Why one of the best deals in frequent flyer programs comes from a budget airline

Aug 19, 2021

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Sometimes, the best deals can be found in unlikely places.

Right now, one of the top deals in airline frequent flyer programs is lurking within an ultra-low-cost carrier’s program. Frontier Airlines’ mid-tier elite status (that I status matched into simply by having mid-tier United Gold status) is turning my family’s $30 one-way tickets from Florida to Houston into a true bargain.

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Usually, the biggest problem with buying a cheap ticket on a low-cost airline such as Frontier or Spirit is that the ticket can end up not being so cheap after all if you have to add in a bushel of seat assignments and bag fees that can easily cost more than the ticket itself.

But this time, thanks to the nuances of Frontier’s elite status, a $31 ticket meant $31 all-in. Here’s why.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

Frontier Airlines status basics

Frontier Airlines rolled out its current version of an elite status program back in 2018. I liked it then on paper, and really like it today now that I’ve had a chance to try it out due to a status match offered earlier this year.

There are three different elite status levels with Frontier: Elite 20k, Elite 50k and Elite 100k.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier)

Not surprisingly, those numbers reflect how many elite qualifying miles you need to earn a year to unlock that status. Just remember you can also spend your way to status with the Frontier Airlines credit card.

I’m not saying you should charge $50,000 per year to your Frontier credit card, but if you did, you’d earn Frontier’s mid-tier 50k status.

Obviously, the higher you go up the status levels the more perks you get, but you’ll find legitimate money-saving perks such as a free carry-on bag and free seat assignment starting at the 20k level.

Related: Best credit cards to jump-start elite status

Frontier status perks extend to the whole family

The leg-up that Frontier has on some of its competition is that even though the carrier makes a sizeable portion of its revenue on ancillary revenue items such as seat assignments and bag fees, it includes some of those perks not just for the status holder, but for those on the same ticket once you get to the mid-tier status level.

This makes having Frontier status extremely valuable if you often travel with friends or family who are booked on the same reservation.

In my case with 50k status, we booked $31 flights for myself and my two daughters and were then able to select free seat assignments in the extra legroom ‘stretch’ seats towards the front of the plane.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

That alone likely saved us more than $100 in seat assignment fees for a single flight. But that wasn’t the end of the savings.

With mid-tier status, the status holder also gets a free carry-on bag. When combined with the one free personal item per traveler (think: a backpack) that should be enough luggage for us on this particular trip with no extra costs there.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

And to cap that off, we also got added flight flexibility for no added cost, which will allow us to make one free date or time change up to 24 hours before departure in case our plans change.

Related: Guide to airline elite status matching 

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

If I happened to have top-tier Frontier status then I and everyone (up to eight people) on the reservation would get an included ‘The Works’ bundle.

This would include not only the free seat assignments but also an included checked and carry-on bag, flight flexibility and refundability at no extra cost. That’s really pretty exceptional for any carrier’s frequent flyer program — let alone a low-cost carrier’s program.

Related: Guide to Frontier Airlines elite status program 

Kids can fly free on Frontier (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Sometimes, deals that look too good to be true are indeed not that great upon closer inspection.

If we didn’t have Frontier status, those $31 flights may still be a great deal but would have ultimately cost far more than double that amount with all the added fees.

But in this case, we got a whole lot by paying just a little — all thanks to elite status that we didn’t even really have to earn.

So, what’s the moral of this travel tale? Don’t discount the programs offered by some of the low-cost programs as it is where you might find some of the best savings.

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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