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Frontier Passengers Rent A Van to Get Home & Why I Often Fly Low Cost Carriers Anyway!

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Flying Low Cost Carriers

Anyone who listens to the Miles to Memories podcast knows that I fly Frontier quite often. You should see the looks I get when explaining this to people both inside of the hobby and outside. It’s as if people have the idea that flying a low cost carrier is comparable to flying on a rickety old airplane with rude flight attendants and passengers who aren’t allowed to fly “proper carriers”.

Why I’ve Flown So Many Low Cost Carriers

The reality is something different entirely. This year I have flown on more low cost carriers than I can count. From Frontier and Allegiant in the United States to Ryanair and Norwegian in Europe, all of my flights have gone well. I did suffer one cancellation from Frontier, however that was due to an ice storm that also canceled flights with other airlines.

The reason I fly Frontier often is because of their status match that has been available these past couple of Decembers. Having top-tier Frontier status is like a superpower. The airline makes its money by selling everything as an upcharge, however as an elite I get everything for free! The status even gives their “Discount Den” membership meaning I’m paying less for my ticket than everyone else with no fees either. Combine that with all of Frontier’s direct flights out of my home airport LAS and you have a winning combination.

Why I Fly Frontier So Much – An Example

Here is an example of what I am talking about. Look at this flight from Las Vegas to Orlando:

a screen shot of a white screen

As an elite Discount Den member I will pay a $43 base fare to fly across the country while a normal person will pay $79. They’ll be hit with a fee to carry-on or check bags and if they don’t pay for an extra legroom seat then they’ll be stuck with 29″ pitch and a very uncomfortable flight. On the other hand my total cost will be $43 each for me and my family and we’ll have extra legroom seats, free bags and even refundability. Basically Frontier’s “The Works” package is included for free. This is an incredible value and why I love this hobby, but there are risks.

Is The Frontier Status Match Returning

Before I go into the downsides of low cost carriers, let me update you on the status match deal for 2022. Unfortunately it seems like this gravy train of cheap flights and free benefits is coming to an end. This year Frontier hasn’t indicated they are doing the match and I am losing hope it will happen. They recently began selling their flight pass, so my guess is they don’t want people matching and then using the pass to get all of the above benefits on unlimited flights. Sigh.

a group of airplanes on a runway

The Downside of Low Cost Carriers

Most people who read this site are savvy consumers in one way or another. This is why it is so shocking for people to downplay the deal I mentioned above, where I have saved thousands of dollars in the past couple of years without any real world downsides. But there can be downsides of low cost carriers, however I don’t think they are much worse than legacy carriers like American, United and Delta. At least most of the time.

Renting A Van – A Frontier Horror Story

Throughout my journey with Frontier status and flying budget carriers all around the world these past 15 years, I have saved a lot of money, but have been aware of potential pitfalls. For example low cost carriers don’t have interline agreements with other carriers. What this means is that if there is a problem you can get stuck since they won’t pay to put you on another airline. Legacy carriers will often do this for their customers, but also strand passengers all of the time.

Which brings me to an interesting story I came across. Recently a group of 17 passengers were stranded in Orlando when their Frontier flight to Knoxville was cancelled for mechanical reasons. Frontier didn’t have another flight for 2 days, so the passengers rented a van and drove 10 hours to get to their destination. Admittedly it feels like a scene out of Home Alone, but these passengers made it work. And to criticize Frontier for a second, all they were offered was a $50 voucher. Ouch! Does this sound like a nightmare? Yes, it does! But my two worst airplane experiences this year were with JetBlue and American plus Delta had days where they stranded ungodly amounts of people. It’s all relative.

a yellow airplane on the tarmac

Should You Fly Low Cost Carriers

So the big question is should you fly low cost carriers. In a year when all of the legacy carriers including the top dog Delta stranded tons of passengers and had many issues, I don’t think we can blame low cost carriers for doing the same. The one thing we can focus on is their policies and understanding what happens when something goes wrong. The educated consumer is the one that wins in scenarios like this.

No matter the airline I fly, I learn the rules. What fees do they have and what should I expect when flying them. I’ll never complain about an airline’s fees, because I study and know them before booking the ticket. I also compare my final price to what my price would be on other airlines with my seat/baggage needs met. Being informed has never left me feeling cheated by a budget carrier. And if after dozens and dozens of low cost carrier flights these past 15 years I get stranded once then I think I still come out ahead. It’s not like this scenario isn’t possible with another airline, although in this case I’d guess that legacy carriers would have been able to get these passengers home much sooner through their extensive route networks.

Flying Low Cost Carriers – Bottom Line

As I sit here towards the end of the year it seems like my Frontier status gravy train might be ending and that will change the calculations for how I approach the airline going forward. That said, there are pitfalls of flying low cost carriers, however flying them often allows me to get to my destination directly and at a lower cost compared to their competitors. This will vary depending on where you live, etc. but don’t let headlines like the Frontier one scare you away. Educate yourself, know what to expect and you might just get a lovely flight experience that is comparable to what you can get elsewhere. But don’t listen to me. I’m just the guy who actually put his butt in the seat to fly these carriers.

Are you someone who avoids low cost carriers at all costs? Have you flown Frontier, Spirit or Allegiant these past few years and been surprised? Let me know in the comments!

Disclosure: Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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Shawn Coomer
Shawn Coomer
Shawn Coomer earns and burns millions of miles/points per year circling the globe with his family. An expert at accumulating travel rewards, he founded Miles to Memories to help others achieve their travel goals for pennies on the dollar. Shawn also runs a million dollar reselling business, knows Vegas better than most and loves to spend his time at the 12 Disney parks across the world.

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  1. Your article makes perfect sense to me. Rather than overpay for domestic travel I’d rather use that money on experiences once I arrive at the destination. When telling someone I went to San Diego last week she didn’t ask ” oh who did you fly with? ” She asked ” what did you do there? ” Her travel priorities are also my own.

    Btw do you book refundable points “back up flights” for later that day or just rely on a ( usually expensive ) last minute points booking to get you out of a frontier cancellation jam?

    • Seems like a strange position, but you do you. I’d rather have a faster and easier itinerary than connecting to fly a legacy carrier. Why is it you are so against them?

  2. When our Southwest flight cancelled this summer my wife was on the phone (app) and rebooked us same day with Delta in minutes! One of those nice perks of the hobby, having miles with many airlines for those situations! Enjoying more articles from Shawn! Keep it up!

    • Thanks JL! I absolutely agree. Having the tools of this hobby makes it even more “safe” to fly these airlines. Although admittedly I’ve never had to use them with Frontier or Spirit but have had to with JetBlue and American.

  3. Agree completely. I’m lifetime DL and AA elite plus US Silver through my Marriott Titanium status (so don’t have to chase status). Therefore, I fly whomever is best for me. I’ve flown Frontier a lot (have credit card, status match and Discount Den) and am also considering Spirit since they are adding a number of flights from CLT. All about expectations, knowing the rules and managing them to your benefit.


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