As much as low-cost carriers in the United States get ragged on for things like “nickel and diming” and reliability/safety issues, there is something to be said for getting people to where they want to go for pennies compared to the “mainstream” airlines.
A couple of months back I was planning a trip to Disney World and booked the outbound flights with my girlfriend on Frontier from Philly to Orlando. The cheapest mainstream airline price was $250 per person, each way. No thanks. My next logical option was to check in with the low-cost carriers. I could’ve used miles, sure, but for a <2 hour flight, I thought my miles would be better served on a longer, more expensive flight.
Frontier Airlines was advertising a flight for $84 per person from Philly to Orlando at the exact time I needed (~7pm on a Friday). This required me to sign up for the “Discount Den” which is $49.99 per year, but in the end the cost-benefit analysis was favorable so I booked the tickets.
I had no idea what to expect. I’ve heard all the negatives about Frontier, but I swear for every negative there was always a positive story. That seemed like a good ratio to me so I went in with an open mind.
Fast forward to last Friday — my departure date. I was cooking breakfast and got an e-mail that my flight was delayed by 2 hours to ~9pm. This was annoying as I had planned on getting to Orlando around 9 to enjoy a couple of hours at Disney Springs. Oh well, what could I do?
At around 6:30pm — this time at the airport — I get a notification saying the flight has actually been pushed up to around 8:30pm. Nice!
30 minutes later…
Another text saying the flight was pushed back to 9:30pm.
It’s worth noting that the airline offered everyone a $15 food credit that could be used anywhere in the terminal, which was nice. I used mine for a couple of beers 🙂
9pm rolls around the airplane pulls into the gate and we’re ready to board. Then the departure time updates to 10pm.
This time I’m furious. It was only a few more minutes and to be fair, it’s because they had to turn the plane, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Why I Was Furious
I’m an aviation geek and love to use FlightRadar24 whenever I travel. I often track the incoming airplane and all that corny stuff. In this case, I noticed the inbound plane was coming from Orlando and was delayed a few hours. This is totally normal, but I decided to do some further digging.
Turns out, the way that particular aircraft was scheduled never gave us a fighting chance to leave on time. In fact, the airplane operating the Orlando to Philly flight was supposed to have taken off while the same plane was supposed to be in flight from Cleveland to Orlando. Not sure how they expected this to work out.
Upon closer review, the same flight (1677) was delayed by 3 hours the day before and the day before that. Obviously, there’s a pattern here. Was this purposeful?
I tried endlessly to get in contact with Frontier via phone — good luck with that. I even tried Twitter and the agent told me to Direct Message my details, but the @FrontierCares Twitter account had its DMs blocked.
What in the hell is going on?
Last but not least, I submitted a formal Better Business Bureau complaint. Now, in hindsight this was overkill, but at the time I felt getting this all in writing and delivered to the company would be the best option to get this issue resolved and hopefully help future passengers.
After a day of radio silence, I had all but written off Frontier, but I was down to give them another shot.
The next day I received an e-mail extending an apology and $25 vouchers on a future Frontier flight. Look, at $84 bucks a ticket, anything is better than nothing.
Then the next day (Sunday) I received a Twitter DM…
I thought this was a remarkable gesture. All in, our flights cost $283 total, and with $200 in vouchers, this was essentially a refund. On top of that, the flight was pleasant, smooth, and the crew was very spirited and friendly — truly refreshing compared to American Airlines.
I recognize that I may have overreacted with the BBB complaint. I had a very specific plan to get to Disney Springs to enjoy some drinks and a night out before a few days of fun at the parks, and when it didn’t go according to plan, I did everything I could to get a response from the airline. In the future, I’d probably keep my finger off of the trigger a bit longer.
Did the increased offer come from the BBB complaint? Who knows, but I doubt it. I b****** enough on Twitter that they probably heard me loud and clear.
With that said, I look forward to my next trip on Frontier! Any recommendations?