For our family flying to our vacation destination is a large part of our vacation expense. I am always looking for the best deal on airfare and the best airline for you may depend on what part of the country or world, you are flying from. The 2 major players, here in Denver, CO. are Southwest and Frontier and now Frontier often has the best deals out of Colorado Springs, CO. Sometimes one, up front, price may look better than another but they both have their hidden fees and challenges.
Today I am going to compare the 2 airlines.
Southwest has the Rapid Rewards Program. They reward you with points for your travel to use toward future flights. Sign up online for free & print your Rapid Rewards card online; we like to laminate ours. The number of points that you need for a particular flight will depend on the cost of the ticket.
One way to earn miles quickly is to apply for the Southwest Visa card. There are different types of cards that give you varying bonus points for signing up. The Rapid Rewards Premiere Business card will give you 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000. in the first 3 months & then you will get 6,000 points on your anniversary. The Rapid Rewards Plus card will give you 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months & then you will get 3,000 points on your anniversary. With the Rapid Rewards Program your points will expire if you do not use them or add to them every 24 months. The credit card can be a good way to add to your point total when you are not traveling. Here are details for the Southwest Visa
Frontier has the Early Returns Rewards Program. Run much like the Southwest program, you can earn reward miles for flights depending on the cost of the ticket. You can sign up for free online, but there is no way to print a card; be sure to record your login and account information.
Frontier also has a credit card that helps you earn points. Frontier offers 2 different Master Cards. One with a $69 annual fee that offers 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $500. in the first 3 months. The second card has no annual fee and offers 10,000 bonus miles after your first purchase. Here are the details for the Frontier Master Card
Be sure to check how many points a ticket would take from your home airport to see which rewards program would benefit you the most.
On both Southwest and Frontier: each passenger must have their own rewards number, no matter their age. The points / miles for travel will be added to each individual account. This is why I like having the printable cards that Southwest offers; the cards make it much easier for me to keep track of reward accounts for every member in my family.
Assigned seats is another area where both airlines differ
Southwest does not offer assigned seats. If you want to fly near friends or family, you have a couple of choices. You can try to check in exactly 24 hours before your flight & this will get you a higher priority boarding spot, Usually B class. If you do not check in, in advance, you will most likely be in C Class boarding & will be one of the last to board the plane. They do offer family boarding for people with small children, 6 and under. This group will board the plane right after the A Class group. If you are a frequent flyer, you will be in A Class for boarding; otherwise, you have the option of paying an additional $12.50 per ticket (one way) to be in priority boarding category & be among the first to board the plane in order to get your choice of seats.
Frontier does offer assigned seats that you choose at the time you book your tickets. Depending on where you want to sit on the flight & how far you are flying, you will pay a fee for each seat. From Denver to Orlando the fee ranges between $9 and $40 per seat. Occasionally I have seen seats with no additional fee. See my screen shot below:
Southwest has NO baggage fees. All of your bags fly completely free of charge. Each person is allowed 2 checked bags & a carry on. Of course each checked bag is limted to 50 pounds & there are other detailed size restrictions that you can read about HERE on Southwest’s baggage page.
Frontier charges for both checked bags as well as carry on bags. Their fees range from $25 – $30 for your first checked bag and $30 – $40 for your second check bag. Carry on bags range from $30 – $60 dollars. The way to get the cheapest baggage fees is to pay on thier website in advance (at least 24 hours prior to your departure) at flyfrontier.com under “my trips”. You can also pre-purchase checked bags at the time that you buy your plane tickets. If you do not sign up for your checked baggage online, you will be looking at $40 – $45 per bag checked at the airport ticket counter. Details on Frontier’s baggage policy HERE
As of the start of 2016, Frontier has raised the price of their baggage during popular travel times, especially checking it in a the ticket counter in the airport. They have also added a ‘value season’ for your baggage and if you can decipher the dates on the chart below, you may be able to figure out what ‘value season’ actually is.
Cancellation / Change Fees:
This is a difficult topic to summarize, but I do know a little bit from my personal experience & will share that information with you.
Southwest does not charge any change fees. If you decide to change your dates, tickets or anything else, you just log on to your account & change your ticket; you will have to pay any price increase or will be given a credit for any price decrease. If you find a lower fare for your exact flight, you can log on & change your ticket to the lower fare. Here’s the catch… if you purchased your ticket with points, you will be refunded the difference, in points, to your account. If you purchased your ticket with cash or credit card, you will be given a credit, through Southwest, to use on a future flight within one year of the date that you booked the original flight. I have taken advantage of this a couple of times, but many times my credit will expire before I can use it.
Here are details on Southwest’s Cancellation/refund policy
Here are details on Southwest’s ticket change policy
Frontier allows you to cancel your flights within 24 hours of booking with no fees. So you can hold on to that flight & seats for 24 hours in order to take time to decide. After the 24 hours is up, you may have to pay fees to cancel or change your flights with Frontier based on what type of ticket that you purchased. As of today, if you want to change or cancel your flight more than 24 hours after your booking, there is a $99. change fee per person unless you have added ‘The Works’ ticket add on when you purchased.
Frontier now offering ‘The works’ Ticket add on and “Discount Den”:
The Works includes one carry-on bag (normally a $30 fee), one checked bag (a $25 charge), choice of any available seat — including exit row and stretch seating for no extra charge, full refundability of the ticket within 24 hours of departure, no change fees (typically $99) and priority boarding.
The Works tacks on $49-$79 each way for direct flights, and it will run $57 to $83 each way for connecting flights.
Discount Den is a program through Frontier Airlines to which you can subscribe and be allowed access to special low fares on select flights. The cost is $49.99 a year & you can buy yourself & up to 5 other people tickets at the “Den Deals” price. The catch is that there are a limited number of these cheap tickets available on each flight & once they are gone, they are gone. I suggest that you search for your flight first & IF there are enough “Den Deals” tickets for your travel party & IF it will save you money after the $49.99 fee, then you may want to pay to subscribe to the Discount Den program.
Both airlines seem to have good customer service. I have had negative experiences on a couple of other airlines, not mentioned in this article. I have celled both airline call centers and have gotten a friendly, easy to understand, representative that is willing to help me in any way that they can.
When they have time, Southwest really treats my children well. They have given them plastic wings and have even invited them to sit in the cockpit and play pilot on occasion.
I must thank both Southwest and Frontier for providing quality air service at a price that makes it possible for my family to visit our vacation destinations and I leave you with some links to learn more about both airlines or purchase airfare for your next vacation destination.
Although Southwest is by far more straight forward & simple to book & know what you are gong to pay with no hidden fees, My family can still occasionally find a good deal through Frontier using a great deal of math to compare the 2 airline tickets.
Be sure to watch their Facebook pages for special deals that they often run. Although finding good airfare is another subject entirely, I will direct you to watch fares from your local airport at http://www.airfarewatchdog.com
I would love to hear from you in the comments below. What airline is your favorite? What do you like about them? How do you find the best deals on airfare?
My name is Melissa, I am a travel agent. Once you have found that perfect airfare, allow me to help you book & plan your vacation to your dream destination. I specialize in family destinations such as Disney and Universal Parks. I work for Main Street Adventures Travel Agency and can book any vacation to any destination. Contact me for a free, no obligation quote: Melissa@PixieDustAdventures.com or visit my website: www.PixieDustAdventures.com
Thank you for reading! – Melissa Mathies, Pixie Dust Adventures