Booking A Flight On Frontier Is Different From What I Expected

Sharon and I were headed to Tennessee for a long weekend. The Knoxville/Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is around a 10 hour drive and for us, that’s a long road trip but we wanted to do a test to see if “not far from home so maybe we could drive it” trips like this would work. We were making plans and it was getting close to the trip. Since I’m a travel geek and do things like this for fun, I made a final check of what it would cost us to fly instead of drive. Searching flights to our destination, it was pretty easy to find out what airlines we had to choose from. Here are the airlines that fly into Knoxville airport:

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Only two airlines that fly direct and one is Allegiant, which flies out of Orlando/Sanford (which is not actually in Orlando but 45 minutes away, in Sanford. There’s an ongoing controversy about that). Frontier flies between Orlando (MCO) and Knoxville, but only seasonally. Luckily, our travel times were in season and on the days they fly the route.

I went to check Frontier’s prices and the base fare was reasonable. Before looking any further, I went to check with Sharon. I was sure she would nix the idea because she’s not a fan of flying with ULCC’s (Ultra Low Cost Carrier). 

To my amazement, she was OK with the idea because if we saved the time of driving, there would be the fringe benefit of having an extra half day in Gatlinburg. Now it was up to me to try to figure out to book a flight on Frontier.

I found the booking process to be very straightforward. Frontier doesn’t try to hide any of the charges; in fact they do the opposite. Every step along the way they have pop up boxes telling you about paying for a seat assignment or paying for your bags.

Frontier likes to sell you a bundle of services called THE WORKS and THE PERKS

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The Perks includes a checked bag, carry on bag, seat assignment and priority boarding. The Works offers all of that but includes flight flexibility and refundability.

If you choose not to get a package, Frontier will sell you all of these options individually.

Here’s Frontier’s description of each type of bag and the corresponding fees:

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You can bring a personal item on the plane but it must fit under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead bin. You can pay the fee online for bringing carry-on or checked bag(s). Paying for the bags is cheapest when you purchase your ticket, as buying it any later will cost you extra. If you wait until getting to the gate to pay, you’ll pay double.

For us, we paid the extra to each bring a carry-on bag. Besides having no chance of our luggage getting lost, paying for a carry-on also gives you Zone 1 boarding on Frontier. That’s nice to give you time to put away your bags in the overhead, but it’s not so great to be sitting on the plane any longer than possible.

Seat selection is also an available add-on.

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Picking out you own seat wasn’t expensive and the price depended on which seat you wanted. We eventually decided not to pay for seats. It was only a two hour flight and so what if we weren’t seated together. Frontier does make it clear that they’ll try to keep parties together but the only way to ensure sitting near the rest of your party is to pay for seats.

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If you’re traveling as a family, Frontier has introduced Kid Zone seating. It’s near the back of the plane but the middle seats are free to select. So the adult still has to pay a discounted price for an aisle or window seat(s) but children can get the middle seat for nothing extra.

Our Kid Zone is designed to make it easy and affordable for the family to sit together. The Kid Zone is located in the rear of the aircraft. Designed with the family budget in mind, the aisle and window seats are available at a discounted rate, and the middle seats are available at no additional charge. The zone was established for families to have convenient access to restrooms with changing tables and quick assistance from our friendly flight attendants. These seats are limited and available on a first come basis.

If you were wondering what a Stretch seat it, here’s Frontier’s description:

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Some of these could be important. You get an extra 5-7 inches of legroom and a full comfort recline. Personally, I love how they put getting off the plane quicker as a selling point for getting a Stretch seat. More important would be that these seats are Laptop Friendly. I didn’t understand that until I flew Frontier. Now I know why that’s important.

One thing I didn’t notice was the taxes and fees added to the ticket. I’ve since learned that Frontier adds a Carrier Interface Charge to each ticket purchased online. This runs around $19 per ticket and is lumped into the rest of the fees. This fee is added when booking a ticket on Frontier’s website. It’s possible not to pay this fee, but it means you have to go a airport and purchase your ticket directly from the Frontier ticket counter. For one ticket it may not be worthwhile, but if you’re buying five tickets this would save you $100.

Frontier participates with TSA Precheck so were able to get through security much faster by using the special lanes at security. I just had to remember to put in our Known Traveler Number (KTN) when I booked the flights.

If you thought this was the last reminder to buy the extras, Frontier reminds you of what you’ve already purchased when you get the reminder email to check in for your flight.

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Frontier also reminds you of when you need to get to the airport

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When I checked in for our flights 24 hours in advance, we were assigned two seats together about 2/3 of the way back. For us, that’s fine.

I will say that boarding this plane was quicker that almost any flight I’ve been on in the U.S. When you charge people for carry-on bags, it’s amazing how much space there’s left in the overhead bins ;-). In fact, we were the only ones in our row who stored luggage up there. Not having everyone stop to shove in a bag or look for space  also lets everyone get on the plane faster. The flights, which were both full, loaded in less than 15 minutes.

I found the process to be really straightforward. One awkward thing I noticed was that Frontier offered to purchase the bundles even when checking in for our flights home. The price was still the same as when I checked in for the first flight. So this would be a horrible value as you’d be paying the full price but only getting the benefits for half the trip.

Final Thoughts

Booking a flight on Frontier is much like booking a flight in Basic Economy with one of the major carriers. The fees for everything are spelled out and you can pick and choose which ones are the best. I’m not sure how much of a savings the bundles are since you will be getting things you probably don’t need.

Frontier offers some wonderful fare sales, often with base fares starting at $5. You just have to make sure to include all of the extra taxes, fees and add-ons like bags and seating assignments to see if it’s still a value for you.

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