Frontier Airlines recently announced changes to the EarlyReturns program because of the airline’s new owner, Republic Airways, which now also owns Midwest Airlines. EarlyReturns Elite Ascent and Summit members will now receive elite benefits when flying on Midwest Airlines flights. Frontier elite-level members who present their EarlyReturns membership card at check-in will receive two complimentary checked bags and priority check-in and boarding on Midwest flights.
Award ticket change and redeposit fees have been reduced from $75 to $50 for all standard redemption bookings. Passengers flying on standard award tickets will now be charged $20 for the first checked bag and $30 for a second checked bag. Passengers flying on CHOICE award tickets are still allowed two checked bags at no charge, as are Ascent members, Summit members and their traveling companions booked in the same award reservation.
Frontier Airlines is also adding STRETCH seating to the first four rows of seats on select E190 aircraft. The new seats will provide an extra five inches of legroom, giving passengers 36 inches of seat pitch. STRETCH seating will be introduced to Frontier’s Airbus A320, A319 and A318 planes by Feb. 1, 2010. Summit elite members and their travel companions booked in the same reservation will receive space available complimentary upgrades to STRETCH seats 24 hours prior to departure when checking in online or at the airport kiosk or ticket counter. Ascent and non-elite passengers will automatically receive STRETCH seating when purchasing a Classic Plus ticket or they can purchase an upgrade when checking in online or at the airport. On Classic tickets, an upgrade to STRETCH will cost $15 per segment and economy tickets will require $25 per segment.
Bottom line: One of the weaknesses of Frontier’s elite program has been the absence of premium seating and flight upgrades. With the new STRETCH seating configuration, Summit elite members may find themselves with a few inches of extra legroom. Ascent members, however, will need to pay to stretch out in the roomy seats. The $25 reduction in the change and redeposit fee for award tickets is a customer-friendly move but EarlyReturns members traveling on standard award tickets will no longer receive two complimentary checked bags.