The Airline That Hates Elites

Frontier is compressing down to one elite status tier in their frequent flyer program.

Starting February 20, 2015, the EarlyReturns program will retire Ascent and Summit elite status and launch a brand new elite tier, Frontier Elite.

Status is earned by flying 20,000 miles or 25 segments during the calendar year.

Members get:

  • Priority check-in, boarding, and security
  • Advance seat assignments
  • Complimentary carry on bag
  • Extra legroom seating at checkin only
  • The ability to redeem extra miles for better award inventory
  • Standby and same-day confirmed fees waived
  • Unaccompanied minor fees waived
  • Phone booking fee waived

Notice anything missing?

  • No free checked bags for elites
  • No more change fee waivers
  • No more advance seat assignments for extra legroom seating
  • Dedicated elite customer service
  • Bonus flight miles
  • Complimentary beverages
  • Free name changes
  • Guaranteed flight availability

How would you like to be an ‘elite’ on Frontier and pay for water?

And notice — you get free carry on bags. But companions on the same reservation do not appear to.

But don’t worry, they hate general members too. One additional benefit that elite members get is waived award redemption fee.

In October Frontier is introducing a fee to use your miles for ‘close-in’ travel. In this case ‘close-in’ means within six months. And guess what the even bigger joke is here? Unlike most other airlines Frontier only publishes their schedule about ~ 7 months ahead…

The fee is also waived for co-brand credit card holders.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well, there goes that… I was thinking of doing a status match with them for really short-haul flights next year. I liked the free beverage benefit but oh well!

  2. I don’t mind an airline being cheap I guess but at what point do they value loyalty? Somebody please buy them already before they destroy themselves completely.

  3. Frontier’s marketing strategy goes something like this: “F*ck loyalty, fly us because we’re cheaper!” I have no idea if the hard data supports their claim, but at least I can respect it. It’s a lot more respectable–and maybe naive–than “We came up with a highly complicated awards program to sway your decision when your employer pays for our expensive product.”

  4. Actually I believe the ULCC model is working out well for them financially. Expect more of this to come.

  5. Frontier is now owned by Indigo Partners, the former owner of Spirit Air, so I’d guess we can look for Frontier to more closely resemble Spirit is the future.

  6. I used to like flying F9 and would go out of my way to fly them. Not even a consideration anymore. Sad.

  7. They are going the way of Spirit which is a model not based at all on loyalty (unlike the legacy carriers) but is completely after the budget traveler who might hate them, but will always choose the cheapest flight no matter what. Although I will avoid them like the plague, I think there is room in the market for these kinds of airlines (for example I have family that use Allegiant regularly).

  8. You know I was about to say it is sounding like Spirit. I travel in and out of DEN quite a bit but never seem to use Frontier – way too complicated and overpriced. It is a shame – they do have some good domestic non-stops. But I really can’t be bothered with pay for this, pay for that, pay for leg room, blah blah blah. Looks like they are makinig it far worse and now stretch seating only going to be available at check in????? Huh?

  9. Suffice it to say, I am glad they are market participants. But I will never darken their jetbridge.

  10. I’m glad I don’t work there, I’d feel like I would be finding more ways to treat the customer like the enemy. Cause let’s face it, your *wallet* is valued, *you* aren’t.

    And to think I actually applied to Frontier for a job as a senior financial analyst. They sent me an email questionnaire with three questions in it, two technical, and one about salary. I have a lot of aviation and analytic experience, but they never responded further. My asking price? $70k. They treat their employees like they treat their passengers.

  11. I flew Frontier to DEN for several ski trips in the mid 00s
    They were good on the plane.
    free trips were only 15000 miles
    change fees were low
    Then came the American economy and the Southwest effect – they went bankrupt in DEN along with UA competing on price through the Great Recession, when people showed all they cared for in travel was a few dollars less.
    Now they are trying to stay out of liquidation.

  12. I dislike Frontier very much, but I am biased. Since I live in MKE the darling domestic airline (in my eye, at least) was Midwest Express and they were the primary airline out of MKE; wonderful service, comfortable hard products, and plenty of routes.

    Fast forward through an acquisition by Republic and then a sale to Frontier the service stinks and the routes out of MKE are limited to two; DEN and one other I can’t remember. Heck even the terminal they used turned into a ghost town and it was only recently they moved Delta in to compete against Air Tran/ SW.

  13. I’m with you WISluggo, MWE was my favorite airline in the 90s & 00s. Connecting via Milwaukee was a dream, especially when compared to ORD, though MWE offered some of the only non-stop connections to NYC & WAS when I was based out of Omaha. They were about the last to hold on to normal person-sized seats, meals in coach for mid-haul, and I always loved the fresh baked cookies!

    Frontier has destroyed all of that, including abandoning most of the east coast. Now that Frontier is finally coming back to WAS (tho sadly to IAD), I’m going to burn my last orphan Frontier points and say goodbye to them once and for all! Fortunately I was able to move my MWE miles to NW when the sale to Frontier happened.

  14. I wonder what Randy Petersen will say about this. If I recall correctly he bailed a couple years ago because he expected more devaluations.

    Only JetBlue and Virgin America are staying out of the race to the bottom. I hope they continue to resist the peer pressure.

  15. It’s hard to live in Denver and avoid BOTH United and Frontier, but, by gosh, it’s worth the trouble.

  16. This is something that really annoys me.

    I understand F9 being a ULCC and all, catering to leisure travelers with a sweet toth for rock bottom fares but wouldn’t it be sensible to at least TRY and rake in a couple of customers who provide some steady revenue?

    I mainly fly two routes for about 30-40 r/ts a year, pretty much equally distributed. On average, United who serves the same routes is about 60-70$ (give or take) more expensive. However, I need checked baggage about 3/4 of the time, the other times carry-on will suffice.

    So, I’d be spending about 50$ on the vast majority of my trips in comparison to United with Star Alliance Gold status.

    Does Frontier really believe I’m going to try and save less than 100$ a year to be treated like crap??! Most likely, considering food and drinks, I’d likely not be saving any money at all with them.

    Sorry, Frontier: you’re trying to save money? Well, that’ll be exactly 0$ in revenue from me!

  17. “How would you like to be an ‘elite’ on Frontier and pay for water?”
    Actually, Frontier doesn’t charge passengers for water. They’ll charge for other drinks, but not water.

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