I really don't like coach. Well, no one likes coach but it's the cheapest way to fly so, what are you going to do?
My father and I had been discussing when our first ski trip of the season would be. Finally, we settled for MLK Day weekend. We then decided that we would aim to do this as cheap as possible without sacrificing comfort. A few days before our planned departure date, I begin to look at cheap flights. That's when I found Frontier.
Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Denver International Airport (DEN)
Departure/Arrival: (9:03pm/10:07pm (25 minutes late)
Class of Service: Economy ("Stretch Seats")
Meal(s): None (Buy-On-Board)
Aircraft: Airbus a320-214 (N210FR; Sheldon The Sea Turtle)
Duration: 2hr 4mins
Normally, I wouldn't spend a second writing about an experience in coach but there are a few exceptions. Frontier is one of them. Why? Well, over the past two or so years, Frontier has begun to restructure in a big way. Their joining Spirit and Allegiant in becoming an Ultra-Low Cost Carrier. Though I'd never fly any of the three ULCCs in basic economy, Frontier offers a pretty generous economy extra option branded as "Stretch Seats" so I decided to go ahead and book. The grand total came in at the ultra low price of $283.00.
The base fare was $69 w/taxes and fees. For $69 you'll get a seat, that's it. Checked bags, carry-ons, and a seat assignment are available add-ons. When prompted, I could choose between the base fare or adding "The Works" for $79 a person. I ultimately selected to opt in for "The Works" which allowed for both my father and I to bring a carry-on and check a bag. We also had the option to select a seat at no additional cost so I selected 13A and 13C, Stretch Seats in the exit row. Booking was surprisingly straightforward and simple. Selecting "The Works" also helped to minimize the hundreds of add-ons ULCCs like Frontier try to push.
Check-in also went smooth. We had arrived on an in-bound from St. Louis fairly early so the Frontier agents were just getting to their positions at ticketing. We used one of the kiosk to retrieve our boarding passes and then dropped off our bags at the counter. Everything was included with "The Works" once again, streamlining the whole process. One major drawback however, is that neither Frontier nor Spirit participate in the TSAPre program. Not to worry, we booked a refundable ticket on another carrier, entered our Known Traveler Numbers, proceeded through security with both boarding passes, and then cancelled the ticket on the other carrier thus allowing us to clear security using the TSAPre lane. No, I don't recommend that anyone pull that stunt as it could raise red flags and you run the risk of failing to get the full refund. Other than the TSAPre stunt, check-in was smooth and we were on our way to the L gates in no time.
"The Works" also gets you Group 1 which essentially equates to Priority Access, SkyPriority, or Premier Access. I did approach the gate agents and ask to pre-board to get a few shots of the cabin, The manager said yes however, he was not present at the time of pre-boarding so my request went unanswered. A flight attendant flying stand-by however, did approach me and ask for the link to my blog. Comments like that mean the world to a wanna-be blogger. That interaction kind of set the tone for the whole Frontier experience.
Once on-board, we made our way to our seats. The "Stretch Seats" are marked with black seat covers that feature a unique pattern not found on non-"Stretch" seats. The difference in legroom was apparent from the get-go.
Once boarding was complete, by father switched to the middle seat allowing us to sit next to each other. One lucky oversale stand-by got a "Stretch Seat" on the aisle, she was very appreciative and one of the better seat mates we could have asked for. I settled in and began preparing for the next two or so hours.
The only reason this flight was bearable was the fact that we were in the "Stretch Seats". If I would have had to stick the flight out in Frontier's basic economy seats, well, I wouldn't have, I would have exited the plane and booked on another airline.
Frontier's basic economy seats offer 28-31 inch pitch. 31 being an extreme with only a handful of passengers getting 30'' pitch. 28-29 inches seems to be the norm. Compare that to American's 30-31" pitch with 30 inches being the extreme. As I walked back from the lavatory mid-flight, it looked as if legroom was not existent with only a few passengers having room between the seat in front of them and their knees. Most passengers were close enough to the seat in front of them they were able to use their thighs and the seat in front of them as cellphone and tablet stands.
The "Stretch Seats", on the Airbus a320, are located in rows 1-3 and rows 12-13. "Stretch Seats" can be selected upon booking, check-in, or anytime before boarding for an additional fee. For the flight from Chicago to Denver, that fee was $30. Depending on flight duration and base fare price, the fee for a "Stretch Seat" can vary. This fee, as previously mentioned, was included in "The Works" package.
Overall, I was pretty impressed by the legroom offered by the "Stretch Seats". Unfortunately, the seats are "pre-reclined" however, all "Stretch Seats", except those found in row 12, have added recline compared to basic economy seats. Another amenity that comes with booking a "Stretch Seat" is having first pick at snacks and beverages. All snacks and beverages, except water, comes with an additional fee. Below is the menu from my flight. Though I did bring my own snacks, we ordered one drink each.
Frontier's "Fly Bar" Buy-On-Board Menu
How To Survive an Amenity-Less Flight
Though the "Stretch Seats" offered generous amounts of legroom and pitch. extra recline, first opportunity for snacks and drinks, and extra cushioning, Frontier doesn't offer any sort of amenities other than a bare-minimum snack cart. So I prepared for this flight a day in advance. I downloaded to episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, packed my phone mount, brought power reserves, and gathered my travel pillow and blanket. Before boarding, I bought snacks in Terminal 3 at O'Hare in preparation for the flight. My prep work came in handy and those 2ish hours flew by.
I'm honestly pleasantly surprised at how my first flight on an Ultra-Low Cost Carrier played out. The Frontier team was very professional, welcoming, and very accommodating. The "Stretch Seats" are a bargain. "The Works" pretty much eliminated all fees and simplified the whole booking experience. If you want to save a few hundred dollars next time, look no further than Frontier. Don't let the whole ULCC stigma get to you, it's not much different that any other flight in coach and you and your wallet will be overjoyed by how much you saved.
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