Frontier Airlines is the eighth-largest airline in the United States with a hub in Denver and service to Alaska, Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica.
Frontier is rarely–if ever–discussed on miles blogs because it’s small, doesn’t have first class, and has a paltry elite program. But there is tremendous value on the Frontier award chart for domestic travelers and travelers to the Caribbean and Mexico.
Here’s the award chart:
Frontier Award Chart
Five things jump out at me, all positive:
- Among region-to-region mileage programs, Frontier has the cheapest domestic awards. All the legacy carriers charge 25,000 miles roundtrip; Frontier charges 20,000 miles.
- Among region-to-region mileage programs, Frontier has the cheapest awards to the Caribbean at 30,000 miles roundtrip. (US Airways lets you go in September only for 25,000 miles. American charges 25,000 from September 7 to November 14.)
- Among region-to-region mileage programs, Frontier has the cheapest awards to Mexico and Central America. Frontier charges 30,000 miles roundtrip. The big boys charge 35,000 miles. (American charges 25,000 from September 7 to November 14.)
- Frontier awards can be flown as oneways for half the price of roundtrip awards, so 10k miles each way domestically and 15k abroad. This puts Frontier in the good company of United and American, and looking down on Delta and US Airways, which charge the roundtrip price for oneway redemptions.
- Frontier awards do not have any fees or surcharges, just government taxes.
Where Frontier Flies
Frontier only has one hub–Denver–from which it flies all over the country and internationally.
But Frontier has a number of cities where it flies to several destinations. For instance, it’s newly opened Princeton/Trenton routes have nonstop service to ten cities (and triple miles through May.) So check Frontier’s route map to see its service from your home airport.
Frontier also serves its international destinations, particularly Mexico and the Dominican Republic, from a number of cities.
What the Product is Like
All Frontier mainline flights are operated by A318s, A319s, or A320s with all economy-class configurations. Economy class has the industry-standard 31″-pitch legroom.
Each plane has several rows of STRETCH seating with 5+ extra inches of legroom. STRETCH upgrades cost $15+ from the cheapest tickets but are free for Frontier elites.
Each seat has a monitor with 30 channels of DirecTV, which costs $6 per flight.
Drinks cost $1.50+ and are free for elites.
The first and second checked bag are $20 each, and are free for elites.
EarlyReturns Frequent Flyer Program
Frontier’s frequent flyer program is similar to the legacy carriers’. You earn one mile per mile flown on tickets booked at flyfrontier.com. You earn mileage bonuses for buying more expensive fare classes or for having status. Note: you only earn 50% of miles flown if you book your cheap tickets from travel agents other than Frontier.
There are two levels of elite status: Ascent and Status.
It only takes 25,000 miles flown to get top tier Summit status on Frontier with free bags, free STRETCH class, free booze, free changes, free standby, and a 50% bonus on miles flown.
Awards can easily be booked online at flyfrontier.com. Just perform any flight search and check the Redeem Miles box. I’ll give an example of a domestic flight and an international flight search and one big tip.
Denver to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
To perform an award search, simply click the Redeem Miles check box at the top of the Book a Flight screen.
You must sign in to your Frontier account to perform award searches, so sign up for one now if you don’t have one. I got a free 500 miles for signing up without using any bonus code.
Your search results will come up like this. Your search is automatically performed +/- 3 days, and the lowest miles price each day is displayed.
Except there seems to be a glitch. Every search I performed both domestically and internationally showed only the day I searched at the lowest miles price and the other six days at a higher price. But if you click each day one by one, it will perform that day’s search and reveal that almost every day does in fact have awards for the lowest miles price. To wit:
The initial calendar said only April 11 had a 15,000 miles oneway to Mexico. But in fact every day except one between April 8 and 14 has a 15,000 mile award.
This is common. Space is incredible on every Frontier route I searched. Anyone used to searching for award space on the legacy carriers will be floored by the availability, which is present on about 90% of the individual flights I saw.
My roundtrip from Denver to Puerto Vallarta priced out at 30,000 miles and $80!
Los Angeles to Tampa
I also checked a domestic award from Los Angeles to Tampa, which connects in Denver both ways. Space was available every day for 10,000 miles each way after I did my click-on-every-day trick.
From my searches, I can say that Frontier has:
- a cheap award chart
- a great route network to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and hard-to-reach parts of the US
- oodles of space
- no fuel surcharges
Getting EarlyReturns Miles
The three main ways to get EarlyReturns miles are:
Application Link: The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard
The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard offers a 40,000 mile bonus after $500 in purchases in the first 90 days.
Cardholders get a 5,000 mile discount on companion awards.
That means if the cardholder books a 20,000 mile domestic award, he can take one companion for 15,000 miles more.
That means the 40,000 mile sign up bonus is good for two roundtrip domestic awards anywhere Frontier flies including Alaska with 5,000 miles left over.
What intrigues me about the 5,000 mile discount is that neither the bullet point on the card’s landing page nor the fine print at the bottom says the discount applies only to roundtrip awards.
If the discount applies to oneway awards, then you could actually get two roundtrips for 30k miles by booking each way separately.
Example: I book myself and a companion from Los Angeles to Tampa. My award is 10k miles; hers is 5k miles. I book the return at the same prices–10k + 5k + 10k + 5k = two roundtrips for 30k miles.
I hope to get a Frontier card with a future application, so I’ll report whether this is possible. If you already know the answer, please share in the comments.
The card earns double miles on Frontier purchases and has a $69 annual fee.
The key selling points that put this on my radar:
- Issued by Barclay’s. Barclay’s has only two other travel cards worth getting, the US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase and the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1k in the first three month. Since the best practice is to apply for only one card per issuing bank per app-o-rama, it’s nice to include a new card from Barclay’s.
- The spending requirement is so low at $500. It won’t add much strain on top of the many cards with $5,000 minimum spends that I apply for.
- It’s a MasterCard, so it is accepted virtually everywhere.
Membership Rewards Transfers
American Express Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Frontier.
American Express collects $6 per 10,000 Membership Rewards transferred to Frontier like it does for transfers to other US-based airlines.
I have never made a transfer. Frontier says it is usually instant but can take up to 24 hours. Frontier will let you hold an award ticket for 24 hours while you wait for a Membership Rewards transfer.
I explained the earnings structure for flown miles above.
Frontier Airlines has an amazing award chart if you want to fly where it flies–Denver, under-served US airports, Alaska, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Jamaica.
Frontier’s miles price is lower than all the legacy carriers to all of its destinations. Frontier has incredible award space on all the routes I searched. Frontier doesn’t charge any fuel surcharges on any awards.
If you can handle economy flights–and I can on Frontier’s sub-five-hour flights–Frontier even has a decent economy product because of the DirecTV at every seat.
Frontier is a viable Membership Rewards transfer option if you want to fly to its destinations. And I’ve added the Frontier credit card to my future applications’ list.
Application Link: The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard
Frontier CEO on Undercover Boss:
Hat Tip to Jacob Vanags for reminding me of the AA off peak awards to Mexico and the Caribbean on its own metal.