as-advertised ticket price (plus taxes) for your flight if you’re willing to travel light and be a little flexible.

The three of us were traveling as a family (2 adults and 1 child), and we needed to check a suitcase. We also had some personal carry-on baggage. As we quickly learned from the emails that came after booking, we would need to pay for a variety of extras for our flights.

What are the extra fees for Frontier Airlines?

To be succinct, here’s what Frontier wanted us to pay for in addition to the base ticket price, all of which were optional:

  • Checked Baggage
  • Carry-on Baggage
  • Assigned Seats
  • Priority Boarding
  • Refundable/Changeable Tickets

Now, to be fair, all of these items are optional, including the seat assignment. But once you book your ticket, expect some “scare tactics” in their emails regarding the extra things you need to pay for. It might sound a bit like “you’ll be in trouble if you don’t get this” type of messaging.

If you have baggage to carry-on or check ahead of the flight, you’re going to have to pay the fee. While checked-bag fees are the normal way of doing business for an airline these days, keep in mind that all carry-on bags (except for small personal items) are subject to a fee also. And the fee is more if you do it at the airport, so you save money by doing it online before you arrive. Checked baggage fees range from $30 to $95 depending on how early you book them and the number of bags you have (subsequent bags get progressively more expensive).

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Seat assignments are also an added fee. If you don’t buy a seat assignment, then you will be assigned one when you check in to your flight. It will likely be towards the back of the plane, as most of the people who purchase their assignments are likely getting the up-front seats. Also, those up-front seats cost more, as seat assignments get lower in price as you move towards the back of the plane. Expect to pay anywhere from $20 to about $70 depending on the location on the plane. The seats at the front also have more leg room.

Frontier lets you bundle these optional add-ons when you purchase your tickets. You can actually save money with these bundles, as you get a seat assignment and checked or carry-on baggage for less money than if you paid for them separately. Again, these bundles are optional, and if you just want to check a bag without getting a seat assignment, it’s not worth the cost in my opinion.

Friendly Service?

Airplane Interior

After all of that, did we have good service on our Frontier Airlines flight? In short: yes, indeed, it was very good service. The airport staff and in-flight staff were friendly, professional, and helpful. We had no problems at all.

Towards the end of the flight, there was a bit of a sales pitch to sign up for the Frontier Airlines credit card and frequent flyer program. Of course, there’s no obligation, but it’s just one of those things that you have to sit through. Consider it part of the price for getting such a low cost ticket, perhaps?

How to Save Money On Frontier Airlines

After our round-trip flights on Frontier, here are a few money-saving tips for your next trip.

First of all, if you can travel light, it obviously pays to do so. We put a lot of our clothes into our smaller backpacks. We then boarded the plane prepared to claim that these were our “personal items.” However, none of the staff questioned us about it. If we had a larger suitcase-sized bag I think they would have, but backpacks seem to be just fine.

Next, don’t bother getting a seat assignment. Sitting in the middle or the back of the plane might not be so great, but if the flight is just a couple of hours, it’s worth saving $50 per person for a random seat. Yes, families (and groups that book together) are kept together on the plane as much as possible. We did not have a problem with it and our family was kept in adjacent seats.

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Bring your own food and water on the flight. As is the norm on most domestic flights in the U.S. these days, you will be charged for any food or drinks served on the plane. So, bring your own from the airport. It will likely taste better anyway as we all know that airplane food is not the best.

Pay What You Want

So, what’s the verdict here? Frontier Airlines basically has a pay-what-you-can (or what you want) policy with regards to all of their services. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s a great way to fly with minimal costs. Or, if you want some extra services, then you can pay for those, too. The frequent flyer program is very competitive, so if you want to use this airline all the time you can save even more money or get those extra services for free. Generally, it’s like being at a buffet where you pay for what you want and just ignore the other stuff, just in the form of an airline.

We were happy. So, I say go for it if you like the price of the tickets and if you’re willing to be flexible. And we believe that the best way to compare flight prices is on Kayak, so check it out before your next trip. Also, here’s our advice on finding cheap plane tickets.

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