Frontier Airlines announced a flashy deal for frequent travelers Tuesday: a summer travel pass priced at $399 that will provide unlimited flights anywhere on its route map for nearly five months later this year.
It comes with big catches — several of them costly — that make the promotion the best deal for the most flexible of travelers, especially if they travel light, with no checked or carry-on luggage that would incur fees. The returns are likely to be diminishing for others eyeing just a few trips during the warmer months.
Still, if wielded smartly, the “Go Wild!” pass offers unlimited access from Denver International Airport, where Frontier is the third-largest carrier by market share, to destinations from coast to coast, plus Mexico and a new direct flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The pass works between May 2 and Sept. 30, but the first catch is that domestic flights can only be booked the day before, with international flights available up to 10 days in advance — if any seats are available. And pass holders still are responsible for paying a 1-cent fare for each segment plus government- and airport-imposed taxes and fees, now $14.90 per domestic flight.
The Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier’s unlimited pass, first announced last fall in the form of an annual version, has turned heads in the aviation industry.
Not least because it offers the airline a way to fill empty seats that likely would sit empty.
“If Frontier doesn’t try to get too stingy, it will come out of this smelling like roses for offering something fun and unique while generating a bunch of extra revenue on seats that will almost certainly otherwise go unsold,” said a post on the Cranky Flier, an industry news and opinion website, after the annual pass was announced in November.
Frontier says the $399 price for the summer pass will be offered “on a limited basis” and could increase. Since the airline began selling the annual “Go Wild!” pass in November, its price has increased from $599 to $999. Spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz declined to say how many annual passes the airline has sold.
Now for the other big catches.
Travelers using either pass have to work around blackout dates, generally surrounding major holidays. Besides taxes, they will pay extra if they want to select a seat (starting at $11), check luggage or carry on a bag (either can start at $40 or more each way but depends on the flight and when the fee is paid). Like other airlines, Frontier doesn’t charge for a personal item, including a purse, a laptop bag or a small children’s backpack.
While pass holders can book nearly any seat that’s still available during the short advance times allowed, Frontier also says it won’t guarantee that the final seat on a plane can be claimed, adding some uncertainty.
And pass holders will need to watch their expiration dates. Frontier’s terms say they will automatically renew at each pass’ “retail” price — currently set at $999 for the summer pass and $1,999 for the annual pass.
Frontier touts the summer pass as a chance to explore, so long as travelers heed the many restrictions.
“For people with flexible schedules, this is a terrific opportunity to have a truly epic summer and then some, soaking up rays on the beach, exploring national parks and visiting new cities,” said Daniel Shurz, the airline’s senior vice president of commercial, in a news release.
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