Frontier to Increase Cost of Popular Frequent Flyer Award

If you're a member of the loyalty programs of both Midwest and Frontier, keeping track of the differences between the two programs will soon be easier. And longer term, any remaining discrepancies may be rendered moot.

In the run-up to what may eventually be a full merger of the two airlines, changes are being made to bring their mileage programs into closer alignment.

Of course, faced with such a reconciliation project, there are always hard choices to be made: which of two conflicting policies to adopt, which to override?

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In the case of the latest changes, there are a couple of moderately positive changes. But where it matters most, the choice was to impose Midwest's less generous award-pricing policies on Frontier's program.

Here's a quick look at what's coming:

  • The price of round-trip domestic awards booked on or after June 15 will increase from 20,000 to 25,000 miles.
  • The price of Mexico awards will increase from 30,000 to 35,000 miles.
  • Prices for travel to or from Alaska have been reduced from 30,000 to 25,000 miles.
  • One-way awards will be half the round-trip price.
  • CHOICE awards (with fewer capacity controls) are now available to all members, not just elites.
  • Last-seat-availability awards will be offered to elite members, for 25,000 miles each way for domestic flights, and 30,000 miles to Mexico or Costa Rica.
  • The number of blackout dates has been reduced for the remainder of 2010, and will include November 24, 28, and 29; and December 23, 26, and 27.

By far the most significant of the changes is the increase in the domestic award price to 25,000 miles. That's the most popular award in all airline programs, and a price increase amounts to a major mileage devaluation. It's especially discouraging since Frontier's domestic coach awards were priced at just 15,000 miles as recently as two years ago.

A reduction in blackout dates? Almost meaningless. These days award availability is managed behind the scenes—the absence of published blackout dates hardly guarantees that award seats can be booked.

One-way awards priced at half the round-trip price? That's the industry standard. Midwest adopted the same policy a month ago.

While I'm negative overall about this latest round of changes, I haven't given up on Frontier, Midwest, and whatever form their eventual consolidation may take.

As I noted on the occasion of Frontier's exit from bankruptcy last year, Republic, which now owns both Frontier and Midwest, seems to have a solid grasp on the importance of loyalty marketing.

Here's an excerpt from an email I received yesterday from Midwest:

Our efforts to integrate Midwest Airlines and our sister carrier, Frontier Airlines, continues. We're in the final planning stages of standardizing aircraft seating configurations, addressing inflight connectivity and further enhancing our codeshare programs. And we're completing our work to fully integrate our frequent flyer programs. We look forward to providing you a seamless travel experience regardless of which airline you may be flying.

This story is a long way from over.

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