Oh, Frontier…how far you’ve fallen. Last year wasn’t necessarily the worst year you’ve had, but it sure wasn’t your best, either. Once considered Denver’s “hometown airline,” you’ve become something of a sad joke, something that gets written off as “that airline you take if you have no luggage and all the time in the world to spend waiting for delayed and canceled flights.” Just last month, our own Chris Walker told his story of the great Frontier meltdown of ’16; the last time I flew Frontier (and it may be the last time ever), three of the four legs of my round trip were canceled or delayed, and I spent a total of 26 hours getting home from St. Louis. When the flight process takes longer than it would have to drive the same distance, you know you’re getting into serious Steve Martin/John Candy/”Those aren’t pillows” territory.
But what can Frontier do to recapture the magic (because it needs some serious recapturing)? At the start of 2017, we offered these seven resolutions that Frontier should make in order to become relevant again — and possibly keep this new year of operation from also being its last. And it appears that Frontier has already added an eighth resolution to the list: Lighten the load. The airline just confirmed that COO Bill Meehan has stepped down for personal reasons, two weeks after Deborah Price, the company’s vice president of customer experience, announced she was leaving.
7. I will stop charging for every little thing.
Upgrades are one thing: Back in the days of first class, people understood that there were going to be differences between that and flying coach, with commensurate differences in price. But the model that Frontier uses now — this nickel-and-dime strategy that essentially operates as a (legal, I’m sure) bait-and-switch. Want a drink on the flight? That’ll be a couple of bucks. Want something resembling a meal (albeit one that your too-healthy aunt might make for you)? That’s about $7. Oh, and want to pick your seat without one being assigned to you on the day of travel from the dregs left, seating-wise, after everyone else has chosen theirs? That’s anywhere from $6 on up. We used to at least get chocolate-chip cookies; now we get nothing (and the "lesson" from the attached Undercover Boss clip meant nothing). You know what customers appreciate more than cookies? Clarity. That slogan that Southwest has been using this past year — Transfarency? Consider that a personal shot, Frontier, because it is.
6. I will stop taking the term "airbus" too literally.
There’s a reason that bus seats can be hard and barely padded and constructed primarily of plastics: because passengers won’t be settling in for long before their stop comes up and they disembark. That Frontier airlines has taken this as some sort of lesson in reducing cost is odd, because flyers aren’t perching their patoots on a plane for maybe ten or fifteen minutes. They're generally on a plane for at least that long (sometimes twice that) before even taking off. Frontier may have very few flights over a few hours, but that’s still a few hours that you don’t want to be uncomfortable. What’s next, Frontier — bleachers?
5. I will accept that travelers carry luggage.
Another angle to the cynical money grab that has become Frontier’s guiding price strategy is the assumption that there is a significant population of travelers that essentially carries no luggage. The thing is, people don't generally use flights to commute to and from work. Frontier isn’t the only carrier that charges for luggage, but it was one of the first to make you pay for either checked or carry-on bags — which means that unless you’re heading to a nudist colony, you’ll be paying out the wazoo.
4. I will stop blaming everything on the weather.
Seriously, this ploy is so thin. Last spring, my daughter, who was flying unaccompanied, was supposed to come back to Denver but was taken off the flight because it was “too windy.” (We were told that the fact that the flight was oversold by one had no effect on this decision.) But when only an Act of God will excuse something, it seems like everything becomes an Act of God. Is it too much to ask for some simple honesty, too?
Keep reading for more resolutions for Frontier.
3. I will bring back the TVs.
Back in the day, Frontier was known for being customer-centric: good seats, headrests that bent around to support a quick nap, and free TV in the back of every seatback headrest. This was awesome, and exactly the reason — one of them, anyway — that I and many people I knew tended to fly Frontier exclusively, have the Frontier credit card to earn extra miles, etc. Then Frontier started charging for TV and took the free headphones away, and then it did away with the TVs for good. Sure, most of us have smartphones and iPads and laptops and whatnot, but it’s not like Frontier installed free wi-fi and outlets to help us run the things.
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SHOW ME HOW
2. I will stop the double talk.
Look, Frontier, just tell it like it is. “Pre-reclined” seats are more correctly known as “seats that don’t fucking recline.” “Stretch seating” really means “the way seats used to be — actually padded, actually reclining, with an accommodating amount of space between each seat — only we can charge more for that now.” Your “Discount Den” is a way for you to offer cheaper flights to regular customers — by charging them an annual fee of $50. And so on. Even the video above contorts to paint the changes — bus seats, no TV — in a positive light (complete with some really bad animal costumes, because animation is pricey, I guess; seriously, next time just hire some furries). Euphemisms are great for the magical land of salesmanship, but when your customers’ bullshit alarms go off every time they try to book a flight, it doesn’t exactly engender brand loyalty.
1. I will start with the funny animal commercials again.
If you’re going to keep sucking, Frontier, at least give us our talking wildlife back.