Bad Move Frontier Airlines, Sean Menke

We talked a lot about DellHell this weekend, about Jeff Jarvis and his very public displeasure with Dell.

Frontier, now the finger is being wagged on you.  My second experience of Frontier Fail.

Very, very quietly, Frontier Airlines, the airline I am a flight away from being in their highest awards program, eliminated standby (the act of taking an earlier flight on the same day if there is room).

Really? You took away something high value to your customers that costs you nothing.

And why?  No reason given.  And how did they tell all their customers?  Through a press release (and a “lets hope this passes over without anyone noticing Friday afternoon press release”).  My I be so brash to call that cowardly and downright lame.  Sean Menke (CEO of Frontier), I am talking to you.  We deserve better.  You can do better.

I fly with Frontier 20 times a year.  You know my email.  You know my phone number.  But you waited until I got to the airport, leaving a perfectly good office with great people and a chair with a desk, to sit in the airport, to find out the news that you decided to cut corners.

That is a bad way to treat your customers.

My friend Jeremy was on the flight I was trying to fly standby on, and confirmed an empty seat right by him as they closed the gates.  At this same moment, the gate attendant was telling me that every seat was filled, and that even if I wanted to I couldn’t get on the flight.  Dishonesty is a policy?

But now I am in the airport, waiting for 6 hours for my flight, time to do some work… and on my list? To buy 4 plane tickets.

Who do you think I am going to fly?

**UPDATE** Still here!  Used my time to launch Frontier Fail which aggregates twitter searchs for “Frontier Fail,” “Frontier :(” and “Frontier Sucks.”

**UPDATE 2** Still here!  Saw the next flight leave with not near a full cabin.  Employees were like robots, no you can not fly standby, for any reason.  Found out that if you are Summit, you can, no problem, but they never asked.  Just purchaced $1892 worth of airline tickets for future trips, guess who didn’t get a $1 of it?






49 responses to “Bad Move Frontier Airlines, Sean Menke”

  1. tankilo Avatar

    The lol'cats caption is a nice touch. Huge bummer to be stuck at the airport for 6 hours.

  2. jwilker Avatar

    Had the same crappy experience. Arrived in time for a flight that leaving before mine just by happenstance, only to be told, Sorry no standby. They actually told me it was possible, if I paid the fare difference, as well as the change flight penalty fee. Uh no. Frontier is accelerating their descent down the death spiral.

  3. Nancy C Avatar
    Nancy C

    I am sorry to hear that standby flights are no longer an option on Frontier. All the worse to find out from a blogpost versus notification from who has been my favorite airline to this point. And worse yet for you, Andrew, to be at the airport and have this experience. Frontier has been my airline of choice for years as they have kept the interest of the customer foremost in their mind which has been reflected by their customer service levels. While my co-workers choose United, I have flown Frontier enjoying the extra legroom, flight attendants that seem to value the business, and checked bags at no additional ala carte fee. But if Frontier is lowering their experience to be on par with the other airlines I have no motivation to chose them each time I fly. Only when their schedule is convenient or the fare cheaper. Maybe Southwest is worth a second look afterall.

  4. Bruce Avatar

    I took a Frontier flight a few weeks ago and asked about standby – the front desk was disappointed that they'd eliminated standy but the larger issue was that it was *too* successful. In an industry that expends a great deal of effort to make sure they've the right planes in the right place at the right time, they were finding it increasingly hard to accurately predict when and where they needed planes. They were frequently expecting full flights later in the day and would send larger planes only to find that huge numbers of people were getting onto the emptier earlier flights and that they'd end up over-resourcing the end of the day flights. While I find it frustrating, it was a argument that was hard to argue, especially with the increase over the last few years of high fuel costs and a tightening market. While it may not have been the best-solution from a user perspective, it's certainly a way to constrain the customer to follow through on their original intent that Frontier has planned for. Now, I'm not even going to try and defend the situation where Jeremy had an empty seat next to him, but the flip side is going to be that if they allow one exception to the change in policy, they'll need to keep it up and compromise their own efforts.

  5. Kelly Taylor Avatar
    Kelly Taylor

    Frontier is my favorite airline…walking to terminal A at DIA is so nice. Please Frontier, listen to guys like Andrew and be smart about customer service.

  6. Alma Avatar

    Sounds similar to a nightmare experience I had on an American Airlines flight from Denver to LA in May. Two days before my flight, they cancelled my original reservation and stuck me on a packed flight that was two hours later than the original. Only they failed to tell me this. I only saw the change when I went to their site. I was also traveling with my cat (which is a whole 'nother end of Hell) and was recovering from a knee injury. When I arrived, all the extra stuff I had to do to travel with my cat (including an inconvenient and costly visit to the vet for a certificate of health) was pretty much unnecessary since the attendant never even checked that I had the required documentation. She also told me the wrong gate information, which resulted in my having to walk significantly further–knowing I had a pretty bad injury. I thought it sounded fishy and confirmed with her again that it was correct. Then, once I got to the wrong gate, another attendant gave me the wrong information (nothing was posted yet since they require way too early check-in if you're flying with a pet). I ended up walking to that gate and then being told yet again that I needed to go to a gate adjacent to the original. It went on like that for at least an hour. And then they delayed the flight by 3 hours because the crew had wracked up too many hours. I love the convenience of air travel, but until the airlines start valuing their customers, I am more than happy to choose to drive everywhere instead. There's really nowhere I need to be that warrants endorsing this broken system. They don't deserve my money or my patronage.

  7. Luca Avatar

    A few months ago they changed they altogether canceled from their schedule a (vacation) flight my wife and I were ticketed on, only a few weeks before the flight. A press release went out, but (1) they did not call or email to notify us, and (2) on their website they kept selling tickets for the canceled flights.

  8. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    It is cool, gave me time to create some projects to remind me of Frontier Fail.

  9. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    Just found out that it works if you are Summit. I was hoping they were out of their death spiral.

  10. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    I'm taking a serious look at them now.

  11. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    Just watched the next flight load up with a half empty cabin, stood right in front of the representatives… they just looked at me and closed the door. Frontier Fail.

  12. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    Horrible story, we can only hope all airlines get it right in the future.

  13. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    As said above, is this the death spiral? Frontier Fail…

  14. jwilker Avatar

    Yeah me too. I flew them a long time ago and was Left feeling meh. but then flew more recently and it didn't suck. It wasn't frontier but then again, Frontier isn't Frontier so… It's sad that what Made them "Denver's number one carrier" is almost entirely gone, while Southwest seems to be trucking along just fine not gouging their customers.

  15. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    Horrible to hear that…

  16. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    We can only hope…

  17. Nancy C Avatar
    Nancy C

    I flew on Southwest a few weeks back to Vegas. Turned out to be a good experience. I was pleasantly surprised.
    You just have to learn the system and you are set. The fares are very affordable, plenty of overhead room for bags.
    No fee (as of yet) to check a bag.

  18. Bruce Avatar

    I agree on the experience side, but how should they deal with their logistics problem?

  19. RJ Avatar

    Jet Blue it is, boys!

  20. jwilker Avatar

    I'd say they look at Southwest, who seems to be doing it right, or Jet Blue. Both airlines seem to be not sucking as bad as the rest, so they've obviously figured something out.

  21. jwilker Avatar

    I think is, sadly. The bankruptcy, the charging for even a single checkeed bag, the charging for snacks. Who knows charging for the cup of soda, charging for an issue of Sky Mall, charging to for aisle seats… So Sad

  22. Ingrid Avatar

    Actually, you can only fly standby on Southwest if you pay their highest fare – I believe it's called the 'Business Select'. Certainly not for their web fares, which tend to still be higher than most other airlines. For someone who travels at least 20 times a year, I would actually have expected it to be more than two bad experiences, even for Frontier, who in my book is top notch. Being stuck at the airport isn't fun for anyone. However, if you've chosen to try to get on an earlier flight and fly standby for at least half of these flights, then you're used to 'leaving a perfectly good office with great people and a chair with a desk' to try to get on a flight that you don't actually have a ticket for, aren't you? Is it just that you have normally gotten on a previous flight? If so, consider yourself extremely lucky that it has worked out in your favor every single time you've tried to get an earlier flight in the past. I think that there has to be some responsibility of the individual on this one, I have to be honest with you, Andrew. They have been pretty good about sending out emails to their Early Returns members since they filed for Chapter 11 about their changes. Are you sure you just didn't miss the fine print in one of them?

  23. Matthew Avatar

    Andrew, I have had a similar experience 2X at the PDX airport. The Frontier team there was very apologetic and suggested that I write a letter and/or email. I did both, but never heard back from Frontier. IT makes absolutely no sense to me. Especially w/ Southwest breathing down their necks. Frontier should really think about how they make there money. Business travelers are the life blood of any airline and screwing w/ them by not allowing them to fly standbye makes absolutely no sense. The one ray of hope b/c sometimes Frontier is just the only one w/ a convenient time is that I was told that sometime in the next month or two they will start allowing Ascent members to fly standbye again.

  24. […] wrote negatively about Frontier Airlines a few days ago.  They really are my favorite airline, and in a large way, it was an experiment to […]

  25. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    The first bad experience left be stranded for 7 days while all of their phone lines were locked up (snow storm). No apology, no remorse, to plan to handle a bigger snowstorm from a support standpoint. 1. Being flat out lied to is not acceptable. 2. Flying stadby is always a risk, and I only try to do so for cases like this, where I was sick. 3. There were two flights that had seats that left before mine, they had multiple opportunities to fix the problem, yet the customer service reps chose to just ignore it. 4. Sending a Friday afternoon PR is what you do when you want to hide a story. I don't have an email from them that explains this new policy.

  26. Andrew Hyde Avatar
    Andrew Hyde

    I think that is the big point of posting it… they just want to ignor it. Cheaper that way. Short term costs at least. Letting Ascent and Summit fly standby is the perfect way to handle the situation.

  27. kchaux Avatar

    I had a "Frontier Fail" last week traveling LAX -> DEN (btw, flying Frontier out of LA is possibly one of the worst experiences on the planet). This was the return leg of my roundtrip, and after imposing the new $15 per checked bag fee on me (that went into effect the day before my return leg and was not disclosed when I booked), they also hit me for another $75 b/c my suitcase was 4lbs over their allowance. When I complained, she suggested I remove 4lbs worth of my stuff – I was like, "and do what with it???". Ugh. Then spent 4 more hours at LAX because the flight kept getting bumped and ended up leaving 3 hours late. No apologies, no nothing. I called Frontier customer service this morning to complain. Horrible experience throughout. Want to hear the best one? When the beverage cart came through, I asked for water for me and milk for my toddler (for his bottle). She said I couldn't have the milk, it was only available for people who bought cereal, so I could just buy the cereal for $3 and then I could have the milk. LAME.

  28. Ryan Wanger Avatar

    kchaux, according to this page:… there shouldn't have been a scenario where you paid for luggage on one leg of a flight, but not another. It's based on the day you bought the ticket.

    The only thing I have to complain about is that for my recent flight with them, I received an email about a week after booking that my itinerary had changed….to a return flight 4 HOURS later than the original. I understand things change, but how about giving us an option to cancel the trip? We specifically bought THOSE tickets because of the schedule.

  29. craig Avatar

    I am sitting in DIA waiting for my flight… got up early to try to catch a standby flight
    and was told that they no longer do this unless .. yeah.. summit… I figure I could drink 150 bucks in booze… ! 🙂 but yes… I agree that I will not fly frontier unless I have to… there will be no loyalty… but my friend who flies frequently has had the same problem abroad…

  30. andrewhyde Avatar

    Hey, I'm at DIA too, waiting for a flight to Phoenix. This flight will put me over to Summit, and have had luck with Frontier since.

  31. […] got back to me a few weeks ago (meant to post it sooner, but travel has been tough).   I wrote a few posts and launched Frontier Fail in a response to some of their policy […]

  32. Grantland Hammond Avatar

    First time flying on Frontier and now my bags have disappeared off the face of the earth…adding insult to injury, no one will call me back at LAX!! What a bunch of fools, I will never cheat of Southwest Airline again.

  33. […] got back to me a few weeks ago (meant to post it sooner, but travel has been tough). I wrote a few posts and launched Frontier Fail in a response to some of their policy […]

  34. kmoden Avatar

    Sitting at DFW waiting 3 hours for my flight, and watched the earlier one come and go. What a crappy policy. I am Ascent and flew 24,777 miles last year and I can't even fly stand by. Idiots. Now I have to fly United….grrrreat.

  35. rpdenver Avatar

    Our family of 5 flew from Denver to Cancun-without a hitch. Very nice people and good service. Don't ask why, but we failed to claim one of our 6 suitcases and breezed through customs and took our van to our resort. Several hours later discovered my bag missing. One call to Frontier baggage and my bag was found, cleared customs and delivered to my hotel. I was so impressed with this service. It was almost like the old days….

  36. cabeachguy Avatar

    I needed to go to Denver for a job interview and thought I’d use Frontier for the first time, as I’d heard good things about them and I wanted to try them out as a possible secondary carrier in and out of DIA.

    I completed my business in Denver and got to the airport at noon the next day with the hope that I’d be able to catch an earlier flight back than the 7PM flight I had booked.

    At the counter the agent told me that they had lots of seats available on the next flight out. She also told me that they had a “strict policy of not offering standby seats anymore”. She stated that if I had originally purchased a ticket priced only $20 more, I would not have to pay the $50 additional penalty fee necessary to board an earlier flight.

    For those that don’t know, Frontier has 3 tiers of ticket prices (not 3 levels of service though; there is no business class or first class, just three levels of ticket pricing).
    I tried to reason with the agent by saying that the flight in on a Tuesday was a $108 fare and the Wednesday flight out was a $333 fare, so there had to be a bit of “wiggle room” built into that $333 fare without her having to charge me any sort of additional surcharge.

    She told me that corporate was watching the agents closely for adjustments to tickets without the additional charges, and that they were required to enter a lengthy justification into the computer system whenever the situation warranted a ticket adjustment with no fee being charged.

    I asked her if it would not be worth a few minutes of her time to enter in the information in order to save or gain a new customer. She indicated she would not. I asked for a supervisor and she told me that the supervisor was busy and that it might be some time before she could come to the desk. I told her I had 7 hours to wait.

    Five minutes later the supervisor came to the ticket counter and I explained the situation again to her. The supervisor told me that she would not be able to assist me. She told me that Wednesday was a heavy travel day for people getting a jump on the weekend. I almost burst out laughing at that one, but I kept my composure as I questioned her about that, and she reaffirmed her statement.

    I told her that I was a United Airlines 1K Elite member, and a Southwest Airlines A-List member and that this was the first time I was flying Frontier, and the reason that I had chosen Frontier was that if I accepted the position in Denver I would shift my Southwest business over to Frontier, as Frontier and United are the two dominant carriers at DIA. She reaffirmed that there was nothing that she could (or would) do for me, and that I would not be able to be placed on an earlier departure and would just have to wait in the terminal for 7 hours until my flight took off.

    Shortly thereafter, I was at the gate and I asked the gate agent if it would be possible to get on the next departure. He stated that without paying the fee, there would be no way to depart earlier. He indicated that he was “very low on the food chain” and did not have that option available to him. I thanked him for his explanation and concern and called the 800 customer service number.

    The person I spoke with at customer service told me the fee was actually $75, not $50, and that the ticket agent and supervisor had misspoken. She reiterated that she would not be able to get me on one of the earlier flights based on my $333 ticket price.

    At that point I told the customer service person that I was considering a position as National Sales Manager with a hi-tech company in Denver and that I would be traveling to 6 trade shows, 3 conferences and a few awards shows per year, in addition to regular weekly national travel. Each of these events would require from 3-20 of my staff to travel to these events as well, and I told her that if any staff were to travel with me I would instruct my travel department to never, ever book myself or staff traveling with me on Frontier. She expressed regret, but refused to book my on an earlier flight.

    After sitting for a few hours watching the minutes go by, at the adjoining gate I heard a gate agent page for “standby passenger Betty XXX…” I thought that Frontier didn’t have a standby policy, or that’s what I was told just a while ago. Hmmm….

    All conversations were conducted in the most professional manner, with no snide comments, raised voice or any other reason for the people I dealt with to be upset with my conduct.

    Frontier’s attitude suggests that they think they are the only carrier that people have to choose from; I can assure them that this is not the case. It is hard to imagine that a carrier would have a policy in place that allows (or encourages) the point people working directly with the public to willingly let a potential high revenue customer walk away feeling like they have not been treated fairly. One can only hope that the manager that OK’d this policy will be fired at some point for thinking that the money they make with this policy offsets the loss of customer goodwill. It certainly is short-term thinking and not in the long-term interests of the company.

    I’ll stick with United and Southwest, and never again fly Frontier.

  37. PETER Atkins Avatar
    PETER Atkins

    I bought a one way ticket from Cabo Mexico with miles and paid the taxes when arrived @ the airport I was told I could not get on the plane unless i paid @48.00 for a new ticket. I was basically held hostage and could not leave until I paid the Ransom. One month later I'm still 20,000 miles and #350.00 short.

  38. Rags Srinivasan Avatar

    I just read this after your tweet on nasty comments on a recent post.
    I would like to point out a few things
    1. what it costs the airline is not relevant to what they can charge for it. If it is of value to customers then any marketer should be able to share that value created.
    2. It is true that the marginal cost is zero (or close to it) for one additional passenger but they would set a bad reference price with that approach. On a related note I was under the impression that the marginal cost is zero for bags too but a cost accounting study quoted in WSJ article said it is $15 per bag.
    3. All these aside, any business should know its customers and should classify them into tiers based on the revenues (life time) they bring. So they should be doing preferential treatment to their top tiers.
    4. Your anguish is understandable because of the revenue you bring them and also the reference price in your mind for the standby set by previous experiences.

    What they could have done differently is to have better managed your expectations and worked on improving the reference price in the minds of their customers. You said about no emails, a surprising policy change. They could have gone a step further, in addition to sending an email they could have sent a “One Free Standby” coupon (that shows clearly the fee that is being waived) to all their customers. I did a recent experiment on customer acceptance of unbundled pricing for baggage, drinks, pillows. I found that customers were more likely to accept these extra fees when airline works to set their reference price.

    The net is, I do not see a problem in charging for standby but in the way it is implemented.

  39. Dan Avatar


    I must be missing the point. You showed up 6 hours before your scheduled departure and are upset that you weren't able to fly out earlier? Even if standby was an option, there is no guarantee you'd get a seat.

    We've all got a nightmare travel story, but this is hardly that serious. You didn't lose any luggage and your scheduled flight was on time. Sounds like a win to me.

    I'm sorry to be unsympathetic, but this hardly seems a reason start an internet smear campaign.


  40. andrewhyde Avatar

    I fully understand the risks of standby. The issue is in a policy change that wasn't communicated to the customers (in this case, no standby).

    Fair enough, I didn't get on the flight, but others did, and the next one. I was told the flight was totally full, no way I could even buy a ticket. In this case I was lied to, treated with disrespect and as a passionate customer, was made to feel not welcome.

    And in the process, found out that there is no customer service outreach from Frontier Air online.

  41. andrewhyde Avatar

    I don't see a problem charging for standby either, I do have an issue of offering it and then very quietly getting rid of it, and blaming the customers for not reading the terms.

    I also see the points of widespread standby misuse.

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  44. EX-Frontier Employee Avatar
    EX-Frontier Employee

    Sadly, I worked for Frontier Reservations and could never help passengers in need. If a passenger had unforseen circumstances they still had to pay high change fees. I could no longer work for a company who didn't care about people. Jeff Potter made Frontier Airlines compassionate and caring, until Sean Menke decided to cut costs and run the airline to the ground. Not only did the passengers feel Sean's cuts so did all the employees. I just wanted to write a Thank You to all passengers who did give Frontier a chance, I had a job because you gave Frontier your business.

  45. Nick Gonzalez Avatar
    Nick Gonzalez


    I was traveling from Santa Anna, CA to Nashville and change over in Denver. On the way to Denver I had a screaming child behind me. I wanted to sleep so since I was going to stay awake I asked the stewardess for free tv which she gave me but didnt want too.

    The same plane I just got off from was the same one I got on to go to Nashville. I sat in row 13c where there was a single compartment overhead bin. I put my backpack in there that had my laptop that I use to take online classes.

    A late passenger gets on and opens my bin and asks who's bag is this? I said mine, he said i'm gonna move it. I told him no your not. He went and got a stewardess who wanted to move my bag, I told her no. She moved it and the other passenger looked at me and said “you want some”. I said you lil fu*ker, you better sit down. The stewardess heard me and got me booted. She say me as a threat. I know i shouldnt have cursed but I was upset.

    I'm really upset that a 20 year retired Army Disabled Veteran was treated like a terrorist. I called their customer relations line and all they say is I will forward this. No care for their customers, no reimbursements, no apologies. I WILL NEVER fly frontier again.

  46. Natasha Avatar

    I totally agree with you. Frontier's customer service is appalling. I just tried to book tickets for over an hour on their website. I couldn't book the tix because my frequent flyer number wasn't recognized. Turns out after speaking to a customer rep, that the reason for that might have been b/c I have a hyphen in my last name although I have always been able to book tickets in the past with the same exact name and going through the exact same process. So, basically, their website was not working as it should have been. While spending 15 minutes on hold with the rep, I tried to rebook the flight only to find that the price had gone up by $46! So because of their website complications, I am being punished by having to pay $46 more. The manager said they couldn't do anything about giving me my initial ticket price–that I would need to pay the $46 more. It's too bad. We were this close to getting a free ticket with our frequent flyer miles. However, I'm completely willing to give that up and never fly Frontier again. Southwest has always had comparable fares with Frontier, so we're going to use Southwest now. I always had some local affection for Frontier since it was a Colorado company, but I am no longer a Frontier cheerleader. We're never flying Frontier again.

  47. clinton123 Avatar

    Horizon Air and Alaska Air both owned and operated by Alaska Air Group makes customer satisfaction its top priority. They have always treated me like a human being and go out of there way for customer satisfaction.

  48. clinton123 Avatar

    Horizon Air and Alaska Air both owned and operated by Alaska Air Group makes customer satisfaction its top priority. They have always treated me like a human being and go out of there way for customer satisfaction.

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