What to Know Before Booking a Cheap Flight with Frontier Airlines
Answering your questions with an honest review & ways to get the most bang for your buck on America’s latest budget airline.
Frontier Airlines is the newest bargain airline to make its way to the Buffalo airport, and with direct flights to popular cities like Denver and Orlando for less than $100 one-way, it’s no wonder they’re stirring up some curiosity.
While Frontier is still very new to the area, they’ve actually been in service since 1994, and now operate to 80+ destinations in the United States and four international locations. Their flight schedules really depend on how big of a presence they have at each airport, meaning they’ll generally have more flights at cheaper prices leaving from larger airports like LaGuardia or Atlanta, but I’ve been really lucky lately with finding some major steals when booking with Frontier. In June, I was able to snag a one-way, direct flight to Austin, TX for $67, and for my trip to Colorado this month, I grabbed a flight (also one-way & direct) to Denver for $97 - baggage and all fees are included in those prices, BTW!
I get a ton of questions all the time about my experience with Frontier and if I think it’s worth the savings, so I’m laying it all out in this post. If there’s any other questions you have that I don’t touch on, feel free to reach out! The goal is to create value for you guys, and hopefully you find this helpful when you’re booking your next getaway.
Booking your flight on the frontier airlines website
how is Frontier able to make their flights so cheap?
The short answer is, they advertise the base package price without any add-ons to suck you in at first:
A $44 flight to Denver sounds great, right? But you’ll see in the picture below that once you click, you realize that’s the price if you’re part of their “Discount Den” paid membership. I mean, $5 more still isn’t a bad price in the slightest, it’s just not what you were expecting when you click through.
In case you don’t already know this, I recommend always booking directly through Frontier’s website or app instead of with middleman travel companies - that’s how you’ll find these dirt cheap prices to begin with, you won’t have to pay any extra commission for the 3rd party booking company, and it’s much less of a hassle if you need to switch something last minute or if your flight gets canceled.
Alright, great, so you have your $49 flight to Denver. Yay!
Only don’t get excited for too long, because in the next step, you’ll see they charge for basically everything short of the air you’ll be breathing in the aircraft. Carry on luggage, checked luggage, drinks and snacks onboard, and even your actual seat are all potential areas for upcharges.
Below is the breakdown for baggage options on Frontier Airlines:
In a nutshell, the reason Frontier, and all airlines, really, charge for baggage at all is because the more baggage they need to accommodate on the plane leads to more overall weight on the plane, which leads to more gas needed to actually fly the plane. So sure, they’ll accommodate as many bags as you need, but since it’s going to cost them more to allow for that, it’s going to cost you more, too.
So, if the airline can somehow get you to bring less baggage (and they do this by charging more for each bag you want to take), it actually ends up helping them with gas costs. Plus, it’s less they have to worry about loading in/out or potentially losing.
Take note that it’s actually $5 cheaper to check a bag than to carry on a bag. That’s because it’s more helpful and quicker for the staff to check your bag rather than for you to carry it on yourself - if every single person on the plane carried on a bag, 1) there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone’s luggage, and 2) the boarding process would take way longer with those extra minutes it takes for you to find a spot to stow your bag above your seat, and then take it down after the plane lands.
While it is $5 extra, the flipside is that you are automatically granted zone 1 boarding when you purchase a carry on bag instead of a checked bag. This is because (or at least I’d assume), again, the staff wants the entire boarding process to go as quickly as possible so they can keep moving through their flight schedule for the day. If they’re making sure to get people with carry on luggage situated and in their seats faster, that helps speed up the process for everyone.
On Frontier flights, there’s 4 boarding zones - each time I’ve flown, I’ve been automatically placed in zone 3 (I checked a bag each time to save the $5). It wasn’t too bad of a wait, especially because I already had an assigned seat anyway, so I wasn’t really in a rush to get on the plane. But just to note - there’s pros and cons of each! It’s up to you to decide what’s more important to you, and what you feel works best for your own situation.
If you are looking to carry on a bag, it must be “no larger than 24"H, 16"W, 10"D (including handles, wheels, and straps) and no heavier than 35 pounds” according to Frontier’s baggage policies. I’d recommend this one if you’re in the market for a new carry-on suitcase- it meets all of the dimension requirements!
Seat Selection & Costs:
Depending on how you want to play it, you have a couple of options with seating on Frontier flights. If you want to spend $0 on your seat, you can choose to sit wayyy in the back of the plane. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there will still be an aisle or window seat open back there that doesn’t require an upcharge. Once those “free” seats run out, though, you’ll probably have a $5-$10 upcharge to choose your seat ahead of time, depending on how good of a seat you want. Typically, I’ll choose the free seat if at all possible, even if that means I have to have take a middle seat between two strangers. But that’s just how I roll, you do you.
There’s also the living on the edge option (not actually called that so please don’t look for that on the website), where you can opt not to pay for a seat assignment, and just see what you get assigned when you check in. I’ve never personally done it that way, so I can’t really speak to or recommend this option, but it’s there if you want to try it.
Extras & Additional Charges
Past those basics, there aren’t really any other extra charges you’ll see when booking your flight besides normal taxes and fees. Frontier doesn’t offer any form of wifi or in-flight entertainment, but you do have the opportunity to buy (overpriced) snacks and drinks as well as upgrade your seat for one with extra legroom, if that’s your style.
My Personal Experience with Frontier Airlines
Service at the Buffalo Airport:
On the day of your flight, you can expect the Frontier Airlines staff to be pretty lean at the airport. You’ll almost definitely have to wait in line for a little bit for someone to help you, especially since they don’t offer self-service kiosks to check in, print your boarding pass, or drop off your luggage (at least in Buffalo they don’t).
The Frontier counter at the Buffalo airport doesn’t open until 2 hours before their earliest flight departure time, so if your flight at 2PM is the only flight they have scheduled going out of the airport that day, they’ll open at noon.
Additionally, they’ll sometimes even close down if they have a long window of time where flights aren’t leaving the airport for a while. For example, say they have one flight leaving at 9AM and don’t have another flight scheduled to leave until 5PM, they’ll typically close the window down once everything is all set with the 9AM flight, and reopen it at 3PM to cut costs. This is important to know if you’re looking to get to the airport early, or if you have questions before your flight takes off. Definitely expect a line to already be formed before the counter opens up.
The in-flight service on Frontier was totally fine each time I’ve flown. Honestly, it probably helps that the flight attendants have way less to do since there’s no free snack/drink service, and most people opt to not buy anything. Either way, everyone was friendly, and I never had any issues with the Frontier staff being rude.
As far as comfort goes on the plane, don’t really expect much. The seats have pretty minimal cushion & leg room, and the tray is so tiny that if you have a huge phone, that might be just about all you’ll be able to fit on it, lol.
Again, I really think it just comes down to priorities when traveling - if you would rather pay a higher ticket price for a more comfortable plane and free snacks, then by all means, do that. But if you’re willing to just suck it up and be a little uncomfortable for a few hours to potentially cut your travel costs in half (I mean, who’s ever really 100% comfortable on any plane anyway?), then you’ll be totally fine.
Conclusion: Is Frontier Airlines Really Worth It?
I feel like I’ve pretty much already summed up how I feel about Frontier throughout this entire post, but what I’ll leave you with is this:
Your luggage can still get lost on “nicer” airlines.
Your flight can still be delayed on “nicer” airlines.
Bad things can potentially happen on ANY airline.
As long as you know what you’re getting yourself into and basically go into it with zero expectations, you’ll be totally fine. As long as flying in luxury isn’t something that’s important to you.
Now get out there, book those cheap flights, and thank me later!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which may result in personal financial gain.