Mile High Airline • It will be interesting to see what Denver-based Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns will look like a few years from now. The low-cost airline is looking increasingly like an ultra-low-cost airline with fees for drinks for passengers on Basic and Economy fares. If you book a Basic fare through a third party, you will also see fees for carry-on bags and only 25 percent of miles flown awarded. The airline was recently purchased by the investment firm of Bill Franke, who helped transform Spirit Airlines into an ultra-low-cost carrier, and it is expected that Frontier Airlines will adopt a similar no-frills approach. Frontier Airlines currently serves over 75 destinations in the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, primarily from its Denver hub but increasingly from focus cities in Trenton and Wilmington.
Members earn miles based on the fare class flown. Members flying on Economy fare tickets earn one mile per mile flown, and Classic and Classic Plus tickets earn a 50 percent bonus on the actual miles flown. Frontier Airlines has an additional fare class, Basic, that may only be booked via a third party. If you book a Basic fare through a travel agency, you will only earn 25 percent of miles flown. Elite members earn 100 percent of miles flown on Basic fares. Frontier Airlines is one of the few airlines that still offer a mileage minimum of 500 miles per flight to all members (mileage minimum for Basic fare is 125 miles). Members can also earn miles for co-branded credit card purchases, hotel stays, car rentals, shopping, flowers, cruises and more.
Domestic roundtrip flights within the U.S. and Alaska start at 20,000 miles (subject to fees/taxes from $5), which is 5,000 fewer miles than the industry standard 25,000-mile award for mileage-based programs. Roundtrip flights to Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic or Jamaica start at 30,000 miles (subject to fees/taxes from $46). One-way awards on all routes are available at half the roundtrip redemption amount (subject to fees/taxes from $2.50). Frontier’s CHOICE awards offer additional availability of award seats at 40,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket within the contiguous U.S. and Alaska (subject to fees/taxes from $5) and 50,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket to Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic or Jamaica (subject to fees/taxes from $46). One-way tickets are available at half the cost of a roundtrip for CHOICE awards. Members redeeming miles for CHOICE awards receive the same benefits as the Classic fare option on the day of travel including one free checked bag. Last Seat Availability awards are only offered to elite members and receive the same benefits as the Classic Plus fare option on the day of travel, including one free checked bag and free alternative same day flight changes. A one-day car rental award with Avis is 7,500 miles, while award rentals with Hertz start at 18,000 miles for three free weekend days. A two-day rental with National requires 12,000 miles.
A one-night stay at any participating Radisson hotel in the U.S., Mexico or Canada is 25,000 miles and a free night at any Radisson worldwide is 40,000 miles. Amtrak tickets are available starting at 7,500 miles for a roundtrip rail ticket on select trains. Tickets to the Denver Zoo are offered starting at 1,000 miles for a one-day general admission ticket. Magazine subscriptions are offered starting at around 500 miles and members can donate miles in 1,000-mile increments to any of seven different charities, including the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross Mile High Chapter and Children’s Hospital Colorado, among others.
Frontier Airlines does not partner with any other airlines, but EarlyReturns members can earn miles with non-flight partners. Members can choose from a fee or no-fee version of the Frontier Airlines World Master- Card. The annual fee version is $69 per year and offers two miles for every $1 spent on FlyFrontier.com purchases, one mile for every $1 on all other purchases and a 40,000-mile sign-up bonus when spending $500 in the first 90 days. Frontier MasterCard holders receive special companion pricing on award tickets. The program offers a 5,000-mile break on a roundtrip award for companions flying with the paying member on the same flight. The no annual fee Frontier MasterCard offers one mile for every dollar spent on FlyFrontier.com purchases and one mile for every $2 spent for all other purchases. The first-use bonus is 10,000 miles. Members can earn 50 miles per day, or 500 miles for car rentals of five or more days with Avis, Budget, Alamo, Hertz and National. Hotel partners include the hotel groups of Hilton, Carlson Rezidor, La Quinta, Marriott and Wyndham and members can earn between 250 and 500 miles per quali- fying stay or between one and two miles per $1 spent. Members can earn 10 miles for every dollar spent with Teleflora and four miles per $1 spent with Vinesse Wine Clubs plus a 1,500 sign-up bonus. Using SuperShuttle will net members 50 miles per trip or 150 miles if using ExecuCar. Parking at Canopy Parking near Denver International Airport will earn 100 miles. Book a cruise with EarlyReturns Cruises and earn up to 10,000 miles. EarlyReturns also partners with e-Miles, e-Rewards and Thanks Again. Along with American Express Membership Rewards, Points.com and Diners Club, members can exchange their points with Hilton HHonors (10,000 HHonors points for 1,500 EarlyReturns miles; 20,000 points for 3,000 miles or 50,000 points for 7,500 miles), Club Carlson (10:1 conversion), and Marriott Rewards (starting at 10,000 points for 2,000 miles).
Based near the Rocky Mountains, Frontier EarlyReturns has two mountain-themed status tiers: Ascent and Summit. Ascent is reached when earning 15,000 flight miles or 20 flight segments in one calendar year. Members at the Ascent level receive a 25 percent flight bonus, priority check-in, boarding and security lane (when available), pre-reserved seat assignments (including exit row), free access to STRETCH seating, free same-day standby travel, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, two complimentary checked bags and a complimentary carry-on bag with all fares, among other benefits such as a dedicated customer service line. Members can also take advantage of Last Seat Availability awards, which are an additional award option for elite-level members only starting at 45,000 miles for a roundtrip award ticket within the contiguous U.S. and Alaska (subject to fees/taxes from $5) and 55,000 miles roundtrip to/from Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica (subject to fees/ taxes from $46). Summit level is obtained when you fly 25,000 flight miles or 30 flight segments in one calendar year and includes all the benefits of Ascent status plus a 50 percent flight bonus, free same-day confirmed alternate flight on day of travel, itinerary change fees waived (for member and traveling companion), name change fee waived, complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and Summit members are guaranteed a seat on Frontier when you purchase an unrestricted fare (Y class), even if the flight is full. EarlyReturns does not offer lifetime elite status to those who earn one million miles and more.
Rules & Conditions
Basic fares booked through third-party websites earn 25 percent of miles flown, only flights booked on an Economy, Classic, or Classic Plus fare are awarded a minimum of 100 percent of flown miles. Passengers who book a Basic fare will also have to pay between $25 and $100 to bring a carry-on bag. Members can buy or gift between 1,000 and 25,000 miles at the cost of 2.5 cents per mile plus fees. Purchasing 1,000 miles will cost a total of $26.88 (including fees). Members can transfer miles between accounts starting at 1,000 miles, up to 60,000 miles, for one cent per mile. Missing mileage requests can be made up to 180 days from the flight date. Awards can be given to anyone the member chooses. Miles will not expire as long as the member generates any kind of earning (not redemption) activity every 18 months. If miles do expire, you can buy back expired miles at a penny per mile up to a year after they expired and you must purchase the full amount of miles that expired. Award ticket changes made within eight days of the travel date are free but changes made within seven days are $75 for Standard award tickets, $25 for CHOICE tickets and free for elite members on Last Seat Availability award tickets. Name changes are $50 for standard award tickets and free for CHOICE, last seat availability and elite members.
Customer service can be reached via phone or the Contact Us section of FlyFrontier.com. Award flights booked over the phone incur a $10 fee, which is inexpensive compared to the $20 or $25 phone booking fee charged by other carriers. When we called Frontier EarlyReturns customer service line, we were placed on hold for over 10 advertising-filled minutes. If you have a simple question, you may want to email customer service to avoid a long wait time. We received a response via email within 24 hours.
Members can redeem miles for award flights online and can view their mileage balance and expiration date, current membership level, status miles and segments earned, account activity and current reservations. You can also update your personal information such as your mailing address and email address and indicate your home airport. You can select your email preferences and what type of email communication you’d like to receive and claim missing flight credit online. The award booking tool will display award flights a week at a time and you can click an arrow to view the previous or next week but you can’t view award flights for a month at a time.
[+] Plus Features
Frontier Airlines is one of the few airlines that still offers 500 minimum miles per flight for all members and double-mile offers to highlight new routes are frequently offered. Credit cardholders can book a companion flight award for 5,000 fewer miles, which is a valuable benefit for travelers who frequently fly with a partner. The standard 20,000-mile domestic flight award is less than the industry standard 25,000-mile flight within the U.S. Frontier Airlines has a handful of international destinations and members can redeem miles to fly to Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
[-] Minus Features
Frontier has added new non-flight partners in the past few years, but not having any airline partners limits the ability of EarlyReturns members to earn when flying and restricts the destinations that members can choose from when they spend their miles. You’ll need to book flights at flyfrontier.com to avoid the carry-on bag fees and 25 percent mileage earning on flights booked at third party websites. The future Frontier Airlines will likely be very different from the current airline and the frequent flyer program will also likely see major changes.
Report Card from Readers
[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]DenverBrian [/tabtext] [tabtext] khoward [/tabtext] [/tabcontainer]
[tabcontent] [tab] Rating: C-
Pros: Most roundtrip awards in the U.S. are 20,000 miles.
Cons: Frontier is rapidly devolving into an ultra low cost carrier, slashing onboard benefits for elites and initiating additional fees and costs at will. There are many rumors that Frontier will simply abandon its frequent flyer program at some point in the next year.
Grade: At the start of the year, A. Today, C- and falling. In one year: Possibly F or gone.
DenverBrian [Milepoint] [/tab]
[tab] Rating: C
I haven’t had a problem booking two award trips this year and did both for 20,000 miles each. Try that on Southwest, where most desirable flights are 11,000-14,000 points each way. Southwest fares are often quite higher than Frontier. I travel all the time and can’t think of an instance in the last six months when Southwest was lower or even within 25 percent of Frontier. Plus, only Southwest and JetBlue don’t charge for bags these days and both seem to bundle it into the fare so you are paying for it there anyway. There are no food options on Southwest except the peanuts and pretzels. At least you can buy something on Frontier if you want it. DirecTV is on Frontier too (for as long as it lasts). If you work your way up to Summit status, the benefits have been cut a bit but are still among the best. I changed a flight today for no fee and no fare increase. I could cancel a trip, book a lower fare and reuse the original ticket funds on a future trip. I get free Stretch seats, two free bags, a free snack, all the free drinks I want, get to board first and get all the priority perks at the airport. The Summit line folks are awesome too. I still fly Southwest when I have to, but I always come back to Frontier whenever I can (90 percent of the time.)
khoward [FlyerTalk] [/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]
Overall Score: 6.79
Earning Ability: 6.5
Award Choices: 6.5
Elite Level: 7.0
Rules & Conditions: 7.0
Service Support: 7.5
Online Services: 7.0[/box]
7001 Tower Rd
Denver, CO 80249