Next to the date I need to arrive, the cost is my main concern when I am booking airfare. Cheap is good. CheapER is better! But at what point does a cheap airfare begin to feel like a mistake? I recently booked and learned a few lessons about low-cost airlines while flying Frontier Airlines. Know before you book that AH-MAZING $29 fare. The dollars are in the details!
The Fly for Less Dilemma
Like most of us who fly often, flying on a budget is a priority. And I do believe in flying cheaply whenever possible.
Or at least I did until a flight I took this summer. I learned that sometimes, it might be worth paying a bit more up front!
First of all, like everybody else, I’m still waiting for my money tree to sprout. It hasn’t happened just yet (must be the lack of rain here in Arizona?) so until it does, we live and die by The B Word.
This includes our travel budget. It’s why we embrace the road trip when we can and fly on frequent flyer miles when possible. We are more likely to stay at a Holiday Inn or crash at a friends house on the road than a 5-star resort. Saving money getting there means we can spend more when we arrive.
So being a cheap traveler, I decided a last minute flight to Colorado wasn’t going to happen for the $400 price my typical airlines wanted to charge. I made the decision to fly Frontier, for less than half the cost.
Flying Frontier Airlines
It seemed like a well thought out decision.
It was a direct flight, I was flying solo, it was less than 2 hours, and I had a carry-on. How bad could it be?
Here are a few things to know before you get lured in by those low, low prices.
NO TSA PrCheck
I love TSA PreCheck. I recently got my number, and this is the best thing ever when it comes to flying. With a pre-check number, you are sent through a different (usually shorter) line at security. You are allowed those pre-9/11 luxuries, such as wearing your shoes and leaving your laptop in your bag.
It’s awesome. Active TravelingMom Kimberly shares more details about TSA PreCheck
Frontier does not participate in this program.
Not a deal breaker, but something you may want to be aware of before you book. Especially if you have a newly acquired number you want to use… and can’t.
You Pay for EVERYTHING
The flight might be cheaper, but be sure you check out all the fees that you might encounter.
Bags: you’ll pay $30 for the first bag on this airline. IF you pay it in advance online. It’s $35 to $60 if you wait to do it at the airport. While bag fees are pretty standard, Frontier charges you for CARRY-ONS for goodness sake! The charge: $35 for the honor of carrying on your bag.
That’s shenanigans, man.
Seats: they charge you for the good ones. Basically, anything other than back middle seat will incur a charge of some sort.
I paid $6 for my aisle back of the plane seat. This wasn’t a huge issue, but it was pretty annoying to see that the aircraft was less than half full. The airline attendants said we could move up if we wished… and I wished.
I moved up and scored a full row to myself. These seats were more comfortable and roomier than the $6 version at the back of the plane. Might be worth paying if you desire a bit more comfort, especially on a longer flight.
And yes, there was a difference in the actual seats. By the way, they didn’t recline on my plane. Not in the back or the ones closer to the front.
What was the same in the front as the back was the size of the drink/snack/laptop/whatever-you-use-it-for-tray.
It was TINY.
I wasn’t even sure if a drink would stay on this thing! My Gigantor laptop certainly wouldn’t. Not that it would matter (see wifi below).
Drinks: you pay for those. Any and all drinks had a price. No freebie sodas for you! Yes, even a coke costs you on Frontier.
To their credit, they had an extensive drink and snack menu with quite a few reasonable (for an airline) priced options. But don’t you dare think for a minute that anything is coming free on this bird.
You won’t get a free mixer with your booze, for example. Shots, anyone?
There is none.
Savages, I tell you.
I discovered this as we waited to board the plane. I almost wept as I hastily downloaded a couple of Veronica Mars episodes to get me through the flight.
I haven’t brought reading material on a plane since wifi became a thing, so I was completely unprepared for an unconnected flight.
One of my favorite sayings is “Time is Money.” I’ll use this when I’m talking about staying at a deluxe monorail hotel at Walt Disney World, for example. If I can spend a little more money to save an hour of transportation back and forth from the Magic Kingdom all week, then I think it’s money well spent in time savings.
This flight was horribly late.
It arrived late. We boarded late. It looked like we’d take off late.
The doors were closed and then reopened. More staff members came on board.
It wasn’t looking good.
And it wasn’t. Ultimately we were delayed over four hours. The crew did allow us to deplane, but once we left, we were not allowed back on until they were ready to take off.
Who cared? I had wi-fi in the airport! I had a reprieve!
A lot of people did care, however. Some life events were going to be really messed up if they didn’t get home that night.
My fellow passengers felt this was a regular occurrence, sadly, and that it was a risk one takes when flying Frontier.
I have no idea how much truth is in that, but if it truly is a “thing” they are known for, no thanks.
In this particular case, it was no big deal that my 11 pm flight arrived at 3 am. But what if I had my kids on board? What if we were on our way to a runDisney race weekend? Or a business meeting? Ack!
WHAT WAS GOOD ABOUT FRONTIER
The crew was pretty awesome. This was a flight from Denver to Austin in June As late as it was for me, I’m sure it was digging deep into their overtime. Well, if they get overtime. I have a feeling that it doesn’t work quite like that!
They kept us informed with candor. They were kind and funny and never got cross, even when one particularly snarky passenger tried to start something. (And no, it wasn’t me!).
The reason why you are traveling might impact your comfort level on taking a flight on a cheap airline. And don’t forget to add up all the extra costs that your typical airline might include in the price of your ticket. You may decide the savings isn’t worth the hassle!
Do you think flying on the cheap is right for you?