Frontier Airlines began service to CVG in the spring of 2013 and I was excited about a low-cost carrier finally entering our market. Last fall I read a blog post about Frontier Airlines and their “great award availability”. This seemed like a great opportunity to open a Frontier Airlines credit card! Frontier awards start at only 20,000 miles for roundtrip and you can redeem one way awards for 10,000 miles.
I added a “free one way” from CVG to LAX on the end of our Thailand tickets and I needed to find a way back from California in June 2014. So I signed up for the Barclay’s Frontier Airlines Mastercard, which was offering 40,000 miles after spending $500 in 90 days. Easy peasy.
TRYING to Book
So….I had 40,000 miles in my account in September 2013 and wanted to get busy booking a one way flight from LAX to CVG in June 2014. The first thing I found out was that Frontier, like most low-cost carriers, does not release their schedule until 5-6 months out. In Frontier’s case, it was 5 months. And a few days. I called every day starting on December 16 (6 months before my return flight from LAX) asking when they would release the schedule. Every agent I talked to said they did not know exactly what date the schedule would be released. It finally came out some time in mid January. At this point I was very nervous because if this didn’t work out, I would be scrambling to find one way award seats on another carrier. I like to book award tickets a year in advance, so doing it 5 months out was nerve-wracking.
Frontier serves 10 cities in California and I decided that I would be willing to fly out of any one of them. We have family in Northern California that we could visit, so driving up for a few days would not be a big deal.
When the schedule finally opened, I looked at LAX and Orange County and award seats were 20,000 miles for one way tickets. They did not release any 10,000 mile award seats and I was ON IT the day it was released. I called Frontier and all they could tell me was that low level awards were not available. I checked every city in California within a 3 day window and found NO 10,000 mile award seats. What happened to that “great availability” the other blogger was talking about? I waited a few days and nothing changed. Every award seat from every city was pricing out at 20,000 miles. I suppose it is possible they could have released some 10,000 mile seats a month or two down the road, but I was scared to wait that long. I had to get home from California.
I could have used American AAdvantage miles for 3 one way tickets at 12,500 each. But I value those American miles A LOT more than I value the Frontier miles. Though I suppose a smarter Travel Hacker would have used the American miles for the better “value”. But I just wanted to be rid of the Frontier miles because I felt they were useless.
I decided that we would drive up to San Jose to visit family for the last 4 days of our trip and fly home from there. Since I now had to buy a one way ticket, I had to start looking at prices. One way flights on Frontier from San Jose were over $500! Low cost carrier you say? The cheapest flights were out of San Francisco and I was able to book a one way for $175 on the same flight as our award tickets. It was not in my plans to pay for a ticket, but that’s what happened.
Since my award was 20,000 miles, it was a “Choice” award, rather than a “Standard” award. The Choice award gives you Stretch seating with 5 to 7 more inches of legroom! This is awesome when you have a sleepy child!
Look at all the room!
Frontier Airlines charges for things that other airlines do not. Like drinks, snacks and carry on bags. With the Choice award we were given all of those things for free, plus our one checked bag was also free.
The ticket I paid for was my husband’s and I did not buy a “Classic Plus” fare that gives you all of those free amenities. He was seated back in row 14 and would have had to pay $2 for a Coke. And by the way, I would not mind paying $2 for a Coke if my fare was discounted hundreds of dollars less than a ticket on the Big Boys.
Baby Let Me Upgrade You
A week or so before our trip, I got an e-mail from Frontier about a schedule change. Our original departure time was 6:10am and had now been changed to 5:55am. The big problem was that our seat assignments were changed and I was no longer sitting next to my son. I went online to try to change the seats back and kept getting an error message. (Frontier’s web page is very buggy and seems to constantly freeze up) I called the Customer Service number and asked them to get our seats together. While I had the very nice agent on the phone, I asked if it was possible to have my husband sit with us since all our seats had been changed. Without any questions or hesitation she moved him up to Row 2 with us. Incidentally, during the flight when the beverage cart came around the flight attendant knew he was on a standard fare and not eligible for the free Coke!
Would I Fly Frontier Airlines Again?
Possibly. I would still try for the “cheap” awards and I would miss the amenities that come with the “Choice” awards. But you get what you pay for. If you want to fly for free for only 10,000 miles one way, you have to suffer a bit. Although having to sit in a regular coach seat on Frontier would not be much different from a regular coach seat on any other airline. And it could be even better. The Frontier planes were very nice. Each seat had it’s own video screen with Live DirecTV. Yes, there was a fee, but the point is – it was available.
Barclay’s cards have historically been churn able, so I may try for another one for my husband and also get one for myself. Here is the link for the Barclay’s Frontier World Mastercard. I do not receive a commission if you use that link.
The only thing I don’t like is the charge for not only checked bags, but carry on bags as well. I mean, you have to travel with Something! There is no way ’round that with Frontier. So is it worth it to pay $20-$50 for a checked or carry on bag to only save 2,500 miles on a one way ticket? That’s for you to decide.