Frontier Airlines: is this nice-sounding offer really a trap?
May 4, 2020 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Like many of us, I booked air travel that I couldn't actually take. Now Frontier is offering me a lot of frequent flyer miles in lieu of my travel credit. What's the catch?

I have like $250 in travel credit with Frontier (idk if it matters, but it was two one-way tickets, one for me and one for a friend). I have to book some kind of air travel with it by mid-June (ugh), though the travel dates can be later in the year. They're offering me 80,000 Frontier miles as an alternative.

I've never flown Frontier before but some casual googling suggests that 80,000 Frontier miles are worth quite a bit more than $250, plus it would extend my time to book flights by more than a year, all of which makes me assume it's a trap. Like, airlines don't generally just give you stuff. On the other hand, maybe...Frontier is different?? What do MeFites know about their frequent flyer program?

I have until the end of the day today to decide, apparently. (I've been sitting on this for...a while.) What say you, Metafilter? Should I take these miles?
posted by goodbyewaffles to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Well, the airline is conserving cash, and there are basically zero legal protections on any kind of loyalty points, miles, etc. They could announce tomorrow that all frequent-flier flights will now require 1 million miles and you would have zero recourse. Similarly, if they go out of business, you would get nothing. Are you sure you can't get a cash refund? If they cancelled your flight, you are entitled to one, in some cases even if you took a credit before the flight was actually cancelled. If you feel like gambling and are pretty sure you'd make better use of those miles at some future date, you might end up ahead, but personally I would be using the email contact form to ask for a refund to my original form of payment.
posted by wnissen at 1:19 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

wnissen, that's probably worth mentioning -- my flight DID get cancelled, but not until a few days after I'd cancelled my own reservation :(
posted by goodbyewaffles at 1:20 PM on May 4, 2020

My first thought is that maybe this looks better for them financially on paper -- frequent flier miles are probably accounted for differently than travel credits, so perhaps having fewer outstanding travel credits looks better to their investors.

It's also possibly not as good a deal as it seems, for example this link says that you'll have to pay taxes and fees, plus a Frontier miles redemption fee, for any flight that you book with miles. Also, flight prices in miles don't necessarily correspond to the dollar cost of the flight.
posted by mekily at 1:21 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

In your position, I would go and see exactly what 80,000 Frontier air miles buys me, and then base my decision on how I value what I find. Last time I tried to spend "bonus" air mile, the best thing i could find was a crappy little Razor scooter.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:24 PM on May 4, 2020

When trying to decide what you can get for your miles, consider that since fewer people are flying right now your miles are worth more at the moment. When things “open up”, they will be worth less than they are at this moment.

If I was in your shoes I would do everything in my power to get my money back, or maintain a credit in dollars not points.
posted by sacrifix at 1:27 PM on May 4, 2020

Frontier is a terrible airline in many ways, dedicated to seeming inexpensive but still wringing as much money out of you as possible through fees. They aren’t going to do anything that isn’t skewed in their financial favor, not ever.
posted by heurtebise at 1:32 PM on May 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

A fried of mine uses Frontier to fly back and forth toAkron from Los Angeles, and about 5 years ago, after a bad experience of getting snowed into Denver during a connection over the Christmas holiday without his luggage, he vowed to never use them again after the free credits he received from the debacle were used up.

Well, 5 years and many flights later, he still is flying Frontier because things always go bad enough that new credits take the place of the old ones. In fact, he might actually be ahead these days. If he sticks to his original vow, he might be flying Frontier once or twice a year until he dies.

My point: maybe better to just cut your losses and choose an entirely different airline.
posted by sideshow at 1:39 PM on May 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

#1 option is fight to get your cash back.
#2 depends on whether either the credit or the miles are transferable. There is a market for transferable miles although if you are a seller, you are usually selling at a discount. If either are transferable, go for that option. If neither is transferable go for the credit in my opinion. Miles have blackout periods and you have no idea if there will be inflation on miles that makes them worth less. 20,000 miles for a ticket suddenly becomes 30,000 because a lot of people have miles and Frointier needs to limit the free trips on a plane.
posted by AugustWest at 2:22 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

According to The Internet, the average redemption value of a Frontier frequent flyer mile is 1 cent, which means you’d be swapping $250 of value for $80 of value. In addition their frequent flier miles time out after 6 months.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:19 PM on May 4, 2020

Quick correction: 80,000 cents is $800, not $80.

I think it really depends on whether you'll be able to use those miles relatively soon. It's plausibly a good deal if you can.
posted by ktkt at 3:33 PM on May 4, 2020

Just wanted to add on to my point above about taxes and fees — taxes and fees are a huge portion of a plane ticket cost, sometimes up to half. So even if you redeem points for a flight you could still have to pay half the cost in cash.
posted by mekily at 4:58 PM on May 4, 2020

Quick correction: 80,000 cents is $800, not $80.

Doh. Quarantine has claimed another fragile mind.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:06 PM on May 4, 2020

Not to be flip, but in addition to the lack of guarantees and protections around miles/points that mean your credit could disappear entirely without recourse, the trap is that you'd have to fly Frontier.

To expound: They have one of the worst track records in an industry full of terrible track records for on-time, issue-free flights, to the point where I am aware of multiple Denver-based companies who have an official or unofficial corporate travel policy to not use Frontier if there is any other option. They have the smallest seats and least legroom. They charge for everything from being able to select your seat to any luggage besides a personal bag that fits under the seats (yes, including carry-on) to the in-flight beverage service--and you won't be able to use your miles on those.

Opt for the travel credit, which should (you should confirm this, though) pay for those extras as well as your base price. If you can't use it, well, you might not have been able to use the miles, either, and at least this way there's a chance.
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:37 PM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Don't give up, use the email contact form to send a short, polite message requesting that, since the flight was cancelled, they convert your credit/miles to a cash refund. The excellent consumer advocate Christopher Elliott has a site where you can get advice and see others experiences in their airlines forum. They also have executive contacts and guidelines for using them, once you've exhausted your normal support avenues. Don't wait, though, if airlines run out of cash there won't be much you can do except possibly appeal to your credit card company.
posted by wnissen at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

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