Frontier to start charging for carry-on bags and soft drinks

Frontier put out a press release today announcing major changes with a pretty epic headline — “Frontier Enhances Services for Customers Using FlyFrontier.com.” I’ve seen a lot of BS press releases in my life, though that headline is about as close as I’ve ever seen to one from “The Onion.”

So what are they doing to enhance the service for customers booking through their website? Two things:

Charging for carry-on bags

Starting sometime this summer (at a date not yet announced), Frontier will begin charging for carry-ons for those booking tickets through a third party website. Those purchasing tickets through Frontier’s website will continue to get a free carry-on.

Why will they do this? Well only one reason, of course:

“Frontier’s most loyal customers have made it very clear that finding overhead bin space for carry-on bags has become unacceptably difficult. In response, Frontier will be introducing a charge for carry-on bags for customers buying Basic fares through third party sites.”

They’re doing it for us.

Meanwhile all passengers can continue to take on a free personal item which fits underneath the seat, no larger than 18” x 14” x 8”. The reasoning behind the policy aside, am I the only one that sees the practical issues with this? Passengers will continue to bring carry-ons and argue they’re personal items. Something tells me this will lead to delayed flights. Then again, Allegiant and Spirit do this, so maybe not.

Charging for onboard beverages

Starting July 1, 2013, Frontier will begin charging passengers purchasing “Economy” and “Basic” fares $1.99 for coffee, tea, soda, and juice. Water will continue to be free, and those purchasing “Classic” and “Classic Plus” fares, as well as Ascent and Summit level EarlyReturns members will continue to receive free drinks.

And again, this one’s for us, as I’m sure we’ll see a drop in fares starting July 1:

“Frontier continues to make it easier for customers flying with Frontier to pay only for the services they use, which allows us to continue lowering fares,” said Daniel Shurz, Frontier’s senior vice president, commercial.”

US Airways tried to charge for drinks a few years back and it failed. What I see as the bigger issue is that some passengers have to pay for drinks while others don’t. I just pulled up Frontier’s fares for a flight between Denver and Seattle, and it looks like a “Classic” fare is about $25 more than the “Economy” fare, and a “Classic Plus” fare is about $50 more. I assume a fair number of passengers purchase “Classic” and “Classic Plus” fares, so am I the only one that feels bad for the flight attendants that will have to figure out who should pay and who shouldn’t?

While I can appreciate when airlines introduce fees and they make sense for them (as I think is the case with airlines raising domestic change fees — I hate it, but I see why they’re doing it, because I don’t think it will drive passengers away given their previous change fees were already exorbitant), I don’t think this is the right move for Frontier. Yes, you have Allegiant and Spirit, but I’ve always thought of Frontier as being more mid-market, given the markets they operate in. Unlike Allegiant and Spirit, Frontier often publishes identical fares to the legacies, and they have direct competition in most of their markets. So I don’t think this will end well for them, but I guess we’ll see.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Frontier has been in a downward spiral since the Republic takeover in 2009. Once a fun and unique carrier with loyal employees is now nothing more than an ultra LCC. Republic also decimated MKE-based Midwest Airlines, I can’t imagine things will get any better in the future.

  2. Not to mention Frontier competes heavily with Southwest at their hub in DEN, so the extra charges will be even more visible.

  3. I am shocked about this announcement too. It is going to be a nightmare for the F/A to explain this new change to all the passengers. I am flying the Wilmington/New Castle Airport inaugural on both July 1 and 2, and have a connecting flight from DEN to LAX on July 2. I will find out how these new “enhancements” carry out, as I expect the inaugural flights usually have many exemptions especially flying to a new airport.

    I agree with you Lucky… (BTW, the website has yet to update with this information on the purchasing screen yet… it is updated on the inflight catering page, but not at the purchasing screen yet!)

    If I am Southwest, I will be really happy. Denver may finally work well for them. Frontier is a good mid-market airline and with this move, it is sinking further to be a ULCC. Not sure if this is the way to do it in Denver!

    Carfield

  4. I don’t see how Frontier can survive as the third airline in DEN. They need a different mission, and I suppose their attempt at Wilmington and Trenton is an attempt to find that mission. But UA & SW more than adequately serve DEN, and the third carrier rarely earns enough yield to survive.

  5. It’s too bad. I remember the old Midwest Airlines days in MKE, and a failed attempt at a hostile takeover by AirTran followed by AirTran greatly expanding its service and Southwest entering the market. Midwest was Milwaukee’s airline for many years with nice leather seats and 2×2 seating throughout. Plus, the warm chocolate chip cookies. Ah, those were the days.

    If not for the presence of SW and AT, I think MKE would be the ideal market for Frontier if it’s trying to be more of a low cost carrier. MKE is conveniently situated to be an alternate airport to the Chicago market for millions of people. But, once Republic took over Midwest, merged it into Frontier and buckled under the competition and pulled out of MKE, I think that demonstrated to me that this isn’t likely to end well. They can’t seem to find their niche.

  6. I had a feeling that Frontier was going to move in this direction. I actually flew them on Tuesday from DFW-DEN for $44, a price they were matching Spirit on…no other airlines matched that fare. I had a coupon for a free “upgrade” to Classic Plus. That got me their “STRETCH” seating, a free drink, free Direct TV, 150%EQM, and Priority Boarding. I was told when I checked in that as of May 1st, Direct TV would no longer be free on Classic/Classic Plus tickets. I wanted to respond with, “that’s okay, I normally fly American as I get an upgrade a hot dinner on this route,” but I bit my tongue .

    I figured that if Frontier’s strategy was to attempt to match Spirit on price, then they would have to match them in a la carte pricing to turn a profit, too. I see this as really a “nail in the coffin” of the Frontier brand. I don’t think they have the cost control of Spirit to compete, and believe that many of the loyal Frontier fliers will flee to Southwest with free drinks, snacks, checked bags, etc. I couldn’t agree more that this won’t end well for Frontier.

  7. Oh, and one other point, if it doesn’t end well for Frontier, I hope AA gets some of Frontier’s A concourse gates in DEN and expands service there!

  8. I don’t see that the checked baggage fee puts them at a disadvantage to SW. It only applies to tix purchased thru a 3rd party, and you can’t purchase SW tix thru a 3rd party. All this really does in encourage purchasing thru their own website, which SW already requires.

    The soft drink fee might make a difference for some people on a long flight, but I don’t drink them anyway. I agree with Scottrick that it’s fine to charge for soft drinks as long as liquor is complementary. 😀

  9. I submit that this does more than encourage purchasing thru their website as opposed to a third party booking engine. Orbitz, for example, will show the stripped down economy fare, inducing the less informed to purchase it over alternatives which provide free carry ons. Frontier might, indeed, do best by pax who book on orbitz and then get sacked with a carry on fee. As for me, I’m *a Gold and AA Plat for life – as long as such fees are exempted from my tickets on account of status, I’d prefer the ticket cost $1, with any particular airline making up some difference with $1000 in fees charged to the dude in the seat next to me.

  10. I don’t think liquor is complimentary on F9.

    F9 doesn’t have the scale to compete and they don’t have a unique network or value proposition.

  11. @wiredboy I was about to say +1

    Then I realized we are thinking of very different bottles. 3 3oz bottles of carefully chosen liquids will get me thru most domestic flights just fine. 😀

  12. Charge for drinks? What they can also do but only when they fly into NY — is to limit the SIZE of the sugary drink to no more than a 4-ounce cup. But it would be allowed that the person could buy several of them. HA HA HA HAHA ha ha!

  13. Another fine example that the airline industry still has the most incompetent, idiotic, ignorant, short-sided executives of nearly any in existence. Imbiciles. I was actually considering flying them recently. Not anymore.

    Have fun in your upcoming bankruptcy… again.

  14. Just paid 75.00 for bags. $50.00 for the pleasure of saving my carry-on from the ramp bag smashers. Southwest for me from now on. What a rip off from what used to be a good airline. Wonder what the list of deferred maintenance items looks like on this cash-strapped, recently bankrupt and fire-sold Mickey Mouse outfit looks like. Agents couldn’t even work the computers-must be hourly contracted labor.
    Never again Frontier-wallmart

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