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Each airline has its own fees and regulations, which can be confusing even to frequent flyers. To improve your experience when flying on the lowest fares, we’ve recently published guides to Basic Economy on Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines. Now, we’re starting a series on things to know before flying on US budget carriers.

If you’ve booked — or are considering booking — a trip on Frontier Airlines, you may be wondering what’s included on Frontier and how this trip might be different from previous trips you’ve taken with other airlines. This guide aims to answer all of your questions about flying Frontier.

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What fares does Frontier offer?

Frontier offers standard fares and Discount Den fares. The services that come with these fares are the same, but Discount Den fares can only be bought once you’ve joined Frontier’s Discount Den and paid the $49.99 annual fee.

What’s Frontier’s Discount Den and should I join?

Frontier’s Discount Den provides access to Discount Den fares, which are usually $1-11 less than standard fares. As a Discount Den member, you can purchase Discount Den fares for up to six passengers on your booking. So, if you fly Frontier frequently, especially as a family or group of friends traveling on the same reservation, it might make sense to pay the $49.99 annual fee to join Discount Den.

Can I check a bag?

Yes, but it will cost you. Checked bags no larger than 62 linear inches and no heavier than 50 pounds can be checked for standard rates — heavier or larger bags can sometimes be checked for an $75 additional fee. Standard rates are charged each way and vary based on when you purchase the checked baggage.

Can I bring a carry-on bag?

Yes, but it will cost you. The only carry-on that is included in all fares is one personal item no larger than 14 inches by 18 inches by 8 inches that must fit under the seat in front of you.

A full size carry-on bag no larger than 24 inches by 16 inches by 10 inches and no heavier than 35 pounds can be carried on for the following prices each way:

  • Purchased on Frontier’s website during booking: $35, or $30 for travel between September 5, 2018 and October 31, 2018
  • Purchased on Frontier’s website more than 24 hours before departure: $38
  • Purchased through Frontier’s call center or during web check-in: $40
  • Purchased at an airport ticket counter or self-service kiosk: $45
  • Purchased at the departure gate: $60

Purchasing a carry-on bag will get you Group 1 boarding.

Can I select a seat?

Yes, but it will cost you, and the cost is per flight segment.

There are two types of seats: standard with 28-31 inch pitch, and stretch with 5-7 more inches of legroom. The cost to select a seat for a particular flight is based on (1) the type of seat and (2) when you purchase the seat selection.

Seat costs are as follows:

  • On Frontier’s website either during booking or more than 24 hours before departure:
    • Standard: from $6
    • Stretch: from $20
  • Through Frontier’s call center:
    • Standard: from $8
    • Stretch: from $20
  • During web check-in, at an airport ticket counter or at a self-service kiosk:
    • Standard: from $11
    • Stretch: from $25

If you don’t pay to select a seat, you’ll be randomly assigned a seat at check-in. Frontier’s website says the airline will try to seat everyone on the same reservation together, but that sitting together isn’t guaranteed unless you purchase seats together during booking.

Should I purchase a bundle?

Frontier offers two bundles during booking that include some of the chargeable items discussed above. Prices for these bundles vary significantly. But, for an example round-trip booking for one passenger from Atlanta to Denver with direct flights leaving in about a month, the PERKS bundle costs $126 round-trip and the WORKS bundle costs $148 round-trip.

The PERKS bundle includes:

  • One carry-on bag no larger than 24 inches by 16 inches by 10 inches
  • One checked bag no larger than 62 linear inches
  • Seat reservation for any available seat including stretch seating
  • Zone 1 boarding

The more expensive WORKS bundle includes:

  • Everything from the PERKS bundle
  • Change your flight without change fees, but subject to difference in ticket and option prices
  • Get your flight refunded with no cancellation fees

Decide which of the services included in the bundle you would purchase separately to determine whether to purchase the bundle. In most cases, it will be cheaper to forgo the bundle and simply purchase the services you need.

When can I board?

If you have elite status with Frontier, you’ve purchased a carry-on or you’ve purchased the WORKS bundle, you’ll board in Group 1. If you’re traveling as a family, you’ll board immediately after Group 1. Otherwise, you’ll board during the remainder of the boarding process.

Can I change my flight?

Yes, but it might cost you. If you purchased the WORKS bundle, you can apply the value of your purchase to a new ticket without any penalty. You’ll just need to pay the difference in fare and/or options.

Otherwise, you’ll need to pay a non-refundable change fee of $99 plus any difference in fare and/or options.

In either case, if the new fare and/or options cost less than your original purchase, you won’t get a refund or further opportunity to use this value.

Same day confirmed flight changes are a special case. As long as seats are available on the desired flight, you can change to an earlier or later flight on your day of travel for just a $99 fee.

What happens if I need to cancel my ticket?

If you purchased the WORKS bundle, you can choose to:

  1. Apply the value of your purchase to a new ticket without any penalty,
  2. Retain the value of your purchase for use within one year of the transaction date or
  3. Complete the Online Refund Form to have the full value returned to your purchasing card

If you didn’t purchase the WORKS bundle, your booking will keep its value for 90 days as a travel credit. This travel credit can be used toward purchase of future travel, subject to a fee of $99 per passenger.

Tickets must be canceled prior to the flight’s departure in order to retain any value.

Can I earn miles?

Yes. Both fare types earn one FRONTIER Mile per mile flown. TPG’s latest valuation values Frontier miles at 1.1 cents per mile.

Does having elite status help?

Yes. The FRONTIER miles program has three levels: Elite 20k, Elite 50k and Elite 100k. Each level is reached once a particular number of Status Qualifying Miles or Segments are accrued within a calendar year. Status Qualifying Miles can be earned via flying (one mile per mile flown) or spending on the Frontier Airlines World MasterCard (one mile per dollar spent). Note that Status Qualifying Miles aren’t the same as redeemable miles.

The Elite 20k level, obtained with 20,000 Status Qualifying Miles or 25 Segments, provides the following benefits for the elite member that can make flying Frontier more affordable and more comfortable:

  • Free carry-on bag
  • Free advanced standard seat assignment
  • Upgrade to stretch seating for free during check-in or at the airport
  • Priority boarding
  • Travel fees are waived including call center reservation fee, unaccompanied minor fee (if the minor is the elite member), same-day confirmed fee and same-day standby fee

Frontier is currently offering a promotion where you can get 20k Elite Status for the rest of the year after flying just four segments.

The Elite 50k level, obtained with 50,000 Status Qualifying Miles or 50 Segments, provides the following benefits for the elite member:

  • Free carry-on bag
  • Free advanced standard or stretch seat assignment for the member and up to eight companions traveling on the member’s booking
  • Priority boarding
  • Travel fees are waived including call center reservation fee, unaccompanied minor fee (if the minor is the elite member), same-day confirmed fee and same-day standby fee
  • 50% discount on Discount Den membership, meaning an annual membership would cost $24.99

The Elite 100k level, obtained with 100,000 Status Qualifying Miles or 100 Segments, provides the following benefits:

  • Complimentary the WORKS bundle for up to eight travel companions on the elite member’s booking
  • Travel fees are waived including call center reservation fee, unaccompanied minor fee (if the minor is the elite member), same-day confirmed fee and same-day standby fee
  • Complimentary Discount Den membership for the elite member

Does having a co-branded credit card help?

Not really, although the Frontier Airlines World MasterCard does get you Zone 2 boarding and the opportunity to earn elite status by spending $20,000+ on the card.

The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard has the following main benefits and a $79 annual fee:

  • Eligible for family mileage pooling
  • Five redeemable miles for every dollar spent on Frontier purchases, three miles for every dollar spent at restaurants and one mile for every dollar spent anywhere else
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles, which are redeemable for up to four domestic one way award tickets

The card won’t make sense for most travelers, but it is a card that TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr said he would strongly consider for flexible family travel.

Bottom Line

Frontier Airlines recently became more family-friendly, and flies to many destinations. Indeed, with fares as low as $15 during flash sales and a current promotion where you can get 20k Elite Status for the rest of the year after flying just four segments, I can understand why TPG‘s Summer Hull likes to fly Frontier with her family.

Frontier can provide an affordable way to fly, but the extras can add up if you aren’t careful. If you’ve already booked a Frontier flight, plan to pack as compactly as possible and book any add-ons that you need now to minimize costs. If you haven’t booked your trip yet, be sure to account for any extras you’ll buy when comparing Frontier fares to other airlines — and if you end up booking with the airline, be sure to buy any extras you’ll need during booking to minimize costs.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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