A look at Frontier Airlines elite status & award redemptions

Many people wouldn’t consider taking one flight on budget airline Frontier, much less taking enough flights to earn elite status.

I did it. Here’s my story:

I live in California, my girlfriend and family (and puppy) live in Florida. I needed a way to get back and forth for cheap, and Frontier was that way.

I signed up for Frontier’s “Discount Den” club for $50, and 10 months later I’m a Frontier Elite. I took flights to Orlando, Denver to see my grandma, and Phoenix to see my parents, each under $150 roundtrip, sometimes much cheaper.

Here is how to qualify for Frontier Elite in a year:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.43.00 PM

(Update 2018: Frontier switched to calendar-year elite earning.)

Luckily Frontier has an earnings chart for the many confusing fare options they offer:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.45.12 PM

Yep, just one option, and the distance of your flight is the amount of miles you earn per flight. Frontier is currently running a promo that is offering double miles on flights, so a 2K-mile flight will earn you 4K loyalty miles.

They also have a chart for the many confusing Elite tiers…oh, again just one.

Here are the Elite benefits:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.42.42 PM

Here is what seat selection looks like for Elite vs. non-Elite travelers:

While Elites are able to upgrade to any available “Stretch” seats at check-in, I did notice a few exit row seats available for free from the start:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.52.57 PM

The other main Elite benefit is the free carry-on bag, which is usually $30.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.00.15 PM

Frontier offers an upgrade package called “the Works” that is a pretty good value, but adding that brings you closer to the price you pay to fly non-budget airlines. It basically turns your flight into a Southwest Airlines flight (changeable, free checked bag), plus the roomier seats.

If you need to check bags, this option is a no-brainer:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.58.01 PM

As far as Frontier miles go, they definitely are worth less than a standard airline’s miles. Not sure Frontier miles are worth anything? Like any program, there are sweet spots for award redemptions that almost always require a flexible travel schedule.

Here is their redemption chart for miles:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.45.33 PM

Unfortunately they don’t have many options for those international flights, but if you happen to live near one, it’d be a very good way to use your Frontier miles.

They do have award redemption fees, but as with most things Frontier, there is a way to get around them:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.46.23 PM

Here is an example of an international award redemption compared to the same ticket as a paid fare. San Francisco to Cancun, Mexico:

Even though that’s the cheapest paid fare I could find on Frontier for this flight, you could definitely find that flight for cheaper on other airlines. Frontier’s sweet spot for paid fares is in the fare sales they run several times a week, which are much better than Southwest Airlines sales.

I have yet to take a flight as a Frontier Elite, but I’ll be sure to post an update when I do.

**Update: After a few flights as an Elite, here are my thoughts: Sure enough, you can select the “Stretch” seats for free and get a free carry-on, which is great. Thing is, if you’re traveling with someone who is not an Elite, you have to pay full price to select their seat, which is at least $25 for a “Stretch” seat.  **

Fancy frequent flyers would scoff at me, but with 60K miles to spend and my shiny new budget airline Elite status, it looks like I’m forced to get to know Frontier a little more this year.

If you have any questions or would like further info on anything, please let me know in comments. Have a good one!

**Update 2: After about ten flights as an Elite, I’ve gotten a Stretch seat at check-in 9/10 times.

12 thoughts on “A look at Frontier Airlines elite status & award redemptions

  1. I am basically a Free Agent with all the stuff Delta/AA/United has done to screw over their elites. I recently just flew Frontier for the first time the other day, and I was shocked. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be (and for $87 round trip I couldn’t complain). Between them and Spirit and Southwest (though SW is starting to raise prices) I think I will just stick with the cheap guys.

    Can’t wait to read about a trip review with elite status. You may make me a Frontier loyalist!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the input jmk! Glad to hear your experience with Frontier wasn’t bad. It’s funny because I really am not trying to be free PR for Frontier, but the fact is I haven’t had a single bad experience with them after 20K miles. I really do think they’re a much better option than most people assume. I need to give Spirit a try sometime.


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