Penny-pinching passengers seeking low fares out of Logan Airport will soon have a new option when Frontier Airlines begins flights out of Boston on April 19. Frontier currently flies out of more than 100 US airports.
Along with the news that the company will be operating two routes out of Logan — Orlando and Raleigh-Durham — Frontier also announced it would introduce those routes with a limited time $39 fare sale to both locations. In order to qualify for the fares, tickets must be purchased by midnight on Jan. 10 (that’s this Thursday).
The Denver-based Frontier is able to offer low fares because, like competitor Spirit Airlines, it charges a large number of ancillary fees. Passengers pay for basics such as assigned seats (anywhere from $6 to $20) and carry-ons ($30). Those fees are higher if they’re paid at the airport rather than when booking online. Frontier allows passengers to bring one personal item, such as a purse, briefcase, or laptop bag, free of charge. It also charges for all food and beverages. There is no onboard entertainment or Wi-Fi. That’s all on top of an optional tip for your flight attendant, which Frontier encourages.
Seats on Frontier’s planes are tight. At a width of 18 inches, and a seat pitch (the amount of space between seats) of 29 inches, it ranks among the lowest of US airlines. More legroom is available at an additional charge. By way of comparison, the pitch of a seat on JetBlue is between 33 to 34 inches. Like Spirit, the thin seats on Frontier do not recline.
But if travelers are comfortable with those options and can pack as lightly as possible, Frontier can be a bargain.
The annual Airline Quality Ratings report, issued by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University, placed Frontier at 11 out of 12 major US carriers last year. Spirit Airlines came in at unlucky number 12. Frontier also ranked next-to-last with readers of Consumer Reports, landing with a score of 63. By way of comparison, Southwest Airlines earned a score of 85 with readers.
Frontier, which is the eighth-largest carrier in the country, has given passengers the option of tipping flight attendants over the past three years but made news this week when it was announced those tips would no longer be pooled among attendants. Now it’s every man or woman for themselves.
Tipping is not an acceptable policy on most major carriers. If travelers purchase food or beverages on Frontier, the airline’s tablet-based payment system allows passengers the option of leaving a tip. According to a spokesman for the airline, flight attendants have made “millions” of dollars in tips over the past three years.
“It’s entirely at the customer’s discretion, and many do it,” Frontier spokesman Jonathan Freed said.
But the Association of Flight Attendants looks down on tipping, and AFA international president Sara Nelson said Frontier began the practice as a way of keeping staff wages low.
“Tipping is not part of a flight attendant’s compensation for serving as aviation’s first responders,” Nelson said. “Flight attendants are certified for our safety, health, and security work. Safety is not variable and therefore base compensation for a safety job cannot be variable.”
The bottom line for travelers is that if you decide to order food or a beverage on Frontier, you’ll have yet another expense to address. Will your tip amount result in better service in case of an emergency on a $39 flight?
Best to avoid the fracas altogether, buy your food before boarding the flight, and keep your seat belt tightly fastened at all times.Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.