Frontier is far from the most perfect U.S. airline. It gets more than its share of complaints, and its on-time rate is worse than the U.S. average. But the airline is making some improvements to try to keep passengers from defecting to legacy carriers. That's good for consumers.
When Frontier Airlines switched to an ultra-low-cost model roughly four years ago, it began using the tagline “Low Fares Done Right,” a not-so-gentle jab at what was then its biggest competitor, Spirit Airlines.
The line was appropriate, as Frontier was probably more customer-friendly than Spirit, then run by CEO Ben Baldanza, who insisted on charging passengers for everything, including water. Frontier, determined to not be so antagonistic, offered it free.
But Frontier, with only one genuine competitor, was not customer-friendly. It ran a shoddy operation, and customers often complained about delays, cancellations, and lost bags.
Frontier’s still not perfect, but we’re beginning to see a more refined airline. This summer, it overhauled its elite frequent flyer program, adding perks for loyal travelers, while making it easier for many customers to pool points. Last week, Frontier reduced fees for customers who change plans at least two weeks in advance.
We can probably thank the Big Three — United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines — for forcing the pivot. With their newish, no-frills basic economy fares, all three are more formidable competitors to discount airlines. Frontier may have been losing share to legacy airlines, and its executives probably realized they needed to change strategy to keep up.
What do you think of Frontier’s changes? Let me know via email or Twitter.
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Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [email@example.com] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.
Photo credit: Frontier has updated its loyalty program and its change fee structure to help it better compete with legacy carriers. Pictured are Frontier aircraft in Denver. David Zalubowski / Associated Press