Before this month, I had never flown with Frontier Airlines. Aside from Southwest Airlines (which has great customer service), we try to stay away from the super low-budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit. However, a Frontier Airlines flight seemed like the best option for our recent vacation. Unfortunately, our experience with Frontier was so awful that we will never fly Frontier Airlines again. I have never written a post that was about a bad review before, but I hope that by sharing our experience we can prevent others from having similar experiences.
Overview of the airline
Frontier Airlines is one of a few super low-budget airlines available in the U.S. Although these airlines typically have very low fares, they tack on additional charges for even the most basic amenities. This includes charges for checked bags, carry-on bags, selecting your seat, and even in-flight snacks and sodas. Once you start adding on these extras, the flights aren’t actually such a great deal.
Frontier also offers two packages of amenities. The first, The Works, includes one carry-on bag, one checked bag, seat selection (including the slightly larger ‘Stretch’ seats), priority boarding, and is 100% refundable. This is available only at the time of purchase. You can also purchase The Perks package for slightly less. It includes one carry-on, one checked bag, seat selection (not including the ‘Stretch’ seats), and priority boarding. It is available at any time after purchase.
My sister planned a family trip to Disney World this month for the 50th anniversary. When we lived in Columbus, we always chose to fly with Southwest to Orlando, but we were disappointed to learn that Southwest does not fly directly from Cleveland to Orlando. We try to stay away from layovers whenever possible. Especially during the winter months in Cleveland. Every layover is an additional chance that you won’t make it to your destination. Instead of relying on one flight and flight crew leaving/arriving on time, you are relying on two separate flights and flight crews to leave/arrive on time. It also doubles the chances that your luggage will be lost. And of course there is always a chance that you miss your layover. We find it unnecessarily stressful and avoid it whenever possible.
Which brings us to why we purchased a flight with Frontier Airlines in the first place. It turns out that no airlines- not Southwest, not Delta, not American, not United- nobody flies directly from Cleveland to Orlando other than Frontier and Spirit. At the time of our booking, Spirit had been in the headlines for canceling hundreds of flights. So, we decided to take a chance and booked a flight with Frontier.
It was really important to me that we get to Orlando on time. We had already elected to join my family only for the last few days of their longer trip because we had been to both Disney World and Disneyland fairly recently. I had also made a dining reservation for one of Disney’s more upscale restaurants for the evening of our arrival. If you miss a Disney dining reservation not only will you be very hungry- you will be charged a fee.
So, we purchased The Works package. We typically pay for extra legroom when flying because my husband’s legs are incredibly long. I also knew that I would need to check a bag and would want to have a carry-on. We also had some concern that we might have to reschedule our flight due to weather or issues with COVID. Our two, round-trip base tickets from Cleveland to Orlando came to a total of $157.92 including taxes and fees. The Works package cost more than twice that of the base tickets and added an additional $324.00, bringing the total cost for our flights to $481.92. This was comparable to what the other major airlines were offering for their flights to Orlando, but they all included layovers.
The flight to Orlando
For our flight to Orlando, we selected a departure in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. We figured that the airport wouldn’t be too crowded and hoped for a stress-free travel day. We were partly right. The airport wasn’t crowded at all. In fact, the only airline that had a line to check in or check bags was Frontier. We initially had hoped to sit down and eat lunch at one of the airport restaurants before our flight, but after standing in the check-in line for over 45 minutes, that was no longer possible.
It’s important to note that we had actually already checked into our flights. We had also printed the tags for our luggage and had our boarding passes. It did not matter. We had to stand in the same line- the only line- with travelers who had none of these tasks completed. Despite a line of around 100-125 people, there were only two people working at the ticket counter. There were no other Frontier employees in sight.
Our boarding passes
This was frustrating, but we chalked it up to flying with a super low-budget airline. We both have TSA Pre-Check so we got through the security line quickly and picked up some to-go lunch to eat on the flight. Unfortunately, (and I really shouldn’t have been surprised), our flight boarded about 39 minutes late. We didn’t know how long it was going to be- we just new that it was running late. So we sat down to eat our lunch. I casually asked my husband to remind me what our seat assignments were (he had both of our boarding passes on his phone) because I had remembered that we had paid to select seats in the first few rows with extra legroom.
So, I was very confused when he told me that our seats were in row 17. I knew that the ‘Stretch’ seats with extra legroom were only in the first few rows. So, I pulled up the email with our flight confirmation and details and saw that we had selected (and paid extra for) seats 2A and 2B. Knowing that my husband is very uncomfortable in standard airline seats (and because we paid for extra legroom), I approached the counter at the gate and asked the gate agent about our seats. She informed me that there was nothing she could do because the flight was full and told me to contact customer service.
So, I called customer service. I was on the phone with them for approximately 30 minutes before I had to hang up to board the flight. On that phone call, I was again told that the flight was full and that there was nothing that could be done. There were no apologies or concessions offered by either the gate agent or the customer service representative with whom I spoke. So I requested- and was assured that I would receive- a refund for the seats with extra legroom that we were not going to be able to sit in. It has been more than two weeks since that phone call. No refund has been issued. I followed up with an email four days ago and similarly have received no response.
So, we boarded the flight and sat in row 17. I can honestly say that I have never sat in less comfortable airline seats in my life. Not only were they narrow and had little leg room, they were hard. My butt was asleep before take-off (which was also significantly delayed). And the standard seats-it turns out- don’t have a traditional tray table. Instead, the tray tables are approximately half the size of a standard tray table. They can not even support a standard laptop. My iPad didn’t even fit on it. It wasn’t much bigger than the case for my sunglasses.
The only way I can imagine that this flight experience could have been worse was if they had lost our luggage. By some miracle, that did not happen. We did, however, wait approximately 42 minutes for our luggage to arrive at the baggage claim once we arrived in Orlando. After all of the delays, we eventually made it to our hotel. However, because we were so late, we elected to pay for an Uber to make our dinner reservation instead of utilizing the free Disney transportation as we initially planned. We didn’t have have time to go to our rooms to change or refresh. We just left our bags with the desk and immediately requested the Uber.
Our return flight
The return flight from Orlando was fine. The experience went basically as expected. There was almost no wait to drop off our bags (there was a separate line for this as there should be). Our flight was only slightly delayed. We sat in the extended legroom seats that we paid for. These seats had larger tray tables and were comparable to most other airlines in terms of comfort. We still waited 26 minutes for our luggage in Cleveland, but compared to our previous experience, this seemed pretty speedy.
Our experience flying Frontier- specifically the initial leg from Cleveland to Orlando- was pretty awful. I would go as far as to say that it was my worst flying experience ever. In the end, the additional stress caused by our experience and the horrendous customer service negated any advantages of booking a direct flight. After this experience, I can say with confidence that we will never fly Frontier Airlines again and I encourage anyone considering flying with this airline (or Spirit Airlines with whom Frontier is set to merge) consider the practical cost of flying with this super low-budget airline.
I’d say that you get what you pay for- but in this instance, we literally didn’t get what we explicitly paid for. I can certainly understand why Frontier and Spirit Airlines have some of the worst customer satisfaction ratings.
Have you ever flown with Frontier or Spirit Airlines? How was your experience? Please share in the comments.
I am currently working on new blog posts about the Mears Connect Service and our experience with the new Genie + service and will link to them here when they are completed. In the meantime, if you are looking for more travel content on the blog, you may want to check out my posts on tips for making the most of your trip to Disney World or why I think lapel/hat/enamel pins make the best travel souvenirs.
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