Everything you should know before flying Frontier Airlines

Feb 22, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information. It was originally published on Sept. 10, 2018.

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 published guides to Basic Economy on Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines. We’ve also published a guide on things to know before flying on low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines.

In this post, we turn our attention to another low-cost carrier: Frontier Airlines. If you’ve booked — or are considering booking — a trip on Frontier, you may be wondering what’s included 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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In This Post

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 $59.99 annual fee.

Related reading: 11 things a TPG senior writer learned from his first flights on Frontier

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

Frontier’s Discount Den provides access to discounted fares, which are usually $10-32 less than standard fares. As a Discount Den member, you can purchase Discount Den fares for up to six passengers on your booking. And, on valid Kids Fly Free flights, one kid under 15 can fly for free for every adult Discount Den fare purchased. 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 $59.99 annual fee to join Discount Den.

Related reading: Two tickets for $26: The math behind a $60 Kids Fly Free Frontier membership

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. Baggage that goes over these limits will be charged an additional $75 for exceeding weight and an additional $75 for exceeding linear inch limits.

Standard rates are charged each way and vary based on route and when you purchase. It’s least expensive to purchase checked bags during booking using Frontier’s website or mobile app. The next least expensive option is to purchase a checked bag before check-in using Frontier’s website or mobile app, while the most expensive option is to purchase a checked bag at the boarding gate. You can check the baggage prices for your exact flight on Frontier’s website.

Related reading: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines

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 eight inches that must fit under the seat in front of you.

You can pay to bring a carry-on bag that is no larger than 24 inches by 16 inches by ten inches and no heavier than 35 pounds. Purchasing a full-size carry-on bag will get you Zone 1 boarding.

However, the cost to bring a full-size carry-on bag varies based on route and when you purchase. It’s least expensive to purchase a full-sized carry-on during booking using Frontier’s website or mobile app, while the most expensive option is to purchase a full-sized carry-on at the boarding gate. You can check the baggage prices for your exact flight on Frontier’s website.

Related reading: How to tell if your backpack counts as a personal or carry-on item

Can I select a seat?

(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
If you’re traveling with kids, you may want to select seats to ensure you all sit together. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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 $5
    • Stretch: from $15
  • During web check-in:
    • Standard: from $7
    • Stretch: from $18
  • Through Frontier’s call center, at an airport ticket counter or at a self-service kiosk :
    • Standard: from $16
    • Stretch: from $56

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.

Related reading: Six tips for picking the perfect airplane seat every time

Should I purchase a bundle?

Stretch out in Frontier emergency exit row (JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Select a seat in the emergency exit row when you purchase a bundle. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

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, on a round-trip booking for one passenger from Atlanta to Denver with a direct flight leaving in about a month, the Perks bundle costs $130 round-trip and the Works bundle costs $166 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 the 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.

Related reading: Top 10 strategies to find cheap airfare

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 Zone 1. If you’re traveling as a family with children under three, you’ll board immediately after Zone 1. Otherwise, you’ll board during the remainder of the boarding process.

Related reading: The overhead bin revolution: You might soon pay to reserve a bin

Can I change my flight?

Yes, but it might cost you. If you purchased the WORKS bundle or want to change your flight 60 days or more before departure, 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, if you want to change your flight 59 to 14 days before your departure, you’ll need to pay a non-refundable change fee of $79 per passenger ($49 per passenger if your tickets were purchased before Sept. 13, 2019) plus any difference in fare and/or options. And, if you want to change your flight within 14 days of your departure — including same-day flight changes — you’ll need to pay a non-refundable change fee of $119 per passenger 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.

Related reading: The best ways to avoid airline change and cancellation fees on paid flights

What happens if I need to cancel my ticket?

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

  1. Retain the value of your purchase for use within one year of the transaction date or
  2. Complete the Online Refund Form to have the full value returned to your purchasing card

If you cancel your flight within 24 hours of purchase, you can get a full refund with no cancellation fee as long as the ticket wasn’t purchased within seven days of travel. If you cancel a ticket that was purchased within seven days of travel, the value will be held as a credit and you’ll need to pay a $119 fee per passenger to use this value toward another ticket.

If you didn’t purchase the Works bundle and didn’t cancel within 24 hours of purchase, your booking will keep its value for 90 days as a travel credit. This travel credit can be used toward the purchase of future travel, but you’ll need to pay a fee of $79 ($49 for tickets purchased before Sept. 13, 2019) per passenger if you cancel 59 to 14 days before departure or a fee of $119 per passenger if you cancel within 14 days of departure. There’s no fee if you cancel 60 days or more before departure.

Tickets must be canceled before the flight’s departure to retain any value.

Related reading: How to refund a nonrefundable airline ticket

Can I earn miles?

Yes, you’ll earn one Frontier Mile per mile flown. TPG’s latest valuation pegs the value of Frontier miles at 1.1 cents each. Earned miles are subject to expiration if the account does not have accrual activity at least once every 180 days or six months.

Related reading: Can you earn airline miles booking through OTAs?

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
  • Unlock family pooling where you can combine Frontier Miles with up to eight family members and friends to make using miles easy
  • Free advanced standard seat assignment
  • Upgrade to stretch seating for free if available during check-in, at the ticket counter or at the gate
  • Priority boarding
  • Award fees are waived when booking an award flight
  • Travel fees are waived including call center reservation fee, same-day confirmed fee and same-day standby fee
  • Use miles to redeem last seat available award tickets for any traveler on the elite member’s booking

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
  • Unlock family pooling where you can combine Frontier Miles with up to eight family members and friends to make using miles
  • Free advanced standard or stretch seat assignment for the member and up to eight companions traveling on the member’s booking
  • Priority boarding
  • Award fees are waived when booking an award flight
  • Travel fees are waived including call center reservation fee, same-day confirmed fee and same-day standby fee
  • Use miles to redeem last seat available award tickets for any traveler on the elite member’s booking
  • Receive 25% additional redeemable mileage bonus on all eligible Frontier flights
  • 50% discount on Discount Den membership, meaning an annual membership would cost $29.99

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
  • Unlock family pooling where you can combine Frontier Miles with up to eight family members and friends to make using miles
  • Free advanced standard or stretch seat assignment for the member and up to eight companions traveling on the member’s booking
  • Priority boarding
  • Award fees are waived when booking an award flight
  • Travel fees are waived including call center reservation fee, same-day confirmed fee and same-day standby fee
  • Use miles to redeem last seat available award tickets for any traveler on the elite member’s booking
  • Receive 50% additional redeemable mileage bonus on all eligible Frontier flights
  • Complimentary Discount Den membership

Related reading: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

Does having a cobranded credit card help?

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Does have a co-branded Frontier credit card help? (Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Not really, although the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard does get you Zone 2 boarding and the opportunity to earn elite status by spending 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
  • Spend toward elite status by earning one Qualifying Mile with every $1 spent on purchases or by flying Frontier
  • Earn a $100 flight voucher after every account anniversary with eligible purchases
  • Keep miles from expiring by making at least one purchase every six months

The card won’t make sense for most travelers, but it is a card that Loyalty and Engagement Editor Richard Kerr said he would strongly consider for flexible family travel.

Related reading: Are cobranded airline cards worth it anymore?

What credit card should I use to book my flight?

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
Some credit cards are better than others for purchasing airfare. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

When booking travel on a low-cost carrier like Frontier, you’ll likely want to use a credit card that provides travel protections as well as a high rate of return on airfare purchases. Here are four cards that offer a good combination of protection and earning when used to book eligible flights:

Some credit cards also offer annual statement credits for incidental airline fees, which can cover charges for seat selection, baggage fees and more. The following cards all offer annual statement credits for incidental airline fees:

Related reading: The best credit cards to use on low-cost carriers

Should I fly Frontier?

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A319 taxis toward the runway at Salt Lake City International Airport in September 2014 (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
A Frontier Airlines A319 at Salt Lake City International Airport. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Frontier Airlines became more family-friendly in 2018 and flies to many destinations. And, with fares as low as $15 during flash sales, Frontier can provide an affordable way to fly. But the extras can add up if you aren’t careful, so be sure to consider these costs when comparing pricing between airlines.

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.

Related reading: TPG’s best airlines for families

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Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

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