How Much Compensation Does Frontier Give For A 5 Hour Delay?

My recent Frontier flight from Denver to Philadelphia ended up being delayed after the pilot called in sick. First it was delayed by one hour, then three, and then five, finally taking off at 6:30 AM in the morning. You can read the whole story in my review of the flight.

I felt a bit bad for the gate agent who stayed with us the entire time, presumably extending his shift all the way through the night. He was also very open about the situation and seemed to be sharing information as soon as he received it from operations, which I appreciate.


Passengers sleeping on the floor during our delay

Does Frontier offer compensation for a delayed flight?

I was curious if we would receive any compensation for the delay. As we were boarding the second time, I heard a few customers ask about it, and the gate agent told them that we would receive an email after the flight with an electronic voucher in it. There was some confusion about the amount, probably because our delay had slowly crept from 1 to 3 and then to 5 hours. Presumably there is a threshold where you get $100, and then other threshold for $200, and so on.

Apparently we had crossed the second threshold.

I checked my phone upon landing in Philadelphia and sure enough there was an electronic voucher good for $100 off a flight. I was very impressed with the proactive response. I’ve had lots of delayed flights on United over the years, and in the vast majority of cases I’ve had to email customer service to get delay compensation. In this case, they were handing it out to everyone, no questions asked.

That said, I heard a few of the passengers grumbling about the fact that we had been promised $200. I figured I would email customer service to see if they could increase the amount to what we had been promised.


Frontier planes at Denver International Airport

Frontier’s customer service team is actually great

So a few hours later — after I had napped a bit — I sent off a quick email explaining the situation. This is the short and sweet email that I sent via the web form.

Customer By Web Form (Travis)
My flight was supposed to depart at 120AM. It eventually departed at 630AM.

The gate agent told us that we could expect at $200 voucher for compensation since the delay was 5 hours. But the email I received only had a $100 voucher. I feel that $100 is too little for such a lengthy delay.

A few minutes later I had an auto-response confirming that they had received my submission.

Auto-Response – 04/23/2017 12:35 PM
Thank you for sharing your feedback. Please be assured your message is important to us and is being reviewed in the order it was received. A specialist will respond as soon as possible.

For immediate travel concerns, please contact Reservations at 801-401-9000 for assistance.

But then just a bit over two hours later, I had this response from Tanner, one of their customer service agents. And mind you, this was on a Sunday afternoon!

Response Via Email(Tanner) – 04/23/2017 02:50 PM
Hello Travis,

Thank you for contacting us about your recent flight from Denver to Philadelphia. I am sorry to hear about the delay you experienced.

What I Know
Earlier today there was a miscommunication about the value of the vouchers that would be issued for your delay. We are currently working to address that and will honor the promise of $200 vouchers. You should be receiving another email shortly that corrects this. If you do not receive any such email then please respond to this one and I would be happy to fix that myself.

We Can Do Better!
I understand that this was a frustrating inconvenience and I can only assure you that these are not the standards we strive to maintain. I hope that you will choose to fly with Frontier again and that we can impress you aboard your next flight.

Kindly,

Tanner
Customer Relations Specialist
Frontier Airlines

A few days later I emailed Tanner to let him know that I had not received the $200 voucher. He apologized and sent it right over.

Before we go any further, I just want to say that this level of customer service completely blew me away, especially from a low cost carrier.

I’ve been a United Premier 1K for nearly a decade and have had numerous delays and service issues during that time. For as great as 1Kvoice is at resolving complaints for their best customers, I have never seen them respond that fast. And if you don’t have status, I’ve heard it can take weeks. Oh, and then when you do get a response, it often seems like they haven’t even read your email!

So just getting a timely, compassionate response was impressive, let alone the fact that it was coming from a low cost carrier.

Is $200 fair compensation for a 5-hour delay?

I have mixed feelings as to whether $200 is really fair compensation in this case. On one hand, I value my time at more than $40 per hour, and frankly I probably value my sleep at even more than that. On United, I’d probably expect about $250 – $300 in vouchers for a delay of this duration based on past experience, but that’s only as a Premier 1K. (My understanding is that compensation amounts tend to increase with status.)

On the other hand, I wasn’t flying United. I was flying Frontier. A low cost carrier.

I’m not sure that it really should matter, but I paid $100 for my ticket ($130 with the bag). So in my case, they gave me twice the value in credits that I paid for my fare.

I can’t really argue with that.

What are the terms of Frontier vouchers?

The email that included my voucher also contained these instructions.

Just follow these simple steps to redeem your voucher:
1. Visit www.flyfrontier.com and select your flight.
2. On the payment screen, select Have a Voucher from Frontier? Add Voucher Here, enter your voucher number in the field provided, and select Apply Voucher.

•  It’s not redeemable for cash.
•  It must be booked within 90 days from date of issue.
Note: There are no restrictions on travel date.
•  It’s one-time use, meaning there will be no remaining value after redemption.
•  It may not cover the entire value of the purchase. Any remaining balance due must be paid by the customer.
•  It’s not transferable and may only be redeemed in the name of the passenger to whom it was issued.
•  The name on the new reservation must match the old reservation exactly.
•  It may not be applied toward group bookings or paid options such as baggage, change fees, seat assignments, or other charges.

As you can see, Frontier’s vouchers are fairly restrictive. The key terms are that you must book within 90 days and you can’t transfer the voucher to another person. (The latter is true, I tried.)

Note that this is a ticket-by date, not a travel-by date, so the flight can actually be for anytime in the future. That means if you receive the voucher on August 15, you would need to use it by November 15, but the flight could be for any time in the future. Keep in mind though that the Frontier booking window doesn’t open very far in advance, so you may only be able to book a flight up to six months in advance anyway.


Frontier ticket counter in Denver

Bottom line

Overall, I was really impressed with how Frontier handled my delayed flight. To me, they did three things really well:

  • They issued $10 meal vouchers during the delay
  • They proactively emailed everyone a $100 voucher for the delay (despite promising $200)
  • When I emailed customer service about the discrepancy, I received a timely, appropriate reply on a Sunday afternoon remedying the problem

Irregular operations can happen to any airline — it’s how they respond that sets them apart. In this case, Frontier far exceeded my expectations for how a low cost carrier would handle such an incident. Kudos to them, and it will certainly influence my decision to fly them in the future.*

*As long as they are really really cheap.

Do you think that $200 is fair compensation for a 5-hour delay?

Comments

  1. Had a mechanical delay with WestJet last February which delayed us 18 hours on a 2.5 hour flight. After putting us up in a hotel, plus taxis each way, and food, they gave us $250 each without asking. So $200 seems reasonable to me.

  2. If you had the prestige you could have had a fun time. P.s They get delayed pretty often right?

  3. Travis, I’m really glad you reviewed Frontier, including this follow up.

    That said, the reason I’m glad is that I could just never go through a five-hour ordeal in the middle of the night (I’m old), and knowing what you went through stands as a valuable warning to me that I don’t think I would fly any of our low-cost carriers, though the big three seem to be continuing to work their way down…

    Keep up the great posts!

  4. Those terms are almost the same as cash compared to what my gf got for a recent spirit cancellation.

    Her flight MCO-ATL departing 2230ish was cancelled and she was rebooked the next morning for a 630am departure. She was given a $100 Spirit voucher which must be ticketed within 60 days, but is only good towards the fare component of the cost. No taxes/fees/their BS fuel surcharge.

    Fortunately, she was actually planning on walking away from this ticket (paid $35 one-way) as her plans had changed and we were able to get a refund and the voucher.

  5. I have the voucher from Frontier as well and due to so many travel plans together with their restrictions and travel window, I am afraid I will not be able to use it. Anyone had any luck with expending the voucher or what other options could I have?

  6. Yes yes.. I love these reviews as I’m much more likely fly with Frontier, Sprint, Delta, etc than first class suite on Ethiad.

  7. Certainly a YMMV situation.

    My sister and brother in law flew them a few years ago.

    They were IDB’d and not rebooked for two days. Return flight cancelled inadvertently which took two hours to fix over the phone.

    They were not given IDB compensation, as Frontier claimed a mechanical problem. $50 voucher for each of them.

    Repeated attempts to contact their customer service after the fact only got them their outbound segments refunded.

  8. I’m a bit perplexed as to why you see this as such a wonderful customer service experience. After you got the $100 voucher email, you replied questioning the amount. Tanner replied that there had been “some confusion”, about the amount to be offered. That seems like airline speak for, ” someone at the airport said $200 but we’ll try to get away with $100.” Then he closed by basically admitting…we got caught…we’ll give you the $200, but, if you don’t get it write back. Of course they are hoping you will forget about it when they “forget” to send the additional voucher. When the second voucher failed to arrive, as Tanner predicted, you followed up and forced Frontier to honor their commitment. This hardly seems like 5* service.

  9. While it is nice that they replied quickly, that is not the real issue in my mind. You paid for transportation on a certain day. Frontier did not provide it and it was 100% their fault. no hurricanes, blizzards or locusts involved. They are just too cheap to have any redundancy or interline agreements. It was a cheap ticket? Great but tickets are not always cheap on LCC’s. You were delayed in an airport terminal overnight. It’s just not acceptable to get to use public facilities (airports, terminals, ATC, etc.) and fail to deliver. I hope that someday the USA can move to a cash compensation system akin to EU 261. 3 hour delay = 300 euro cash, 6 hour delay = 600 euro. (of course here it would be US$) If discount airlines like Frontier don’t want to pay up, they can always invest in redundancy or interline pax to United/Delta/AA, etc. if they wanted to. Since there are no consequences other than handing out worthless vouchers that they know won’t be redeemed , service will continue to stink.

  10. Yes $200 is fair for a regular 5hr delay. However, I’d understand that, given the hour of the day, passengers would feel that figure to be poor value.

  11. Rob — I didn’t say it was 5 star service. But I guess I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt on this one, instead of assuming they are playing games. I think there was some genuine confusion over what the comp would be. Plus, how often does any airline send ANY comp proactively to everyone on the plane? Most people aren’t going to write in like us. So I commend them for that.

  12. rjb — I agree about interline agreements. And I normally tend to avoid LCC’s because of the lack of interline agreements.

    But even if they had an interline agreement with United, what good would it have done in this case? The next flight to PHL on any other carrier would have been American at 7 AM. And we left at 6:30 AM. So in this case, what difference would it have made?

  13. If they actually gave you $200, I’d say fine. However, there are far too many restrictions on the voucher. Between the 90 day limit, one time use, and no “paid options” provisions, it’s basically garbage.

  14. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…F9’s not an airline to be loyal to…there’s no benefit in that.

    But it’s not a punishment like Allegiant or Spirit, so I regularly check their fares. As long as it’s a direct flight and fairly priced, I’ll choose them every time over the sh*t show that’s UA from DEN. If I’m going to be abused by an airline, at least I’d like to save a buck or two.

  15. I am happy to see they took off at 6:30 AM in the morning. “finally taking off at 6:30 AM in the morning.” It always ruins my day when they take off at 6:30 am and it is in the evening.

  16. As a point of comparison: In the EU you would have been legally entitled to a 400 EUR cash compensation (no voucher).

  17. Lol…. it may seem a bad service if you compare it with european or asian full service airline. But this is american airlines, american standard, added that it was LCC. That was Travis meant excellent customer service experience.

    And since he compare it mainly with United, I think he somewhat felt relieved no one being beat up and dragged by the crew even tough they slept at the airport….

  18. Had a delay on our LAX CDG flight on AF missing our connection. It was 9 hours as all the other connection flights were ovb. I needed to claim this, but they offer 800 eur voucher or 600 eur cash. After 6 weeks, I have received my 800 eur voucher, enough for a premium eco roundtrip from eu to lax with just 88 eur overpayment. That I consider fair 🙂

  19. “On one hand, I value my time at more than $40 per hour”

    People tend to overvalue their free time. Probably more like $10 per hour in your case or maybe less.

  20. A voucher means I have to fly with them again.

    I’d rather be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses, and have a nice meal and some wine, on their dime

  21. Dan that’s a bit ridiculous to suggest. Free time is sure as hell not worth minimum wage. $40 might be high for some, but there is no way you can tell me free time for most is worth anywhere near $10. For instance my last job I had 33 days vacation (all one bucket). I easily would have paid 3k for 10 more days. That’s $37.50 per hour at what I value it at, slightly higher than my salary but lower than my wife’s.

  22. Last summer I had a flight cancelled by Jetblue.
    They paid absolutely nothing. Not even the additional night we had to stay in Buffalo. It was ridiculous, at least they re-booked us on the next morning flight.

  23. Hi Corey,

    No one is going to pay you $37.50 an hour to sleep, or work in your case, so that sounds extremely high to me. You are free to overvalue or overpay for your free time yourself though, most people do.

  24. @Corey
    What company gives 33 days vacation per year (paid)? That would be rare in the US but perhaps not in the EU

  25. …. there are tons of people who would pay $37.50 an hour to sleep, especially people who travel frequently on business and have all too little good sleep to begin with (and are typically paid pretty well). The fact that you don’t value your own sleep that highly is really neither here nor there.

  26. One thing all folks traveling in Europe should keep in mind is EU regulations apply to US airlines. my wife and I were delayed on United flying home for five hours and while it was not announced during the flight at the end I sent a note to customer service and we were not issued 600 Euros in checks…they also offered us $800 in vouchers. So be sure to know the rules!

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