Frontier's Latest Sh*t Show: Pilot Protest, Strike Threats Right Before the Holidays

Frontier's Latest Sh*t Show: Pilot Protest, Strike Threats Right Before the Holidays
Photo by Ana Lopez
As we've reported, Frontier, which promotes itself as Denver's hometown airline, has had one public embarrassment after another of late, including bottom-scraping quality ratings in the wake of its disastrous response to a snowstorm this time last year and comments by its main investor in which he compared complaining customers to teenage spoiled brats. A downtown Denver protest yesterday, December 7, by Frontier pilots who eagerly declared themselves to be "100 % Ready to Strike" qualifies as the latest horror story for the carrier, which has had no shortage of such tales in the past.

Frontier pilots actually declared themselves willing to strike over a long-running pay dispute this past September if a new agreement with the airline couldn't be reached. Months later, the situation appears to be no closer to a resolution, though Frontier soft-pedaled the problem in a statement about the demonstration that reads in part, "We look forward to working toward an agreement that is fair, sustainable, and provides security for our collective future."

The timing of the picket session, which involved hundreds of pilots from Frontier and other carriers, wasn't chosen at random. Clearly, the employees are hoping to use the threat of a disruption over the lucrative holiday season as motivation for the powers-that-be to get serious about finalizing a pact.

The effect on passengers who saw yesterday's display will likely be twofold. Those who haven't booked Christmas flights yet are likely to reach out to other airlines — and the ones who've already purchased tickets on Frontier are undoubtedly even more nervous about a repeat of last year than they already were.

Here's our November post about the "brats" comment, supplemented by Denver-centric tales from the website Accompanying the text are more photos from yesterday's demonstration, published with the kind permission of photographer Ana Lopez.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANA LOPEZ
Photo by Ana Lopez
Frontier Owner Says Passengers Are Like Spoiled Brats Despite Horror Stories
Published November 21, 2017

Bill Franke, the head of the investment firm that owns Denver-based Frontier Airlines, has compared the average passenger to a "teenage spoiled brat" despite the carrier's recent history of terrible customer service rankings, a well-publicized public spat with 9News anchor Kyle Clark and an entire website devoted to Frontier horror stories.

Franke, whose company, Indigo Partners, recently announced its intention to buy 430 new planes for Frontier and other airlines in its portfolio (including Wizz Air, Volaris and Jetsmart), made his comment to CNBC. "The consumer is essentially like your teenage spoiled brat. They had been flying with all the amenities forever and ever and that's what they think they ought to get," he said, adding, "They don't want to pay any more for the ticket, they just want all the amenities."

To put it mildly, these remarks are incredibly tone-deaf — and not all that far from ones that appeared in a satirical article published by The Onion a few months back. Under the headline "Frontier Airlines Tells Customers to Just Fucking Deal With It," fictional CEO Barry Biffle was quoted as saying, "I get that you’re cramped and miserable, but if you just shut the hell up and sit there for a few goddamn hours, you’ll soon be at your destination. Who gives a shit if you have no leg room and the seats are stiff? Soon you’ll be 800 miles from where you are now, and it’ll be like the last two hours of your life never even fucking happened. You’re the ones who wanted to save $150, so you’re welcome, assholes."

The Onion had plenty of Frontier fodder from which to draw inspiration for this salvo. In December 2016, for example, Frontier became a social-media target because of its awful response to a snowstorm — a big reason that the carrier finished last in the subsequent 2017 Airline Quality Rating survey, as it did in 2014. The following July, 9News's Clark publicly castigated the airline after he learned that Frontier staffers had accessed his personal travel records in an apparent effort to learn if he was an Ann Coulter-esque whiner about air travel. And then there's the aforementioned Frontier Airlines Horror Story site, the subject of a 2015 post that rounded up eight terrible tales with Denver connections.

Count down those tales below and decide for yourself if the storytellers are "teenage spoiled brats" or simply customers who deserved better treatment — and less condescension from rich guys like Franke.

Number 8:
We got to the MPLS airport two hours early. There was no security wait. Unfortunately, the Frontier ticket staff wasn't there. I stood in front of an empty counter for 45 minutes. When the staff finally arrived, the security line had 45 minutes wait. I didn't know that my flight was delayed. There were zero announcements. After waiting for 45 minutes waiting to talk to the people at the gate ticket counter, I asked the lady, who identified herself as Candy, she didn't have a name tag, said that if there are less people in line, they would have enough time to ask an announcement. The ticket counter staff really weren't interested in answering questions or being helpful. Candy was so rude that I asked for another agent. I was told that it was Frontier policy to not help customers that another agent started to help. If that is your policy, it needs to be changed. Frontier, you are not doing me favor when I buy a ticket. I will pay the extra 50 bucks to fly on an airline that has a clue about customer service. Call Me, Frontier! Find out why I am canceling an already paid for flight in November and another in Jan. Find out why I will never fly Frontier again with my company. I fly one time every other month. Cancel my Early return number. Cancel my wife's early return number. Keep your eight dollar snack pack. It seems that any time anyone in the Frontier front office farts, it costs me 25 bucks. But when Frontier is performing below par, everyone just throws up their arms in confusion.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANA LOPEZ
Photo by Ana Lopez
Number 7:
Flight delay from 6:55 pm departure to 12:20 am next day was falsely attributed by Frontier agents to "weather delay of incoming flight from Seattle." However, (1) Seattle flying weather was excellent all day. (2) Frontier website showed all Seattle-Denver flights arrived on time that day. (3) Frontier evidently switched the designated equipment (from incoming Seattle-Denver flight 140, arriving approx. 4:30 pm) to a different route, possibly one that did encounter a weather delay — and (4) made our flight wait for equipment from a later Seattle-Denver flight (142, which arrived at 11:30, approximately on time). Does it comply with DOT regulations to say that our flight was delayed by weather???

Number 6:
Flew from SLC to Denver then to Puerto Vallarta. First flew with small children all separated from parents when asked to change seats was told by a very rude stewardess that we had to stay in assigned seats. What person flying wants to sit next to someone else's crying two year old? Then the stewardess had the nerve to talk to other passengers about us, very unprofessional. Pay the extra fly Delta.

Number 5:
My wife and I had scheduled flights 4 months in advanced with Frontier Airlines August 11 with what was suppose to be a plane change in Denver with a 45 minute wait time. However once we arrived in Denver which was over an hour late we had just got off our first flight and heard last call boarding to Wash.and we literally had to run from one flight to the next with our carry ons from one side of the airport to the next. We were out of breath and not happy! From the very beginning of our trip the gate # given for our flight was not the gate on our tickets. There was a group of people there that had been waiting for over 12 hours so our flight was given to them. The organization skills seem to extremely lacking not to mention the very poor customer service. We finally arrived at our destination not knowing how the return flight would go... The day of return flight we arrived early. The checking in department went ok. However once the flight was to board a lady named Desire begins shouting zone boarding. We thought it was our zone and so did several others but just because it was not the correct zone this employee begins shouting at the top of her lungs ZONE 3! We'll excuse us lady... There is no need to scream. We could not understand the zone call from the person calling the zone with the mic his/her mouth over the mic it muffles the sound. We finally board and the ticket lady rips the tickets out of our hands after making us wait 35 minutes just to make a point we were to be last boarded. Now when we got to Denver to change planes it was supposed to be an hour delay. The second we got off one plane we had to run to our gate # posted on the ticket. Then we hear that flight and gate# has been changed to another gate # here we go again. We go up to the counter at that gate to make sure we are at right gate because it's not even posted on the boards and the gate # on our tickets is not correct once again! Then that employee saids to us yes glad you were paying attention sarcastically. Now that was uncalled for period. It was Frontier who was the cause of all this confusion and mess. Not our lack of paying attention trust me. We have come across some very very poor organization, management and boarding call skills. We are not happy at all how we were treated not to mention there lack of managing changes in flights. Extremely poor and we personally would NEVER use them again. There was a man named Darnell at the start of checking in who was helpful due to the kiosk machines not working. We tried 4 different kiosks and still could not check baggage until we got to the counter with a live person. Also I was impressed with the luggage handling that we even got our luggage both ways due to the mix ups. So we really did not have any trouble with making the flight. Check in went ok . Flight crews were very nice , baggage handling was good. Most of out complaints is with the boarding calls employees and ticket boarding personnel which was rude. And the management of the gates numbers never matching your tickets causing so much confusion and running from one gate to another out of breath is not a comfortable feeling. Flying is stressful enough with out all that. Then we had people on the end seats that once you land and dock just sit there taking there time getting up. If you have to go to the bathroom and sit on the seats by windows hope you don't sit by people like we had. That was awful!Won't ever do that again some people can be very inconsiderate....

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANA LOPEZ
Photo by Ana Lopez
Number 4:
I am a medical student in Omaha and took a quick trip out to Durango with friends. The airplane broke down before the scheduled departure, the mechanic was not available, I missed my connection in Denver and have been here for the last 24-27 hours. Apparently Frontier does not work with other airlines — or other airlines don't work with Frontier. The two men at the gate where I was on standby were less than courteous, the ladies at the customer desk were nice but unhelpful. They have no way of checking to make sure that my luggage arrived in Omaha either. For a company that nickels and dimes its customers for seat assignments, carry-ons, etc. it sure isn't making itself seem worth the money. Just save yourself the headache and fly another airline.

Number 3:
Trying to get home to Orange County, CA from Orlando. Flight was scheduled for Monday but I tried to grab an earlier flight. Frontier had zero flights leaving until Monday. On Monday as I arrived at the airport I was notified the flight had been changed to 5.48 am the following day. I was given a hotel voucher. A few hours later I happened to be walking past ticketing and noticed my flight to Denver was now showing 11.48 pm same day (in a few hours). I asked if the flight at 5.48 am tomorrow was still on schedule. She said no that now tonight's 11.48pm flight. No one called or e-mailed me letting me know about the change. I asked if I could fly the 7.45 am flight next day instead of this 11.48 pm flight. Was told no, it's full. When asked if they could try to change my connecting flight time in Denver from 2 pm to something a little earlier, they said they didn't know how to do that. I was traveling with a 9 year old and they didn't put us together. I look forward to my 12 hour lay over in Denver now. Will never fly this awful airline again.

Number 2:
I have been flying Frontier Airlines for years. Not anymore. Both flights had broken down planes. My flight out of Milwaukee had a flat tyre. There was only 1 maintenance person on duty. They had to call another in to help fix the tyre. Our flight to Denver was delayed 2.5 hours. Of course our connecting flight was gone once we landed in Denver and there were no other flights available. Frontier shuttled everyone to a hotel for the night. On the way back home my flight from Denver to Milwaukee also had a broken plane. Flight delayed by 2 hours because we had to wait for a plane from Los Angeles. I have flown almost every US airline and this is the worst.

Number 1:
Trust and believe by the time Frontier finishes adding on for each and every thing, you may as well have paid a few bucks more for another airline and less aggravation. $1.99 for a soda....really?!! I flew from DC to Anchorage (via Denver) two weeks ago and I am now writing this from Denver Intl while in the 4th hour of my wait for my connecting flight back to DC. Hopefully I'll be boarding in another 4 hours. DIA is not a great airport to spend the day. To wrap it up, don't be foolish like me: Do your homework. Read the reviews and remember, you get what you pay for: fees ad nauseum, rude staff, tight spaces, bumpy rides and not so pleasant memories.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts