Passengers on Frontier Airlines face a dizzying lineup of fees on everything from carry-on bags to sodas.
The airline has heard the complaints. On Wednesday, Frontier announced that it will discount several common fees if the customer buys them all in a bundle.
It's a subtle but interesting shift at Frontier, which has bet its turnaround on the model of so-called ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air. They charge low fares but tack on lots of fees, including some for things like carry-ons and coffee that are still free on bigger airlines.
Frontier President Barry Biffle defends the low-fare, high-fees model, which is called "unbundling," saying it allows more people to travel because they can opt not to buy services they don't need. He insists that Wednesday's announcement isn't a retreat on fees, which are hated by many passengers.
"We've gotten a lot of feedback from customers. They don't like this fee or that fee," Biffle said in an interview.
Frontier isn't eliminating any fees, but it will bundle several of them at a deep discount to ordering them a la carte. The package is called The Works and it includes one checked bag, one carry-on bag, the best available seat, and no fee for changing the ticket later.
Biffle compared the bundle to getting all the toppings on a pizza for one price — it still costs more than a plain cheese pizza. He said it could attract up to 10 percent of Frontier's customers. The airline's website says it applies to tickets bought by Aug. 31, but Biffle said it is permanent.
On a random round trip in mid-September between Dallas and Denver, the bundle would cost $106 compared with $270 if ordered separately. Either way, the fees are on top of the fare, which starts at $108 for members of Frontier's club and $158 for non-members.
Frontier is based in Denver, where it competes against Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. The new strategy seems aimed at United, which imposes more fees than Southwest and, like Frontier, has a worse-than-average rate of customer complaints.