In what is probably best viewed in the context of Frontier’s continuing evolution into an ultra-low-cost carrier (think Spirit), the airline has announced that its current two-tiered elite program will be replaced by a single elite tier beginning next year. From Frontier’s website:
Starting February 20, 2015, the EarlyReturns program will retire Ascent and Summit elite status and launch a brand new elite tier, Frontier Elite. The new Frontier Elite will offer a simple elite tier structure, but will still reward our most frequent fliers with added benefits.
The new tier will entitle EarlyReturns members who fly at least 20,000 miles or 25 segments during 2014 to the following:
- Free Discount Den membership (but only through June 2015)
- Priority check-in, boarding, and security
- Advance seat assignments
- Complimentary carry-on bag
- Extra legroom seating (at check-in only)
- Access to better award availability (for more miles)
- Award redemption fee waived
- Standby and same-day confirmed fees waived
- Unaccompanied minor fees waived
- Phone booking fee waived
What elites won’t get:
- No bonus flight miles
- No free checked bags
- No dedicated elite phone number
- No complimentary drinks
- No free name changes
- No advance seat assignments for upgraded seats
- No same-day confirmed alternative flight
Apparently sensitive to the fact that Frontier’s lurch toward the low end of the airline-service spectrum is viewed dimly by some of its most established customers, the airline addresses the loyalty question head on in a FAQ: “Why should I still give Frontier my business? What’s the benefit of being a Frontier frequent flyer anymore?”
The airline’s response:
Flying Frontier offers you ultra low fares which makes air travel even more affordable! You can expect more choice from us and the ability to optimize your travel experience for the comfort and value you seek. Additionally, being an EarlyReturns member allows you to accrue miles that you can use towards award travel (subject to fees/taxes from $5.60) or partner awards. Plus, we offer a competitive elite status which offers additional benefits like advanced seating and a free carry-on.
A “competitive elite status”? It would be a stretch to call the current elite program competitive. With the upcoming changes, the best that can be said is that it’s a halfhearted gesture, an elite program that barely lives up to its name.
Frontier travelers who demand a genuinely competitive elite program will have to look elsewhere.
Reader Reality Check
The “new” Frontier: Yay or nay?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.