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Frontier Punishes Flyers Who Book Elsewhere

Frontier is making you an offer you can't refuse.

Today, the Denver-based airline announced a series of new "improvements" (to use the airline's language) that are only available to flyers who book directly on the carrier's website, the just-unveiled These include advanced seating assignments and unrestricted frequent-flyer mile credits. Frontier is marketing the changes as "more choice, more perks, and more value."

But for the most part, it's more choice, perks, and value on one condition: You must book directly with the airline. Now, only "basic fare" tickets are available on Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, or any other online travel agency (OTA) or booking site. With basic fare, you won't get seat assignments until check in. You'll also be docked 50 percent of your frequent-flyer miles.

Book with Frontier directly and you'll have access to "economy," "classic," and "classic plus" fare categories, which come with perks like free checked bags and free itinerary changes, depending on the fare class. See a chart of Frontier fare classes here.

It's not surprising that the carrier is encouraging travelers to buy straight from the source. Frontier makes more money when customers book directly with the airline. Online travel agencies generally charge a hefty commission fee, which Frontier clearly hopes to avoid.

Daniel Shurz, Frontier's senior vice president, commercial, told the The Washington Post, "Particularly for families, it provides an incentive to book directly. There is no logical reason for our customers to want to book anywhere else."

But there is a logical reason. Most OTAs offer quite a few benefits for travelers, including discounts when airfare and hotel stays or car rentals are bundled together, as well as more flexible itineraries with flights pieced together from multiple airlines.

Arguably the biggest problem with OTAs, though, is that they don't offer tickets from Southwest; so fans of that carrier must perform a separate search on the airline website in order to compare prices. Furthermore, OTAs don't always feature exclusive airline fare sales. We've seen steep discounts and offer codes for airlines like JetBlue that aren't bookable on OTAs, but must be cashed in directly on the airline website.

Considering the current airfare booking climate, Frontier's revelation isn't changing the game. It's simply putting more pressure on travelers to perform fare searches on multiple sites before booking—which is what we've always encouraged flyers to do.

Will this affect your willingness to book with Frontier?

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This article was originally posted on SmarterTravel, the largest online travel resource for unbiased travel news, deals, and timely expert advice

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Comment by Sam Scribe on September 18, 2012 at 9:04am

Look for more of this in the future, not less of it. I have no love for the airlines, but we have to remember that most of them are making so little money that their primary revenue stream comes from surcharges. The ticket sales are a wash. 

Comment by Jose Balido on September 15, 2012 at 9:16pm
Very interesting, thank you!

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