August 12, 2022

Yesterday I flew Frontier Airlines for the first time, which is one of the biggest ultra low cost carriers (ULCCs) in the United States. I have nothing against ULCCs, because if they can get you nonstop to your destination at a reasonable price, then you can’t really beat that. Besides, it’s not like flying with American Airlines is a luxury experience.

However, based on my Frontier Airlines experience, I’d avoid the airline going forward. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the airline as such, or just the route I was flying, or if I was just really unlucky. Regardless, the experience made me yearn for American Airlines, which doesn’t happen often.

Why we booked Frontier Airlines

I needed to fly from Islip to Tampa, and the only airline with a nonstop flight yesterday was Frontier Airlines. With the general travel chaos nowadays, flying nonstop and avoiding a major airport (like JFK) just seemed easier, so this was my opportunity to give Frontier Airlines a try.

I booked this ticket last minute, and even though Frontier is an ultra low cost carrier, that doesn’t mean fares are always cheap. The fare was $140 one-way, and that included virtually nothing. I had a full size carry-on and a checked bag, so the best value ended up being adding “The Works Bundle,” where for an extra $151 I received a carry-on, a checked bag, priority boarding, complimentary extra legroom seating, etc. The airline claims this is actually a $425 value… hah.

Frontier Airlines’ “The Works Bundle”

So I’d hardly consider a nearly $300 one-way ticket to be “low cost,” but it was convenient, and there were no better alternatives.

What I didn’t mind about Frontier Airlines

There were a few good things about the Frontier experience, and a few things I didn’t mind.

Some good things included:

  • Even though the flight was in the evening, it operated on-time, and checked bags arrived less than 20 minutes after landing, which was impressive
  • The legroom in the “Stretch” section of the cabin is phenomenal, better than Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines; the legroom in the other seats, however…
  • The crew was generally well intentioned and tried to be professional
Frontier Airlines’ “Stretch” extra legroom seating

Then there are the things that I knew going in, which aren’t great, but didn’t bother me. For example:

  • Frontier has no power ports, no entertainment of any sort, no Wi-Fi, etc.; it seems kind of weird that none of this is on the carrier’s radar even in 2022, but whatever
  • Standard Frontier seats don’t recline, and are hard as rocks

Like I said, I expected all of this going in, so I’m not going to hold it against the airline.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320neo

What made Frontier Airlines bad

So, what was my beef with the Frontier Airlines experience? The people, and that the whole experience feels kind of patronizing and unprofessional. Let me try to (delicately) discuss both of those topics.

My fellow Frontier passengers

Look, I have pretty low expectations of the traveling public, and I’ve seen some things in my years of flying. However, nothing could quite prepare me for this Frontier Airlines flight. Now, I’m not sure if it’s the airline, the route, or a combination of both, but I’ve never been stuck in a plane with a crowd quite like this.

Where do we even begin? For one, I’ve never seen a bathroom as disgusting as this one on a domestic flight. People simply didn’t flush. There was pee all over the floor. Some people didn’t even bother trying to close the door while using the bathroom. Worst of all? A good number of people went into the bathroom barefoot.

Frontier Airlines A320neo toilet

Then there was the guy who repeatedly tried to go into the bathroom (barefoot) with a big bag of stuff. The crew told him over and over he couldn’t take that in there, but he kept trying. He’d line up for the bathroom every time right where my seat was.

What is going on here?

Speaking of the bathroom and being barefoot, I saw a person seated near us go to the bathroom barefoot, and then try to rest their feet on the back of the armrest in front.

The guy seated immediately in front of me was watching something on his iPhone for nearly the whole flight with headphones on. Perfect, right? Well, for an hour straight, he would laugh out loud probably every 10 seconds. I’m not talking just a quiet chuckle, but rather more of a screaming laugh. Over and over and over and over. Even with earbuds in I could hear him.

The whole boarding process was just downright bizarre as well. People would push and shove forward as if the plane was about to leave without them. Never mind some of the commentary I overheard from proud Frontier Airlines passengers, like someone telling their travel companion “I’d never fly with that trash on Southwest Airlines, they don’t even assign seats.” Right, let’s go with that…

What’s kind of terrifying is that the A320neo we flew was just a few years old, but it felt a couple of decades old based on how beat up the interior was.

The Frontier experience is patronizing & unprofessional

I can appreciate that ultra low cost carriers make their money on fees, and it can be a challenge communicating that to customers so they know what to expect. However, I found Frontier’s communication around this to be rather patronizing.

Take the below sign as an example, pointing out how everyone can help prevent flight delays by paying for your carry-on early. By using an eagle, the airline almost tries to make it seem like a patriotic duty. Which, come and think of it, that might not be a bad strategy given the customer base.

This eagle wants you to pay for your bag in advance

I also find it kind of obnoxious how Frontier makes everything about the environment. The airline attributes everything that sucks about the passenger experience to being about the environment. 28″ of pitch? Welcome aboard American’s greenest airline!

The checked bag limit recently being lowered from 50 pounds to 40 pounds (and being able to pay nearly double as much to increase the weight limit to the previous 50 pounds)? That’s also about keeping carbon emissions low! During the booking process and at the airport, there are signs everywhere reminding you of how green Frontier is.

Frontier Airlines makes everything about the environment

Let’s be honest, the green that Frontier really cares about is its own bottom line (which is fair enough, but let’s call it what it is).

I was also really confused about Frontier’s staffing situation. None of the ground agents had uniforms on. I’m not just saying they didn’t have Frontier uniforms, they didn’t have any uniforms at all. Was that a fluke? Is this a cost saving measure?

Just about all the staff were friendly but also seemed to lack basic customer service training. For example, the gate agent was constantly blowing his nose and sneezing into his hand, and then he’d continue to handle boarding passes and interact with customers without sanitizing, or anything. During deplaning, the flight attendant stood with his back toward passengers and was texting on his phone.

The whole thing was just… weird.

Bottom line

I flew Frontier Airlines for the first time, and it was pretty bad. Most of the experience was what I was expecting, but what I couldn’t fully anticipate was the lack of basic decorum from the crowd onboard. I’m not sure if I just got really unlucky on this flight, or if this is pretty common on Frontier. I’ve flown plenty of ultra low cost carriers, but this situation was especially bad.

While the flight time was only 2hr40min, it felt like an eternity…

If you’ve flown Frontier before, what was your experience like? Did I just get unlucky?

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