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Is Frontier the New Spirit Airlines?

Spirit is the airline everybody loves to hate.

Sure, the fares are low. Often eye-poppingly so.

But by the time you’ve totaled up all the add-on fees—for carry-on bags, checked bags, assigned seating, snacks, drinks, and so on—that advertised fare looks like the bait in “bait and switch.”

And whatever the final cost of travel turns out to be, you’re likely to feel nickel-and-dimed to death.

It’s a business model pioneered by Ryanair, whose chief, Michael O’Leary famously floated the idea of charging for lavatory access, and whose dodgy business practices have invited repeated scrutiny by European authorities.

Most consumers would say the world needs fewer airlines like Spirit and Ryanair, not more.

Frontier Airlines begs to differ.

The Denver-based carrier this week announced that it will follow Spirit’s lead in charging for carry-on bags. Beginning this summer, Frontier customers will pay up to $100 for the privilege of stowing their carry-on in an overhead bin.

And, effective July 1, passengers traveling on cheaper tickets will be charged $1.99 for coffee, juice, and soft drinks.

Also beginning on July 1, members of Frontier’s EarlyReturns program who fly on tickets not purchased on Frontier’s website will only earn 25 percent of the actual flown miles, down from 50 percent currently.

According to Frontier’s press release: “Frontier continues to make it easier for customers flying with Frontier to pay only for the services they use, which allows us to continue lowering fares.” Tellingly, the line could just as easily have appeared in a news release from Spirit or Ryanair.

These are just the latest moves in what the airline refers to its “transformation into an Ultra Low Cost Carrier.”

In September, the airline introduced its Basic fare: a heavily restricted coach fare offered only through non-Frontier channels (including online travel agencies) that awarded fewer frequent flyer miles, did not include advance seat assignments, and carried higher change fees.

It was a heavy-handed way to steer travelers toward Frontier’s own website, where distribution costs are minimized.

Next up: fees to use the lav?

Reader Reality Check

Is Frontier on the right course, is it headed in the wrong direction?

This article originally appeared on

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