Going Behind the Scenes With Frontier and Barclays: Family Friendly Changes on the Way
I love a fancy lie-flat seat, but I'm also an unashamed advocate of the ultra low-cost air carriers that can get you and your family from Point A to Point B for a ridiculously low price. At least every month or two, I write about a $14 or $19 Frontier Airlines fare sale that simply baffles my mind each and every time. Being able to book tickets and then fly thousands of miles for about the cost of a lunch at Panera, literally opens up the sky to families who would otherwise remain grounded. Sure everything costs extra on these ultra low-cost carriers, but you have the option of packing in a backpack, not being picky about your seat, and just paying the cost of admission to fly at 36,000 feet.
When Frontier Airlines reached out to me and invited my entire family to their headquarters in Denver to learn about some 'family friendly' changes they have up their sleeve, I was immediately interested. I ignore the vast majority of press trips I get invited to as they are often heavy on swag, drinks, and fluff without a ton of substance, but there was no way I was going to ignore the invitation to learn about an affordable airline making changes to become an even better fit for families and leisure travelers. The simple fact that they were including entire families in the media event spoke volumes, but we'll get to that part in a minute.
First, know that Frontier and Barclays did cover the expenses for my family to head to Denver for two nights to learn about the program and have some fun in the process. Now that those formalities are out of the way, let's take a peek at what they have in store. I'll share as much as I can now, but the full array of details is still under embargo for a little bit longer.
Frontier Airlines is rolling out family-friendly changes this summer
The Frontier Airlines frequent flyer program and related co-branded credit card from Barclays are both undergoing some changes this summer that I think you will really like. For me, the star attraction of these announcements is that they are taking into account the whole family with their loyalty program and benefits. The benefits aren't just going to be relevant to the most frequent traveler in the family, but for all members of the family. Most US-based airline loyalty programs are notoriously weak when it comes to taking into account the whole family, so this is a big step forward. I can't wait to share all the details they have forthcoming for families, but just know that good things are coming.
Next, I can share that the Frontier Airlines credit card will be offering new benefits that tie in very nicely to the revamped frequent flyer program. If you are even an occasional Frontier traveler, you are probably going to want the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard. When my dad, Grandpa Points, learned about some of the coming attractions to the card he literally asked me if he could be their first cardholder. Well, I hate to tell him the card already has lots of customers, but maybe he can be one of the first to get it once the new benefits are announced!
The things you already love aren't changing
In these days of revenue-based frequent flyer programs, I was not going to be surprised to learn that the downside of all of the new Frontier offerings was that they were going to a revenue-based model where you earn miles based on how much you spend on tickets, not how far you fly. However, this is not the case!
Even with all the cool new features that will launch soon, Frontier is maintaining a published traditional award chart and you will continue to earn at least one redeemable mile for each mile flown. Award flights will continue to be available from 10,000 miles each way and elite status will continue to kick in after 20,000 miles or 25 flown segments in a year. Hallelujah.
Inside bringing my kids to a media event
I honestly didn't know what to expect from a media event that was not only scheduled to be informative for me and the other travel writers in attendance, but also relevant for my eight and two-year-olds. Josh wasn't available, so thankfully Grandma came along for the ride as meetings and toddlers would not mix no matter how many cute stuffed animals were handed out.
The kids and Grandma spent the morning of our full day on the ground at the Denver Aquarium while we were deep in the thick of the announcements at the Frontier headquarters. I heard rave reviews about the mermaid show from my youngest daughter! I missed out on that part of the day, but I can give rave reviews of the massive model airplanes at the Frontier headquarters. Their personalized welcome board was pretty amazing, too.
Once the official meetings were done, it was time to experience some Frontier magic with our kids, which was truly special. I've done some really cool things with airlines in the last seven years, but never have I been able to share those moments with my kids.
First, we were able to go inside a massive hangar where one of the Frontier planes was undergoing an engine cleaning after swallowing a bird.
We didn't just get to look at the plane from afar, but we got to touch it, pose with it, and go inside it. In other words, the airplane wasn't just an impersonal mode of transportation to these kids, it was something you can actually interact with. I also learned that at Frontier the employees really 'know' each one of their planes thanks to the unique tail animals.
Again, many of us in the travel space have had the good fortune of doing things of this nature before, but this was a big first for our little kids.
By this point in the day, many of the kids had become fast friends, so they were not just exploring the plane with their parents, but with their new besties. It was adorable to see my youngest daughter play with the other little ones in attendance, such as Angelina's youngest travelers.
As cute as that was, it was outright inspiring to see my eight-year-old bond with the bigger kids who have parents who do what I do. Back home, no other parents that we know really have jobs that look like mine, or live a traveling life that looks like that of my kids. It is a blessing to do what we do, but when my daughter misses out on some things at home, or gets strange looks when telling someone she is going on another trip, there is an alienating aspect to this life, too. However, in this group, we were completely normal, if not conservative in our adventures. I think having travel as such a shared baseline really helped the kids instantly click. They were all used to new experiences, new people, and a core group of the girls were truly devastated when their time together came to a close.
Mom, I want to be a pilot
Before we got to the end of the experience, there were some more highlights to be shared. Namely, we got to fly an Airbus simulator! And when I say "we", the kids were absolutely included in that list of new pilots.
I was beyond impressed at how well the Frontier instructor was able to teach the kids to both fly and land the plane. If you have never been in a simulator, it is as close to the real deal as you can get on the ground.
My daughter was all smiles when it was her time in the left-hand chair, and considering she can barely ride a bike, she did great flying this simulated aircraft. When we were flying home on a real plane the next day, she told me that she wanted to be a pilot. I attribute that statement 100% to her time behind the scenes with Frontier.
At the end of the long but exciting day, we all shared hot dogs and cold drinks while cheering on the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Our tickets that were provided as part of this whole experience were in the Club Level, which I have to say is an insanely civilized way to take in a baseball game with younger kids. The bathrooms aren't crowded, there is air conditioning available in the hallways that overlook the field, and the view wasn't bad either.
More important than the air conditioning and short lines was that my oldest daughter had real, old-fashioned fun at the game. While she has been to some exciting baseball games, she has never been totally into it before. Since she was enjoying the game with her (new) best friends, she was beaming ear to ear and all-in with the songs, the wave, and of course, the cotton candy.
I had no clue how a work event plus little kids would unfold, but I was thrilled that Frontier and Barclays were willing to roll the dice and find out. Being able to have our kids see what we do, go behind the scenes with an airline, and bond with kids from similar traveling families was an invaluable experience that I am beyond grateful to have had and shared. In fact, I would love to be able to help organize something similar for other traveling families at some point in the future.
At the end of the day, what matters the most to me are connections and memories. Affordable air travel plays a crucial role in making those connections with people and places near and far as accessible as possible. No one program or one airline will be the perfect solution for everyone, but what Frontier and Barclays have in store for family and leisure travelers is pretty exciting, and I can't wait to share all of the details soon.