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Should You Buy Airlines Ticket Cheap?


By Maya Kachroo-Levine, Travel + Leisure

If you’ve ever seen a flight sale for $20, it’s probably from Frontier Airlines. Frontier is pretty much queen of the domestic-flight flash sale, and any time they’re celebrating a milestone with $15 flights, I’m intrigued. The question is, will you end up paying dearly for that $15 flight? One of the big catches to budget airline travel is that they charge you for everything from carry-on bags to water. If you’re planning on eating on your flight, you might want to bring your own sandwich, rather than pay an insane amount for a sad-looking ham and cheese.

Headquartered out of Colorado, Frontier actually serves 80 cities in the U.S., Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Frontier has been around since the 1950s, but the Frontier we all know today is actually the second iteration of the airline, founded in 1994. After filing for bankruptcy in 2008, the airline was bought by Republic airlines and, ten years later, Frontier is expanding and adding more direct flights whenever possible.

With more direct flights than ever, their flash sale prices are looking more and more appealing. But is it worth it? It depends whether you’re willing to compromise on comfort, and be zen about potentially getting to your destination 40 minutes late. Here are seven things you need to know before you book that Frontier ticket.

They charge you for a carry-on bag

To be clear, they charge you for a checked bag also. Essentially, if you’re bringing any sort of substantial bag, you should expect to be charged for it. If you can pay for your flight and your checked bag, and still have the Frontier ticket cost less than the competition, it could still be worth it. There’s also a plus to a carry-on bag fee: If you want to bring it on the plane, there’s usually space.

“In this instance, I embrace the carry-on fee. Frontier puts 230 passengers on their version of the Airbus A321. If all 230 people were allowed to bring on a carry-on bag, there would be a lot of disappointed folks,” said Edward Pizzerello of Pizza In Motion.

It might not be the best choice for a business trip

The amount of space Frontier Airlines gives you isn’t really conducive to getting anything done on your flight. Not only is there not enough space, there’s no WiFi on Frontier.

“As a business traveler, I wouldn’t choose to fly them for flights longer than an hour, unless I could make sure I had stretch seating,” said Pizzerello. “They might call them ‘laptop computers,’ but I don’t relish the thought of trying to work with my computer on my lap for a couple of hours while potentially balancing a drink and/or snack on the postage stamp-sized tray table.”

There’s no beverage service or in-flight entertainment

If you’re trying to keep your children entertained, you might want to BYOS (bring your own screen). There’s no entertainment, and you probably don’t want to bring anything more than a small iPad because there isn't much room between rows. And if you want anything beyond a cup of water, it’ll cost you.

“There is no entertainment for TV or radio. A few times during our 3.5 hour flight, it got warm inside. They only offer a free cup of water. A soda is $3, and they only offer snack of candy and trail mix,” said Michelle L on Yelp.

Timing isn’t guaranteed

You can make the argument that timing is never guaranteed, regardless of the airline. Sitting on a tarmac isn’t exclusive to budget airlines—you can get stuck on a tarmac while seated in first class on a premium airline. However, when airlines offer services that expedite boarding, that’s probably money well spent. Boarding with Frontier might take more time than you bargained for.

“The flight was six hours delayed, and the agents took three-plus hours to check us in. They lied and said we'd receive an emailed voucher, which didn't come,” said Craig S on Yelp.


If you’re traveling with a family, booking with Frontier could save you a lot

If you, your spouse, and your children want to fly somewhere for about $100, it's actually possible with Frontier. The trick is to only bring small backpacks aboard (probably packed with some snacks, drinks, and a change of clothes). Then just pay to check one big suitcase for the whole family. If you don’t mind being cramped, the whole experience could run you about $150.

“I wouldn’t consider them for things like heading out to catch a cruise ship or something else time-sensitive. But given how frequently they run $20 one-way special fares out of my home airport of Washington-Dulles, my family of four could save a bunch of money on short regional trips,” said Pizzerello.

They have seven out of seven safety stars

One of the concerns with budget airlines, of course, is safety. Does a lower price mean you’re compromising your safety? Pricier airlines like American and Delta tend to have seven out of seven safety stars, but that’s also the case for some budget airlines, and Frontier is one of them.

The seats are less than comfortable

“My advice, bring your own padding, e.g. stadium seat pads. No peanuts or water. No padding. No recline,” said Sohail H on Yelp.

So your seat back might not recline on Frontier. But as long as you don’t mind a minor kink in your neck — which could conceivably happen on any airline — Frontier is still an inexpensive way to get to a new destination. If you do want to be a little more comfortable, be sure to book a "stretch" seating option while booking.

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