If Frontier screws up, you're on your own

Old Dec 8, 17, 11:14 pm
  #1  
iahphx
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If Frontier screws up, you're on your own

I've had quite an experience flying Frontier this week. My wife and I were enticed by an absurd $38 roundtrip fare to MSY. My outbound flight went off without a hitch. If you keep your expectations modest, comply with their "personal item" bag size, and nothing unusual happens, the experience CAN be decent for what you pay.

The problem with Frontier, however, is if something "unusual" DOES happen.

This morning at MSY, there was a modest amount of sleet falling. Safety protocol called for de-icing. Frontier, however, had "forgot" to order de-icing fluid for the station. Other airlines had de-icing fluid, but Frontier was unable to procure any from these other airlines. After several hours on the aircraft waiting to see if the fluid could be obtained, my flight was cancelled (as, I believe, all other MSY-departing flights were eventually cancelled). For reaccommodation, the best Frontier could offer me was 8 days later! Otherwise, I could take a refund.

With years of travel experience -- and elite frequent flyer status on other airlines -- I was able to find standard award seats without last minute ticketing charges on another airline that did have de-icing fluid at MSY. So the net result of Frontier's screw up was the cost of two one-way standard award tickets and 8 hours of our time. Sucky, but not the end of the world.

The people I felt sorry for were my fellow travellers. I could tell most of them were infrequent travelers, not terribly affluent, and not well equipped to deal with an airline that basically was stranding them far from home with no good options. I tried to help a few of them but, obviously, the solution I had for myself wasn't going to work for them.

This is the fundamental problem with flying Frontier. Are you willing to take the risk of "being completely on your own" if your flight gets cancelled? Would you put friends and family on a Frontier flight knowing they could get stranded without good options? I'm not a huge fan of government regulation, but my experience today begs for some sort of consumer protection. Frontier, of course, will claim the cancellation was due to "weather."

Interestingly, my long hours on the aircraft in adverse conditions did give me some insight into the caliber of Frontier's workforce. I found the pilots to be true professionals; the captain was clearly trying her best to get her plane and passengers safely to their destination. She told me she was "embarrassed" that her airline didn't have the de-icing fluid -- especially since she had been assured by the company that they did have the fluid. The flight attendants seemed significantly less professional; I'm not sure what their pay scale is, but the caliber of the crew seemed significantly lower than what the major US airlines hire. I would not want to put my life in their hands in an emergency situation.

Also interesting was the fact that my Frontier flights in both directions were completely sold out, while other airlines were operating with significant numbers of empty seats (which turned out to be a godsend for me when my Frontier flight got cancelled). All the passengers I spoke to were paying under $50 for their flight. Frontier will obviously sell tickets at fire sale prices to fill their planes, while other airlines won't.

Last edited by iahphx; Dec 8, 17 at 11:19 pm
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Old Dec 9, 17, 1:03 am
  #2  
rsteinmetz70112
 
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What was your origin?
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Old Dec 9, 17, 8:28 am
  #3  
iahphx
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Originally Posted by rsteinmetz70112 View Post
What was your origin?
PHL.

What's weird is that I see Frontier is selling MSY-PHL tickets for next Wednesday (Dec. 13) for $20. If that's true, why did they only offer me the 18th? I assume that's what the computer assigned me, and the phone agent didn't bother to look.

The unfortunate thing about Frontier is that they're obviously doing everything on the cheap. So everything is done on a shoestring, including hiring competent staff. If flying wasn't so incredibly safe these days, I'm sure people would be worried to fly them because who wants to fly a shoestring airline. At least, from my experience, the pilots are professional. I think we can hope that the maintenance team is as well. The customer-fronting staff is apparently all hired for as little pay as possible, and given no discretion to help out their customers.
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Old Dec 10, 17, 5:58 am
  #4  
rhwbullhead
 
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So far I've been lucky that I haven't had any irregular opps with Spirit or Frontier, and I've flown to Vegas like once a month with them and gone to other locations on the past year.

I've heard stories like this before, and often the worst ones are at international destinations where they don't have daily flights

I figure when it happens, at least I'll have the $500 from the CSR trip delay reimbursement, but that wouldn't last 8 days.
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Old Dec 10, 17, 11:18 am
  #5  
klanfa
 
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Would travel insurance save you in this situation? I.e. if Frontier says "sorry, flight cancelled, you're out in 8 days", would your average travel insurance cover a ticket on a different carrier? I believe it should?
Not saying you should have had travel insurance, nor that the whole situation is even remotely acceptable - only trying to learn how to best cover myself if I do end up booking a ticket with them.
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Old Dec 10, 17, 11:28 am
  #6  
Often1
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It's not just F9. Neither WN nor B6 (as to domestic carriers) interlines with others. Thus, in the event of a cancellation, you are entitled to a refund or to rebooking on the next available service. F9 is the worst of the three because it has the fewest frequencies on many routes.

Hedging cheap fares with iron-clad travel insurance which covers this situation ---- read the policy carefully ---- and will reimburse the cost of new tickets at walk-up prices, is essential. For many people, the cost of a hotel room, food, and then new tickets can be a significant financial blow, but there is nothing to be done other to do your part to make sure that people you know understand the risks and what to do.

The cheapest ticket is not always the cheapest journey.
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Old Dec 10, 17, 4:36 pm
  #7  
iahphx
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Originally Posted by rhwbullhead View Post
So far I've been lucky that I haven't had any irregular opps with Spirit or Frontier, and I've flown to Vegas like once a month with them and gone to other locations on the past year.

I've heard stories like this before, and often the worst ones are at international destinations where they don't have daily flights

I figure when it happens, at least I'll have the $500 from the CSR trip delay reimbursement, but that wouldn't last 8 days.
That's an interesting idea. I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I see it also has that benefit:

https://www.chase.com/content/chasec...bursement.html

So in my situation, as long as I wasn't in a rush to get home (I obviously couldn't wait 8 days, but it seems like that was just misinformation), I could have said: "Hmmm, New Orleans isn't a bad place to spend the weekend. I'll go have a good time and let Chase pick up the tab. Maybe they can get us home Sunday or Monday."

There are, obviously, a couple of problems with this. Is there enough data to know how "picky" Chase would be on reimbursement? Like I'd hate to run up a $150/night hotel tab (when I'd be using points or something if it were my own dime) and have a few nice restaurant meals, only to be denied the $500 per ticket from Chase.

Also, if I DID need to get home, there's nothing in the rules that suggests Chase would pick up the cost of a replacement ticket on another airline. Does anyone know if they would?

Still, if I buy any tickets on Frontier or Spirit this winter -- where the risk of irregular operations is obviously much higher than at other times of the year -- I know I'm going to be buying them with my Chase card!

Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
It's not just F9. Neither WN nor B6 (as to domestic carriers) interlines with others. Thus, in the event of a cancellation, you are entitled to a refund or to rebooking on the next available service. F9 is the worst of the three because it has the fewest frequencies on many routes.
Yeah, interlining agreements obviously help, but it's more than that. If I have a ticket on Southwest and there are irregular operations, I know they're not going to say "tough luck." They have the mindset and resources to help. Frontier (and, I would think, Spirit) really don't have the mentality that they need to help you. You're really mostly "on your own" to deal with the problem.
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Old Dec 10, 17, 5:53 pm
  #8  
rhwbullhead
 
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Originally Posted by iahphx View Post
There are, obviously, a couple of problems with this. Is there enough data to know how "picky" Chase would be on reimbursement? Like I'd hate to run up a $150/night hotel tab (when I'd be using points or something if it were my own dime) and have a few nice restaurant meals, only to be denied the $500 per ticket from Chase.
I believe there is a thread somewhere in the Chase forum concerning the travel insurance. The only time I used it, I only claimed a $30 something dollar meal. EVA delayed a midnight departure time to 9am for mechanical issues last Feb. EVA put us up in a hotel near O'hare. I claimed $30 something in a meal. The only thing I remember is that meals over $50 required an itemized receipt.

I seem to remember there being language about not covering extravagant expenses, but maybe I'm thinking about something else. I'm guessing they might have denied me if I tried to claim a $250 surf and turf meal.

I know I'd burn through the $500 fast if I got stuck in Vegas for a weekend (unless it was in Dec or first weekend of January when the weekends are cheap).
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Old Dec 10, 17, 7:36 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
It's not just F9. Neither WN nor B6 (as to domestic carriers) interlines with others. Thus, in the event of a cancellation, you are entitled to a refund or to rebooking on the next available service. F9 is the worst of the three because it has the fewest frequencies on many routes.
Unlike NK, F9, and G4, WN and B6 have substantially bigger operations and are more prepared to deal with IRROP's. While it might be a slight inconvenience or a day or two before you get home, it isn't like NK, G4, and F9 where it could be days before you get to where you need to go, forcing others to book pricey same day tickets on other airlines.
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Old Dec 12, 17, 7:15 am
  #10  
jjbiv
 
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The weird thing is it looks like Frontier ferried the aircraft back to PHL the next morning at 5 AM (FFT9205 on 12/9). It would have been better to delay the flight and operate it the next morning so their customers could travel to their destination.

Did you contact Frontier customer relations? If so, what did they say?
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Old Dec 12, 17, 7:44 am
  #11  
7Continents
 
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
It's not just F9. Neither WN nor B6 (as to domestic carriers) interlines with others. Thus, in the event of a cancellation, you are entitled to a refund or to rebooking on the next available service. F9 is the worst of the three because it has the fewest frequencies on many routes.

Hedging cheap fares with iron-clad travel insurance which covers this situation ---- read the policy carefully ---- and will reimburse the cost of new tickets at walk-up prices, is essential. For many people, the cost of a hotel room, food, and then new tickets can be a significant financial blow, but there is nothing to be done other to do your part to make sure that people you know understand the risks and what to do.

The cheapest ticket is not always the cheapest journey.
I LOVE this quote. Definitely words to tattoo to any travelers arm.
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Old Dec 12, 17, 7:58 am
  #12  
mkadilla
 
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Same thing happened to me last year. Flight from Missoula to Denver was cancelled inbound from Denver because of weather, thus the flight outbound was also cancelled. This was a Thursday and the flight was cancelled two hours before departure. The best option Frontier offered was to depart from Bozeman the next Tuesday or to get a refund. Oh, Bozeman is 2.5 hours by car from Missoula.

There are a limited number of flights to Montana anyhow and most are booked up during the holidays. I ended up getting a one-way First class from Delta the next morning for ~$1200 as it was the only seat available the next day. It stung, but at least I got home. I recall seeing lots of people who looked bewildered being stranded by Frontier.

I was unaware that any travel insurance would re-imburse for a situation like this?
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Old Dec 12, 17, 11:07 am
  #13  
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Long ago, under different ownership, I was flying F9 from MDW-DEN. There was heavy fog at DEN so we circled and circled, with two trips down to COS to re-fuel. This was pre-Airbus F9 and while I was watching out my window seat every other airline land at DEN as we circled, F9's planes weren't certified to fly into it. Finally F9 put us down at COS again and said this is where we stop. They didn't even have a station at COS at the time. America West crew unloaded our bags, while the flight crew disappeared. It was 1am at this point and passengers were crying asking anyone who was still in the airport what to do.

I got in a rental car and drove to DEN to where I picked up my car and drove home. I filled up my car with anyone who wanted to go with me. I felt for all the other passengers trying to figure out what to do next, especially since F9 didn't even fly out of the Springs! F9 denied reimbursing me for my rental car and that was the very last time I flew them. This thread is just a reminder to me that you get what you pay for.
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Old Dec 12, 17, 11:19 am
  #14  
Earendel
 
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Originally Posted by klanfa View Post
Would travel insurance save you in this situation? I.e. if Frontier says "sorry, flight cancelled, you're out in 8 days", would your average travel insurance cover a ticket on a different carrier? I believe it should?
Not saying you should have had travel insurance, nor that the whole situation is even remotely acceptable - only trying to learn how to best cover myself if I do end up booking a ticket with them.
I looked up the details of the travel insurance provided by my Citi Prestige card and it will cover up to $5000 to get you home in this type of scenario:

Covered expenses, up to $5,000 per person, per trip
■ The value of your unused transportation tickets or forfeited deposits, minus any refund or credit you receive from your travel supplier.
■ Change fees charged by your travel suppliers.
■ Additional costs to get you home if your trip is interrupted, as long as your new arrangements are within the same fare class as your original booking, such as economy or business class.
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Old Dec 12, 17, 11:36 am
  #15  
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The only people that you will ever encounter that are directly employed by F9 are the pilots and flight attendants. Everyone else is outsourced.
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