Is Frontier Airlines Turning into a Clone of Spirit?

Earlier this week, the Denver Post wrote about the changes underway at Frontier Airlines and made the comparison to ultra-discounter Spirit. Is Frontier going to become a clone of Spirit? Frontier says no (and there’s reason to believe them) but you be the judge. UPDATE: As of spring 2014, Frontier dropped its highest carry-on fee from $100 to $50.

LISTEN: Travel expert Rick Seaney says the devil is in the details and he’s got them.

Frontier Fees vs. Spirit Fees

As FareCompare reported, Frontier now has two tiers of travel class: Economy and Classic Plus. Spirit has just one, which may be why the latter calls itself the Dollar General of discounters while Frontier prefers a comparison to Target.

Frontier’s Classic plus offers several perks for free and those tickets cost more. For a true fee-to-fee comparison, we’ll examine Frontier’s Economy class vs. Spirit.  All fees were found on the airlines’ websites.


Optional Fees – A Comparison

Optional Service

Frontier Airlines

Spirit Airlines

Carry-on bag $20 to $100* $26 to $100*
First checked bag $15 to $25 $21 to $100
Second checked bag $30 $31 to $100
Unaccompanied Minors $100 $100
Water or soft drink $1.99 $3
Seat selection – regular $3 and up** $1 to $50**
Seat selection – premium $5 to $15 and up $12 to $150
Booking by phone $35 $10
Booking online Free $8.99 to $16.99
Discount club membership Free through June 2015 for “Discount Den” $59.95 per year for “$9 Fare Club”

*Fee prices can vary depending on point-of-purchase and the highest fees are generally charged at airport gates and would not affect the vast majority of travelers. Lowest fees may be only available to members of the airline’s club.

**Both airlines will assign you a seat for free but it may not be where or what you want, and if you’re traveling with friends or family, these free seats may not be together.

Spirit’s Most Unusual Fee

Spirit charges each passenger $2 for its “Unintended  Consequences of DOT Regulations Charge” which goes back to 2012 when the Department of Transportation began requiring airlines to show fares with all taxes and fees included. Apparently, this created expensive, extra work for Spirit – or perhaps the airline execs just wanted to make an extra two bucks per ticket. Frontier has no such fee that we could find.

Fees – Where to Find Them

It’s not always easy, but you can find a lot of the fees on airline websites.  For Frontier and Spirit, look at the top and click Optional Fees – but you may have to do further digging to find all of them.


Published: April 29, 2014