Frontier Airlines recently responded to low customer satisfaction ratings by offering its fliers a bundle of flight features entitled “The Works” when they buy flight tickets.
When the airline was failing in late 2013, it was bought by Bill Franke, the former owner of Spirit Airlines. Franke quickly began to emulate Spirit’s ultra-discounted and sparsely featured customer service style in Frontier. Frontier rescinded free carry-ons and free in-flight beverages. They jammed more seats onto their planes, decreasing leg room. Their “delayed flights” numbers went way up. And just this month, they eliminated the toll-free status of their customer support line. The discontinued flight features could be purchased individually, but they were expensive.
In a recent interview reported by The Wall Street Journal, Barry Biffle, Frontier’s president, compared the airline’s “a la carte” feature strategy to toppings on a pizza.
“If you only sell cheese pizzas, you can’t make as much money as if you sell a lot of toppings.” he says.
Fliers are not as happy as Biffle about the plan, though. One of every 10,000 Frontier customers has filed a complaint about the airline with the Transportation Department, making it the most complained-about airline other than Spirit.
As a way to combat its dismal approval rate, the new package requires that buyers pay for several features at once (one checked bag, one carry-on, a seating upgrade, and the ability to change the flight date on the ticket), but it greatly discounts each of them.
The bundle – aptly named “The Works” – is an easy way to get a lot of toppings without overpaying, he notes, continuing with his pizza analogy. But, he continues, it is also nice to have the inexpensive, no-frills cheese pizza option to fall back on.
“It’s why a lot of pizza companies say ‘the works…’” Biffle says. “It communicates immediately that you get it all.”
The Denver Post recently conducted a study where they actually booked a San Francisco to Denver flight with Frontier and purchased “The Works.” They then compared the price to ticket packages from large airlines that offered the same features and found that Frontier seemed to be the least expensive option. The Frontier ticket with The Works cost $343, whereas United Airlines’ non-refundable fare plus the $200 option to change flight dates is $665.50 and a similar package at Southwest is $365.
Frontier’s front office hopes the new bundle will help boost profits, which have been booming for the company over the past 20 months despite the terrible reviews, even further.
“The Works,” which is applicable to all of Frontier’s flights, is an available option when fliers book their tickets online.
[Image via Michael Francis McElroy, Getty Images.]