Well, after my previous rant on how awful Frontier’s rewards program is, the trip I booked with our EarlyReturns miles finally arrived. Back in 2015 I had signed up for the Frontier Airlines MasterCard, and I figured that I would put the miles from the sign-up bonus to use for a spring trip to visit family in the Western U.S. While the card did end up saving us money on the trip, it was not nearly what I had hoped for. After all of Frontier’s added fees, we shelled out about $200 for myself, my wife, and a checked bag from SAN->DEN and then DEN->SFO. This includes the $69 credit card annual fee. I shouldn’t complain, but $200 is pretty far from the $22.40 in fees we would have paid using Southwest miles. Fewer Southwest miles would have been required as well, probably in the neighborhood of 11,000 per person for both legs, rather than 10,000 Frontier EarlyReturns miles per leg. But…..we needed to burn the Frontier miles. Now look away as I light their credit card on fire…
After my booking and website experience with Frontier, I did not expect much from our first flight. They are a pretty typical a low-cost carrier. Frontier charges you for everything. Seat reservation? That’ll cost you. Checked bag? Shell out at least $25. Carry-on bag? That’ll be even more. In-flight snacks and beverages are not complimentary, either. A can of soda will run you $1.99, and prices go up from there.
We arrived at Lindbergh Field early because I wanted to get through security and settle in to get some work done. We immediately ran into an issue: the Frontier check-in counter wasn’t open. Frontier only runs a few flights per day out of San Diego, and I didn’t consider that the counter would shut down between them. This wouldn’t have been an issue if we had not needed to check a bag, but we had opted to go with one checked bag rather than two carry-on bags due to Frontier’s fees. I thought we would spend an uncomfortable 90 minutes near the check in counter, but we ended up finding a table with an outlet in the nearby food court. Score.
Two hours later we headed back to the desk and checked in. Security was (amazingly) a breeze; we must have hit a lull between sets of flights. We then found some decent seats with power outlets near Frontier’s single gate at San Diego International (SAN). On a side note, SAN is quite lacking when it comes to post-security services, at least in Terminal 1. Each of the security checkpoints lead to individual gate areas that are downright tiny. Ours wasn’t especially busy that day, but the Southwest gate areas have been insane in the past. San Diego really needs a new airport.
Our aircraft showed up over an hour late due to winter weather in Colorado, a state that apparently doesn’t understand the concept of spring. I mean, my goodness, it’s almost May! What’s up with the snow? The flight delay didn’t bug us much, but I was getting more concerned about driving from Denver to Colorado Springs that evening.
Boarding went easily and quickly. The aircraft was pretty close to what I figured it would be. Cheap economy seats, all of two rows with extra legroom, and the tiniest tray tables I have ever seen. The in-flight menu had an array of snacks and beverages, all for purchase. Everything was expensive. I expected prices to be sky-high, but they were actually not quite at the level I anticipated. During the flight I ended up buying a ginger ale for $1.99.
The flight went well. We saw Tijuana from the air, and some of the desert Southwest, but then everything disappeared underneath a solid layer of white. I got another hour and a half of work done while in the air, until my laptop battery finally died. No at-seat power on this cheap carrier. Nor wifi, but that is less of a concern for me.
After a final hour of straining to see anything from the window, we touched down softly at a snowy Denver International Airport. My anxiety about driving to Colorado Springs that evening was mostly relieved when we were given a small SUV with all-wheel-drive instead of the standard sedan that I had reserved.
If I am traveling light and looking to pay cash for a cheap fare, I will likely consider Frontier in the future. They do have some insane fare sales. And I mean insane. Some routes can go as low as $19 each way (if you join their Discount Den club for an annual fee), and they often get lower than $49 each way on a decent number of routes. It seems like they have a decent sale at least twice a month. Visiting family and friends in Colorado may happen a little more often.