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My Review: Frontier Airlines Seattle to Denver (and back)

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 (N204FR) at snowy Denver with "Freedom" the Bald Eagle on the tail.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 (N204FR) at snowy Denver with "Freedom" the Bald Eagle on the tail.

I was hoping to do a review of Frontier on an Airbus A320 from Seattle (SEA) to Denver (DIA) and then on a Bombardier Q400 from DIA to Aspen (ASE). However, life doesn’t always work out how we plan it. I was heading to Aspen to fly on a Beechcraft Starship, but snow had other plans and while in Denver, my flight to Aspen was canceled. Instead of taking a low-level flight on a Q400 to beautiful Aspen, I got to hop on another Airbus A320 back to Seattle (Note: I paid out of pocket for my flight on Frontier).

Not being able to fly the Q400 into Aspen and not fly on the Starship was bad, but for reviewing the Frontier Airlines experience, this actually worked out better. For my flight to DIA, I had to get up at 3:45am to catch my 6:15am flight out of Seattle. Before we left the gate I was asleep and woke up during the final 10 minutes. The flight back to Seattle provided me a better opportunity to review the flight and service.

When booking my flights 99% of the time I end up purchasing the tickets on the airline’s website, since it is normally the cheapest. In this case, it turned out to be about $20 cheaper to get my ticket through Orbitz — whatever, it works for me. When buying a ticket you have three choices: Economy, Classic and Classic Plus. The more you pay, the more features you get like free checked bags, free TV, and the ability to sit in seats with more legroom (check out the differences). Check-in and printing off the boarding pass were pretty standard and I was lucky enough to get a window seat, 27A, on the flight to DIA.

Every seat back has a little TV to watch movies and television, for a fee.

Every seat back has a little TV to watch movies and television, for a fee.

One of the fun parts of flying on Frontier is wondering what animal will be on the tail. Every airplane in Frontier’s fleet (well, those with a Frontier livery) have a unique animal. If you don’t catch the animal on the tail or can’t view the animal on the inside of the winglets, there is a nice big image of the animal when you walk into the door and the flight attendants make sure to announce which plane you are on. I got Mustang Sally on the flight down and Freedom the Bald Eagle on the flight back. I think it is pretty neat for each aircraft to have a different overall livery and I would have to imagine it is even cooler for kids.

The airline was extremely helpful and quick with helping me with my canceled Aspen flight. I wasn’t sitting at the gate for my flight, but kept updating my phone with the flight status. The second I saw it said “canceled” I headed to one of the many customer service desks located around the airport. I imagine this was much better than going to the gate, since no other flights were  canceled at the time and there was no line at the customer service desk. The woman confirmed there were no other flights to Aspen from any airline going out that day and started looking for the next day. I asked if I might be able to just fly back to Seattle and she got me on the next flight — which was scheduled to leave in 45minutes for no charge.

Even at 6'1" I had PLENTY of room in Frontier's STRETCH seats which give an extra 5" of room in the first four rows.

Even at 6'1" I had PLENTY of room in Frontier's STRETCH seats which give an extra 5" of room in the first four rows.

With boarding they have an “express boarding” phase. These are for people that have carry-ons that will only be put under the seat in front of them versus taking up overhead space. The concept of this is simple and genius. However, I saw quite a few people lined up that had bags I questioned if they would put under their seat and when checking it out when I boarded, they did not. The idea is great, but I am not sure how well it can be regulated.

Frontier has all economy seats that are leather with fancy headrests and a small TV screen in the seat back. The first four rows give you five more inches of legroom, but the rest of the seats have a decent 31″ seat pitch. Although I was in the back of the (air) bus on the flight down to Denver, I ended up in 3A on the flight back which was a STRECH seat. Although a little extra legroom is nice, even at 6’1″ I don’t think I would be willing to pay anymore for the extra room. I felt super lucky since I could have been trapped in Denver for quite some time, but not only did I get the next flight home and a window seat, but also one with bonus legroom.

Having LiveTV is pretty sweet, but it will set you back money. To watch the TV it will cost you $6 or $8 for a movie. Part of me whats to be like “what the heck?” knowing I can watch TV for free on other airlines like jetBlue and Virgin America and why should I have to pay on Frontier? However, it does cost them more money and on a three hour flight, $6 for entertainment would be greatly worth it. If you are flying Frontier internationally, the TV is free, but movies still cost money.

Before we left the gate at DIA the whole window ended up being blocked with snow. Kind of cool and kind of lame.

Before we left the gate at DIA the whole window ended up being blocked with snow. Kind of cool and kind of lame.

On the plus side, you are able to get ear buds for free. It worked out for our flight, since TV ended up being free since the football playoffs were on (although I think it might have had more to do with being over an hour late due to weather).

When watching the TV, I found the controls on the arm rest quite annoying. On more than one occasion I ended up changing the channel with my elbow and I could imagine if you are in the middle seat, it being worse.  I kind of wished they had the controls on the seat back, but of course that could make people pushing on your seat back a bit too hard. Not a deal breaker by any means.

On the flight south I was sad since I thought I missed my warm cookie because I was sleeping. However, it turned out they don’t give out the cookies for flights that leave before 10am. Oh yes, I did get my cookie on the way back home and it was delicious.

The only real bad part of the flight was leaving about 1.5hrs late, but I can’t hold that against the airline. It was snowing quite a bit at DIA and it took us awhile to get de-icded. I have to say I was quite impressed with how quickly DIA got planes moving. Of course there were passengers who weren’t so understanding and started to get pissy, but I would much rather wait for de-icing than not and deal with the consequences. It also provided a fun experiment in social media. I had been Tweeting about being in Denver and turned out one of my Twitter followers (@CruiseNerd), was in the plane next to me and sent a photo.

They were both a nice and comfortable flights, but since Frontier doesn’t fly to many locations out of Seattle (Denver, Kansas City and Milwaukee) I don’t get to fly them very often. I end up flying through Denver quite a bit, but Frontier doesn’t end up being the cheapest at the time. I hope I get more opportunities to fly on Frontier in the future.

What? You want to see 17 photos of the fun weather at DIA and the flight? Sure!

10 comments to My Review: Frontier Airlines Seattle to Denver (and back)

  • Erica

    My last Frontier flight, they hadn’t officially switched over to the Midwest cookies yet. I look forward to that at some point! I had heard they were really excellent! (We all thought we’d get the cookies on one flight, it was a Midwest liveried plane, and I watched the flight attendant WALK AWAY with the cookies…we all were sort of bummed).
    “in the old days” Frontier was a single-class aircraft, all the seats were the same pitch. That was one thing I really liked about it. You sort of felt like you were just like everyone else on the plane, oh, and they let you watch the flight map on the TV for free. That is one thing I miss like crazy. I can’t even tell you how much I liked that option. I don’t really plan to purchase in-flight TV service on any flight I’m on. I prefer to read or listen to my own entertainment.
    I’d guess I’ve flown on them at least a dozen times, most before the Republic buyout. They had always been very reasonably priced. My parents live near Omaha, NE, so it was one of only a couple of choices to fly there. Now with SW flying through Denver to OMA, there is a little more competition (at least in my book).

    This makes me want to book a trip back to see my folks!

    Glad you enjoyed your flight.

  • [...] trip report document.write(''); Trip report from AirlineReporter: http://www.airlinereporter.com/2011/…nver-and-back/ Includes some nice [...]

  • Thanks for the report.. ill be flying frontier next week =)

  • dachsma

    We originally booked a flight from Boston to Milwaukee for the July 4, 2011 weekend. Something came up and we changed our flight to this past weekend. At the same time instead of planning to hold our 8-month-old daughter in our lap we purchased a seat for her. Because we were adding her to our existing itinerary I called reservations as opposed to booking it online.

    About two weeks later I went online to ensure that our seats were together. To my amazement instead of having her seated with us they had her on different flights depart BOS returning from MKE on the same day.

    To further add to our frustration when we finally booked her on our flights and seated with us we learned that the new flight was $30 cheaper than the erroneous itinerary. When I asked about the possibility of a refund of the $30 I was told Frontier does not make refunds regardless of whether it was Frontier’s fault or not. In an effort to appease us they upgraded the ticket to a classic giving us two free checked bags so the money evened out. We were happy enough…and the trip to MKE was smooth.

    On our return flight to BOS we again encountered incompetence. We entered the aircraft during pre-board for families. My wife was carrying our 8-month-old baby daughter in one arm and the diaper bag and baby food bag in the other arm. I was carrying our daughter’s car seat, the Chicco Keyfit 30, and pulling behind me two carry-on roller boards one with a computer bag strapped to the handle. As we struggled down the isle, bags catching on seemingly every seat I passed we passed flight attendant Bryson who was standing in about the third row. He offered no welcome, no assistance in giving us a hand or getting us seated but simply questioned “Is that car seat FAA approved?”

    As a successful software consultant for the past 12 years I have had the good fortune to travel by air extensively throughout the US, Western Europe, South America, and South-East Asia. I understand completely the role of flight attendants and the difficulties they endure dealing with the public. I also understand airline’s expectations of their flight crew’s interactions with passengers. Lastly, I clearly understand not only my rights but my responsibility as a passenger. Without exception I follow all placards, postings and crew member instructions.

    However, I was offended by Bryson’s rudeness and did not answer him. I assumed we would sort it out once we were seated and our arms not filled with baggage.

    From http://www.frontierairlines.com/frontier/faqs/baggage-faqs.do :

    Can I take my child’s stroller or car seat with me on the plane?

    You can bring car seats that are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and show a red label stating: “This restraint device is approved for motor vehicle and aircraft use.” The approved seat should be no wider than 16 inches to fit in most coach seats.

    If you need them, strollers may be used to transport your child to the gate, but then must be checked at the gate as baggage. The stroller will be returned to the gate at your final destination.

    As we were settling into our seats Bryson came over and rather than simply asking to verify the car seat label he had decided to antagonize and harass us by declaring “You need to hold your baby in your lap during take off and landing. You can use the seat once we are in flight.” When I asked based on what he replied “you didn’t get that seat FAA approved.” Amazing!

    I replied that the seat was clearly FFA approved indicated by the label on the side of the seat. He then stared at the label blankly while standing in the isle. He obviously did not know what to look for as it would be impossible to read from the isle as the car seat as in the window seat. After about ten seconds he again went to the rear of the plane and again we thought is was resolved.

    After a few more minutes he returned and stated that the seat was not FAA approved without the seat base. The seat without the base is designed as a standalone car/aircraft seat. Again the car seat alone is labeled as approved. Nowhere does it say…”but only with the base”. However, at this point it didn’t matter what the policy was as he was on a witch hunt.

    I told him we would be using the car seat as it was FAA approved and I would not compromise the safety of my 8 month old daughter to which he replied “not if you are removed from this flight.” I had had enough and asked to speak with a pilot. He gladly went up and talked to the pilot who was obviously in the middle of his pre-flight checklist. He instructed Bryson to take it up with the customer service manager. I thought finally this would resolve it.

    However, when the customer service manager, Bryson and now Dennis, who was working the front of the plane and seemed to be the senior flight attendant, arrived to our seats they all said we couldn’t use the seat without the base. It was amazing how nobody knew the frontier policy. If any one of them knew what they were looking for we could have avoided this whole event.

    I then told them I just wanted to get back my family safely back to Boston and we would never set foot on another Frontier aircraft. They asked why and I told them the problems we had with booking our daughter’s seat. At this point the customer service manager and Dennis said we’d been through enough and that they would “allow us” to use the seat on this flight but on future flights we’d need the base. I thanked Dennis for being a voice of reason and shook his hand. In the middle of this Bryson reappeared with a manual and started talking about fasten points and seat angles and such but Dennis told him to leave it alone.

    Once in Flight Dennis really made an effort to see that we were comfortable. He gave us a free TV session, joked and offered us extra cookies and was a real pleasure to fly with. He made us smile after such a stressful ordeal. All flight attendants can take a lesson from him. There is a correct and effective way to get things done. He excels at it.

    We caught up in baggage claim and I again thanked him for his support. He asked that we consider flying Frontier again. I told him that we really felt harassed and antagonized by Bryson. It was bad enough that he didn’t understand the policy but that he immediately threatened us with removal from the flight when we disagreed with his decision to disallow the use of the seat.

    I submitted this to Frontier Customer service but after this experience I don’t expect Frontier will do anything about it. In fact if this letter is opened by the likes of the reservation agent who booked our baby on a different flight or someone like flight attendant Bryson it will probably just get lost or deleted. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Let’s hope that all of their flight attendants will be made aware of Frontier’s own car seat policy and that Bryson will get additional retraining on both car seat policy and customer service.

    In the end, I really don’t care because we will never fly Frontier again.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. Both some very bad things and looks like Dennis came through. When did you send the letter? I know most airlines really do read every letter sent to them. Especially when it deals with flight attendants who do the wrong thing and one that does the right thing.

      David

  • Michael

    In over 50 years and more than a million miles of flying I have never had as negative an experience as I had with Frontier.

    It was the day before Thanksgiving. I had my computer in a little carry-on bag, plus a violin. We began to board but then, for no apparent reason, were held up up for some minutes on the jet bridge. I took out my computer and did some work. As I got on the plane, the attendant said that as my computer was out I now had three items and I had to put one in baggage. I politely pointed out that the computer fit in the carry-on and that as I was going to take it out again in a minute, why make me put it away just to board? She insisted and I complied. There it should have ended. But as I was walking down the aisle I muttered – softly – to my fiancé, “What a bunch of b.s.,” using the word I am initializing. It was at this point that ANOTHER flight attendant overheard me and had me ejected from the flight!

    This cost me a great deal of money and most of a day trying to get to my destination. Although I had never before been thrown off a plane, I was still willing to write it off as a grumpy flight attendant. It is what happened next that is truly upsetting.

    I wrote a carefully considered letter to the President of Frontier, David Siegel, explaining what had happened. I expected an apology and a refund. Instead I got what was, essentially, an f.u. letter and was offered a coupon for 1/4 of what it cost me to book a new flight. He cc-ed his arrogant reply to the head of his customer relations who promised to “investigate”. Months – and many fruitless hours and exchanges – later – I was offered another coupon for somewhat less than what I originally paid.

    There is a serious disconnect between this company and its passengers. I will never fly this airline again unless there are truly no alternatives.

  • Serkan

    #dontflyfrontier Frontier, the worst airline ever! In Seattle, Frontier measured and accepted our suitcase as a carry on. When we were boarding our connecting Frontier flight in Denver, they tried to force us to check it in and pay fees although the boarding pass already had the “carry on” approval code on it. They did the same trick to many passengers, threatening about missing the flight. Bad business…

    By the way, ours is a standard carry on size luggage that easily fits in the overhead compartment vertically, wheels first, no wrestling whatsoever. That’s exactly how it made it to Denver from Seattle, in our previous Frontier flight. Also, not a single airline refused it as a carry on until today.

    Don’t flyfrontier.com

    • My guess is you probably transitioned from a larger A320 family aircraft to one of the small E-Jets, which do not have the same overhead bins. However, that doesn’t excuse the airline from communicating that properly during the ticket purchasing process or at the airport.

      David

  • Serkan

    No, we did not switch to a smaller aircraft. The carry-on was cleared by a Frontier employee in Seattle. The clearance as a carry-on was printed in a company document: the boarding pass. Blaming their colleague and (even if he made a mistake and he did not) trying to make me pay for “the mistake” is bad business practice. #dontflyfrontier

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