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I spent $399 on Frontier’s ‘All You Can Fly’ pass. Is it worth the hype?

As an individual who takes many last-minute journeys, I’m used to flying on funds airways. I’ve traveled 1000’s of miles on JetBlue (my ride-or-die), TAP Air Portugal (superb), Vueling (respectable), Ryanair (are you able to inform I studied overseas in Europe?), French Bee (they misplaced my bag at Paris Orly for almost every week) and Spirit (who amongst us wouldn’t purchase a $45 round-trip ticket to see Pitbull play in Nashville?). But Frontier Airways didn’t come throughout my radar till extra lately.

The Denver-based low-cost service caught my consideration final November when the corporate introduced it will be launching the GoWild! All-You-Can-Fly Go. Its premise was easy: Customers can e book limitless flights for fares of 1 cent (plus taxes and charges). Summer season passes, for Might 2 to Sept. 30, began at $399 and are $499 till Might 31. (After that date, the value will revert again to $999, although Tyri Squyres, Frontier’s vice chairman of promoting, stated the passes could promote out solely this month.) Annual passes, that are good for a calendar 12 months beginning Might 2, began at $599 and are at present on sale for $1,999.

For Frontier, which carries round 25 million passengers yearly, the move is a treatment for an issue that many airways face. “The actual genesis of the move is we’re flying 1000’s and 1000’s of empty seats day-after-day,” Squyres stated. “Why not give them to people?”

Limitless flight passes have, in fact, been round for years. And whereas such packages are at all times attractive, they have an inclination to go wayward. Within the Eighties, American Airways let a couple of dozen fortunate folks buy limitless lifetime AAirpasses for upward of $250,000, however the airline ultimately rolled a few of the passes again. In 2009, JetBlue launched a extra modest monthlong “All You Can Jet” move for $599 that offered slightly too effectively, which led them to droop gross sales. Essentially the most comparable program at present available on the market appears to be Alaska Airways’ restricted Flight Go, which launched in February 2022 and permits folks to pay a flat fee for six, 12 or 24 journeys per 12 months inside California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

When the GoWild Go was introduced, intrigue soared, with writers describing this system as “constructed brilliantly” and “chaotic, however could be value it.” Quickly sufficient, folks jumped on-line to determine if the deal was too good to be true. “What are the downsides to the $599 Frontier Airways ‘Go Wild!’ move?” one Reddit consumer posted. “Is round-trip attainable with the GoWild! move?” one other requested. (Since you’re solely allowed to e book home flights 24 hours upfront and worldwide flights 10 days upfront, the reply is basically no.) There have been questions on seat availability, cancellation charges and baggage.

However parsing via the superb print didn’t look like it will get me all of the solutions I needed, so I did what any journey reporter would do: I begged my editor to let me strive it out.

Right here’s what occurred once I put my move to the take a look at.

Confusion over airports and routes

As a result of Frontier doesn’t function out of Los Angeles Worldwide (which is 2 miles from the L.A. Instances’ workplace), I realized that my closest airports could be John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana (45 miles away) and Ontario Worldwide Airport (55 miles away).

Although Frontier beforehand provided flights from Hollywood Burbank Airport, it lately stopped. Squyres stated that Frontier makes modifications to its flight community seasonally “to satisfy the place there may be the best buyer demand.” (Frontier’s high flight hubs embody Denver, which has 63 routes; Las Vegas, which has 60; Orlando, which has 49; and Atlanta, which has 38.)

Taking a look at Frontier’s route map, I discovered that Frontier flies to 3 locations from John Wayne Airport: Las Vegas, Denver and Dallas. If I needed to take a world journey, I’d possible must drive to the Ontario airport (which provides Frontier flights to eight U.S. locations), take a flight to one of many worldwide airline’s main hubs after which fly to my remaining vacation spot.

Screenshot of the U.S. route map on the Frontier website.

Frontier provides direct flights from Ontario Worldwide Airport to Las Vegas; Denver; Orlando, Fla.; Dallas; Atlanta; Chicago and Phoenix.

Confusion about which routes and airports Frontier is flying has pissed off some GoWild customers. “Lots of people are shopping for the move after which they’re discovering themselves unable to get to locations they need to go as a result of their airport doesn’t have many choices,” stated Sarah Yi, 46, a frequent flier primarily based in New York Metropolis. The primary time she used her GoWild move, because of a protracted layover, it took 14 hours to get to Dallas, a vacation spot that’s usually a 2½-hour flight.

Sticker shock over the actual ticket costs

After trying via my flight choices, I made a decision to e book a spherical journey from Ontario to Denver to go to a buddy. (Frontier permits advance reserving for GoWild move holders throughout sure promotional intervals.) All home flights gave the impression to be round $15 minimal for every leg of the journey, lining up with this line from Frontier’s FAQ: “Present authorities and airport taxes, charges and prices begin at roughly $14.90 per particular person, per flight for home journey.” Accounting for simply the 1-cent fare and the taxes and service imposed charges, the spherical journey value $29.82.

Although $30 isn’t unhealthy for a short-haul spherical journey, it’s not precisely what vacationers could be picturing after spending lots of of {dollars} on a vast move that was promoting 1-cent fares.

Worldwide flight pricing was notably stunning due to the steeper taxes and charges. Irrespective of which day or week I checked out, Denver to Cabo San Lucas got here out to a minimal of $175.35 and Denver to Cancun appeared to backside out at $148.55. The most cost effective worldwide flight I used to be capable of finding (after cross-referencing SkyScanner) was from Miami to San Juan for $62.42.

Monique Henderson, 45, purchased a summer time move to benefit from her summers off as an educator. “I wasn’t positive if that is going to be a bait-and-switch factor the place they faux you into shopping for this move after which there’s so many limiting components [that] you’ll be able to’t actually use it,” she stated.

Nonetheless, to date, Henderson stated the move has been working flawlessly, and she or he’s flown to San Salvador, Guatemala Metropolis, Cancun, Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles. “I believe individuals who didn’t learn the bylaws of their entirety are undoubtedly going to be sticker-shocked at a few of the prices to fly worldwide,” she stated. Nonetheless, she believes that when she weighs how a lot she’s saving on these journeys, “it’s nonetheless value it.”

A word about add-ons: Although private luggage like a small backpack or purse (smaller than 18 by 14 by 8 inches) are free to deliver on board, including a carry-on bag (24 by 16 by 10) or a checked bag (62 whole inches and fewer than 40 kilos) would value me $55 per every one-way flight on the time of reserving. (Jennifer DeLaCruz, Frontier’s senior director of company communications, stated she couldn’t present a worth vary for luggage, since pricing is dynamic and might change from flight to flight.)

Screenshot of Frontier's website with "Bag Choices."

Charges for a carry-on or checked bag began at $55 every manner for my flight.

Seat choices on my flight value $16 to $34, although there may be an choice to skip seat choice solely. After the choice so as to add luggage and choose seats, there’s additionally an choice so as to add “airport agent help” for $20 per particular person, per path.

I made a decision to pack my issues into a private item-sized comfortable backpack in each instructions and solely chosen a seat on my return flight, which value an additional $33. I didn’t go for airport help. My grand whole was $62.82.

A screenshot of the checkout screen on the Frontier website.

My whole for a round-trip flight to Denver, which included a seat with further leg room on my return flight, was $62.82.

Then got here the precise flight

I arrived on the Ontario airport round 4:45 a.m. for a flight that began boarding at 5 a.m. After making it via the TSA Precheck safety line in a clean quarter-hour, I ran to my gate to verify my group wasn’t boarding but.

On the gate, a gradual stream of individuals was submitting onto the bridge. As I’d seen on social media, Frontier workers have been making each particular person confirm that their private luggage match inside a steel field the dimensions of the airline’s private merchandise restrict. Although I didn’t have bother, I watched a number of folks reconfigure their luggage by taking out items of clothes and placing on further layers.

A box to see if your carry-on bag meets the size requirements.

Workers on the Ontario airport had every passenger verify their private merchandise within the sizer earlier than boarding.

(Julia Carmel / Los Angeles Instances)

The aircraft was mainly what I anticipated, full of skinny, screenless seats that don’t recline. The seats have been additionally fairly slim, however I (fortunately) ended up in a window seat, which gave me a couple of extra inches of room once I flipped up the armrest.

On my manner again from Denver, on the gate subsequent to mine — a Frontier flight heading to Seattle — an argument broke out between the desk agent and a passenger when the agent didn’t permit the passenger to board together with his backpack.

“What sort of system is that this? My bag matches,” the passenger stated repeatedly as he pleaded his case to totally different Frontier workers. All of the whereas, he was pointing to a bag that clearly match inside the private merchandise holder.

“Why would I pay $100 for a bag that matches?” he stored asking.

However earlier than I might see whether or not they’d let him and his bag on the flight, my gate started boarding.

For this flight, I opted for one of many roomier seats, which value an additional $33. As somebody with lengthy legs, upgrading from the final row of the aircraft to the primary was value each penny.

Legs to show leg room on a flight.

My seat on my returning flight, which value $33, provided loads of further leg room.

(Julia Carmel / Los Angeles Instances)

We landed in Ontario half-hour early, and although it was a welcome shock, I questioned how typically Frontier’s flights run forward (or behind) schedule.

“I do must say each flight I’ve taken has taken off early, and I’ve by no means seen that earlier than, to the purpose the place they really go away passengers behind,” Yi stated. She added that she’s seen Frontier shut boarding gates 45 minutes early and she or he as soon as met a bunch of passengers who have been left in Dallas when their flight to Cancun closed its gate 75 minutes early.

“The lesson I at all times inform folks is get traveler’s insurance coverage and use a bank card that provides you journey safety when it’s not airline associated,” Yi stated.

After I requested about flights leaving early, Squyres stated, “That doesn’t make sense for us to even try this, so I’m skeptical on that one. However there could have been a communication situation.”

Vacationers’ woes

Like most airways, Frontier isn’t notably fashionable on-line: It’s been the topic of a viral “1… 2… 3… Frontier misplaced all our baggage” TikTok video, criticized for charging folks $99 for private gadgets that match inside the required measurements and known as out for giving incentives to brokers who cost passengers baggage charges on the gate.

“We needed to provide you with one thing that will truly make it possible for we have been imposing our insurance policies pretty,” Squyres stated of the bag incentives.

Even the airline’s personal self-deprecating content material is flooded with feedback about misplaced baggage and costly bag charges. (For what it’s value, Frontier’s share of mishandled baggage is decrease than many main U.S. airways.)

Final November, Frontier was additionally fined $2.2 million for not refunding $222 million to passengers who had flights canceled throughout the pandemic. Quickly after, Frontier eradicated its customer support telephone quantity.

“We nonetheless do have a contact middle with stay people who find themselves speaking with our prospects,” Squyres stated, referring to the corporate’s chatbot. “Most prospects, we discover, would favor to not even have to speak to anyone.”

There are additionally tales of canceled flights. Tanya Useful, 43, typically travels between Ohio and Iowa for work, which made the annual GoWild move particularly interesting. However when she booked her first flight with the move in April, to journey from Cedar Rapids to Cincinnati through a connection in Denver, she arrived at her gate and acquired an e mail saying her second leg, from Denver to Cincinnati, had been canceled with out clarification. “I needed to e book my very own resort room,” she stated. “There have been no different choices of reserving one other flight again house — or wherever, for that matter.” She ended up reserving a flight on Southwest the following morning.

When requested about whether or not Frontier provides reimbursement or help for move holders who encounter canceled or delayed flights, Squyres couldn’t provide a easy reply.

“Operationally, clearly, we’re at all times attempting to get prospects from Level A to Level B, that’s why you purchase a ticket with us. That’s your expectation,” she stated. “And issues do complicate that. Climate is is an enormous one and an unsightly one. And generally, you realize, issues occur. And flights get disrupted.” When points come up, Squyres stated Frontier works with all of its prospects, together with GoWild move holders, in the identical manner.

However for a lot of, the move is figuring out simply superb

With all of the ups and downs of the move taken into consideration, many fliers are fairly glad with their purchases.

Jacob Brown, who has flown Frontier greater than 100 occasions in the previous couple of years, has encountered many disgruntled customers as a moderator for a Fb group with almost 4,000 GoWild Go holders. However Brown believes that a lot of the frustrations come from consumer error.

“No one’s attempting to cover something from you,” stated Brown, 22, who created his personal GoWild information (solely unaffiliated with Frontier) to reply widespread questions concerning the move. “I believe that [Frontier is] being tremendous clear with the superior reserving window, and the FAQs on the web site have been up to date as issues have come up.”

“Lots of people bounce to conclusions,” he added. “The primary time they need to go someplace and so they look and a flight isn’t accessible, they suppose it was a waste of cash. The entire level of the move was to not get assured seats. It was for actually fast getaways and last-minute flights.”

To date, Brown has discovered his personal annual move to be value the price. “They’re already being gracious with issues like extending the reserving window, so we’re already getting much more than what we bargained for, in a constructive manner,” he stated.

Jasmine Martin, 27, can also be a fan. She has already booked two journeys to date with their summer time GoWild move, and has been capable of hyperlink their move with their daughter’s move, which ensures that the 2 of them will likely be seated subsequent to one another for free of charge. “I do know it’s bizarre, however I really like Frontier,” Martin stated. “The one time that I’ve had a problem was the time our flight was delayed seven hours.”

No matter Frontier’s repute, Martin is worked up to benefit from the move whereas her daughter is on summer time trip.

“The seats aren’t that snug,” they added, “however I imply, you’re getting there for $14, so who cares?”

Would I purchase the move once more?

There have been occasions in my life when this move would’ve been excellent. After I was in a long-distance relationship, touring for months at a time between New York and Los Angeles, I’d have jumped on the likelihood to e book $15 tickets the day earlier than flying. (Reserving routine journeys to go to somebody who’s near you and is versatile with while you’ll go away looks like a surefire method to make the move worthwhile.) And I actually admire the giddiness of frequent fliers who use the move to plot cross-country day journeys to strive particular sandwiches and verify off different bucket-list gadgets.

However proper now, all issues thought-about, I don’t suppose I’ll get my cash’s-worth out of this move. If there have been flights out of LAX, and even simply extra direct routes accessible from native airports, my ideas could be totally different, however I can’t see myself driving to Ontario or Santa Ana typically for impulsive journeys with lengthy connecting stops.

Nonetheless, I’m hoping to make use of the move a couple of extra occasions this summer time. Maybe I’ll get the momentum to hop on a flight to Philadelphia or Miami to go to outdated pals throughout my subsequent gradual weekend. It gained’t be the essentially the most handy journey, however as we as vacationers continue learning, each low cost flight comes with a worth.

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