Why Flying With Frontier Is Better Than Basic Economy On A Major Airline

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting that much from our first trip with Frontier Airlines. Sharon and I will avoid ULCC (Ultra Low Cost Carriers) whenever possible. However for our trip to Knoxville, the stars aligned and our options were a 10 hour drive each way or taking a 90 minute flight on Frontier. I figured out contingency plans for flights (what could we do if our outbound or return flight was cancelled) and since we’d always have options available, I was allowed (Note from Sharon – yes, really…”allowed.” I would never let him book on Frontier before this trip LOL!) to go ahead and book the flights. I’ve already posted about the booking experience, so here’s what it’s like to fly on Frontier. 

I knew what I was getting into ahead of time. We paid for our carry on bags so we were in the first boarding group. I didn’t pay for seat assignments so Sharon and I were seated towards the back third of the plane, but at least we had seats together. We knew our seat assignments when I checked in at home 24 hours before the flight.

Our flight to Knoxville was on Shelly the Sea Turtle, which was an Airbus A-320neo that was put into service in October 2017. She still (almost) had that new plane smell.

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The seats on board weren’t anything fancy but they looked new and in good shape. More than what I can say for some of the seats on American or JetBlue.

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SeatGuru says that seats on these Frontier planes have 28 to 29 inches of pitch and are 18 inches wide. While seat width is self-explanatory, here’s the definition of seat pitch:

Seat Pitch is the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind it. While it is not the exact equivalent of “legroom”, it does give a very good approximation of how much seat room you should expect. Bottom line: the more seat pitch the better.

So, here’s what 28 inches of pitch looks like to someone who’s 6 feet tall.

Frontier Seat Pitch

If I wanted to work on the tray table, I needed to be able to work on my iPhone 8 and not my Macbook or iPad.

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I don’t think that’s large enough for a can of soda but don’t worry because you don’t get any snacks or drinks on a Frontier flight without paying.

Now, I want to make sure that you know that we knew ALL of this going into the flight. I didn’t pay for the extra legroom or the assigned seats because the flight was only 90 minutes long. Frontier’s airplanes don’t have Wi-Fi so I wouldn’t have been able to get much work done anyway. As it was, our flight left at 8AM. We had to wake up at 5 AM way too early in the morning so we could get to the airport on time for our flight.

I will say this – making all passengers pay for carry on bags that can go in the overhead made this flight be the one with the emptiest overhead bins we’ve ever seen in the US. We boarded with group 1 (people who paid for bags) and this was what the bins looked like when our zone was done boarding.

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Everyone else boarding just had bags that would fit under their seat. This meant everyone boarded quickly and while the entire plane was full, the doors were closed 10 minutes ahead of the stated departure time. (Take that American, and your desire to have all flights leave on time)

When I flew on a Delta Basic Economy ticket, I was dreading my flight home. On Frontier, I just didn’t seem to feel the same. I knew what was coming and it was OK.

Our flight home was on Cliff the Mountain Goat.

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Cliff was a little older than Shelly the Sea Turtle. He was put into service in January of 2017, so he didn’t have any new plane smell left over. Still, getting to fly on a plane that’s a little over a year old is a rarity in the US. Other airlines have fleets where the average age of their airplanes are well into the teens. Frontier actually has one of the youngest airline fleets in the US, with its average airplane age being just over seven years.

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The seats on this A-320neo were the same as the flight we arrived on. Just to give a frame of reference to my picture from the inbound flight, Sharon had no problems with the leg room. That’s one advantage of being short, but she still needs help getting her bag out of the overhead compartment.

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Final Thoughts

So how was this compared to flying on a Basic Economy flight with Delta (our only comparison)? With Frontier, I was able to purchase seat assignments if I wanted. Even if I didn’t pay for seats, I was provided a seat assignment when I checked in online. With Delta, I didn’t receive my seat assignment until I was at the gate and the plane was almost getting ready to board. Advantage: Frontier.

Only Frontier EarlyReturns Elite members get a free carry-on bag so no perks even if you have the Frontier credit card. While it makes getting the card less valuable (except to keep your points from expiring), this makes the whole boarding process seem more equal. There are no seven boarding groups like on Delta. You either get on the plane first, or you get on with everyone else. Advantage: Frontier.

You’ll pay for a checked bag on Frontier or Delta if flying basic economy. However, Delta Credit card holders get a free checked bag. Delta charges other passengers $25 for the first checked bag while Frontier charges between $25 to $60 for a checked bag (depending on when you pay). Advantage: Delta.

I guess the big question is “Would I fly with Frontier again?” Knowing what I know now about the planes, the seats, the service, the fees and everything, would I do it again? Yes, I would fly with them again. In fact, I’ve already booked our next flight with them. I also signed up (retroactively) to get points in the Frontier EarlyReturns program for both of us so we can get credit for our fights. Frontier lets you credit flights up to 180 days in the past to a new account so I wasn’t going to let those points go to waste. They might go to waste in the future but who knows?

I’m still hesitant about flying on Frontier. I’ve heard too many stories from people about being stranded by Frontier when a flight was cancelled. However, I don’t think that’s a Frontier-specific problem. I could name any airline and find stories of someone who had a flight cancelled and couldn’t get home for days. For any of our travels, I’ll always see if there’s a backup plan available. In fact, I’ll never book a flight on a ULCC unless there’s at least one or preferably two different ways for us to get home just in case something happens.

So I’m warming up to booking flights with Frontier. But that still doesn’t mean we’ll be flying on Spirit anytime soon. 🙂

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