Avoid The Frontier Award Fee With One Simple Trick

Avoid The Frontier Award Fee With One Simple Trick

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Yes, I know, this is my third post about Frontier Early Returns this week. And that’s a lot for what is easily one of the worst frequent flyer programs in the industry. But hey, it’s been five days since United last stranded a planeload of passengers.

For those that need to catch up, here are the other posts in this accidental series.

In this post, I’ll discuss an ingenious method for avoiding the $15 “close-in” ticketing fee that I’ve been grumbling about all week.

frontierplane3

Close-In Ticketing Fees

The so-called close-in ticketing fee is a fee that some airlines charge when you redeem miles for a trip that is close to departure. Both United and American charge a fee of $75 for any award trip booked within 21 days of departure. (The fee is waived or reduced for elites.) Delta does not charge it.

The best explanation I’ve heard for why airlines charge these fees is that award tickets for trips departing soon are theoretically worth more.

If you want to buy a ticket to fly from New York to San Francisco leaving tomorrow, you will almost certainly pay more for it than if you buy the same ticket for August. Since booking a last-minute award essentially displaces buying an expensive last-minute ticket, the airlines reason that they should charge something for the privilege. Or so the story goes.

Oh heck, let’s forget economic theory — airlines charge these onerous fees because they can.

money

Frontier’s Close-In Ticketing Fee

Frontier actually has a tiered approach to close-in ticketing fees, which they sneakily refer to as redemption fees.

They charge $50 for tickets booked from 7 – 20 days before departure, and then $75 for tickets that depart within 6 days or less. That’s actually either cheaper or the same as United and American, which is pretty cool. 

Too bad that’s not all.

Frontier also charges $15 for award tickets issued between 21 and 179 days prior to departure. That’s right, Frontier essentially defines “close-in” as anytime within the next six months. Because clearly, deciding now to go to Salt Lake City in November is an impulse trip.

FrontierAwardFee

The real problem, as I explained previously, is that Frontier’s reservation window typically doesn’t even extend beyond 180 days, meaning that it’s simply not possible to avoid the $15 fee.

There is no flight in their entire reservations system that you could possibly book without paying at least a $15 redemption fee. That stinks.

The Loophole

As reader Joseph pointed out in the comments yesterday, there is a loophole for avoiding the $15 fee. And it’s perfectly legit. The downside is that the loophole only opens for a couple of weeks every three months.

But this is one of those magical weeks!

The key is that Frontier allows free changes to award tickets as long as the same fare class exists and the flight is 8 days or more prior to departure.

Step 1: Book an award flight for the route you want that is more than 180 days out. (No booking fee.)

Step 2: Change the flight to the date that you actually want. (No change fee.)

It’s really ingenious. 

Frontier award ticket change policy

An Example

Imagine that I want to fly from Denver to Phoenix on October 14. I find that there is low-level award availability that day, so it will cost me 10,000 miles + $5.60. But since the flight is within 180 days of departure, I’m also charged the “close-in” ticketing fee of $15.

This is the award ticket I want. But it comes with a $15 "close-in" ticketing fee.
This is the award ticket I want. But it comes with a $15 “close-in” ticketing fee.

Now I look for Denver to Phoenix on January 2 which is more than 180 days from now. Sure enough, there is also low-level saver award inventory.

That ticket will cost 10,000 miles + $5.60. Since the trip is more than 180 days away, I’m not charged the “close-in” fee. 

This award ticket avoids the $15 fee. Let's book it instead.
This award ticket avoids the $15 fee. Let’s book it instead.

Then since the rules allow free changes to award tickets so long as the routing and fare class remain the same, I simply change the January 2 ticket to October 14.

Voila, I now have the same Denver to Phoenix ticket that I wanted, and I also have $15 in my pocket. (Which I could then use to pay for the privilege of selecting a decent seat…<sigh>)

Limited Time Opportunity

For most of the year, the Frontier booking window does not extend beyond 180 days. Therefore there are no flights that can be booked without paying some form of the “close-in” award redemption fee.

Based on what I’ve observed and read, Frontier tends to extend their schedule roughly every 3 months, at which point they extend it for an additional three months. That means the opportunity exists now and will continue to exist until about July 8th, at which point the loophole will close. It probably won’t reappear until some time in October.

(If my math is correct, on July 8th there will only be one day — January 4th, 2016 — for which award tickets can be booked without the fee. If you don’t find availability on that day, you’re out of luck. So don’t wait.)

Bottom Line

This is a nifty little trick for avoiding the $15 award redemption fee on Frontier. It will only save you $15, but hey, if you’re a family of four, that could add up.

There are similar concepts that apply to other airlines, but the upside of this one is that it seems to fall within Frontier’s policies. In other words, it should just work, and not be a situation of YMMV or HUCA. The downside is that there are only a few weeks every year for which it will work.

Thanks again to Joseph for sharing the tip.


Have you taken advantage of this loophole to avoid a close-in ticketing fee?

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  1. Jason G. Guest

    Thank you. I needed to call customer service to change the dates but avoided the $75 fee. There was a $25 fee. Saving $50 to make a call and read a few work emails was worth it to me.

  2. pissed Guest

    today nov 9th i booked july 8th 2022 but i wanted jan 8th...when called to change they still charged me 15 fee

  3. Quentin Guest

    Just tried this method today, and it does not work anymore.

    You book the flight that departs in >180 days with miles, and pay only the $5.60 in taxes for a one-way. But then there is no online option to change the date or even cancel. You have to call Frontier to modify award flights.

    So I called multiple times and each time I was told that I would have to pay the...

    Just tried this method today, and it does not work anymore.

    You book the flight that departs in >180 days with miles, and pay only the $5.60 in taxes for a one-way. But then there is no online option to change the date or even cancel. You have to call Frontier to modify award flights.

    So I called multiple times and each time I was told that I would have to pay the “fare difference” (fortunately no change fee), which is basically the $15 redemption fee. So, this method sadly does not work anymore.

    What’s even more annoying is that the “fare difference” completely disregards what you originally paid (the $5.60). Essentially, you have to pay the $5.60 from the original flight PLUS $5.60 + $15 for the new flight. The miles cost stays the same. So I just ended up canceling the original flight over the phone and rebooking to avoid having to pay $5.60 twice.

    1. Quentin Guest

      Edit: I am rebooking now, and it looks like even when rebooking separately (rather than modifying the existing flight), the total price is $15 fee + $11.20 taxes/other fees, which is very strange since the same flight but >180 days carries only $5.60 in taxes/other fees.

    2. Quentin Guest

      Edit 2: mystery solved. The $11.20 is the “US Passenger Security Fee”. This is a legit TSA fee. Federal law dictates that this fee is $5.60 each way, and the >180 day flight reflected the $5.60. However, according to Delta’s website, the “fee may accrue multiple times for itineraries with stopovers”. Since the rebooked flight had a much longer layover, I am guessing that is why the $5.60 is doubled, compared with the >180 day...

      Edit 2: mystery solved. The $11.20 is the “US Passenger Security Fee”. This is a legit TSA fee. Federal law dictates that this fee is $5.60 each way, and the >180 day flight reflected the $5.60. However, according to Delta’s website, the “fee may accrue multiple times for itineraries with stopovers”. Since the rebooked flight had a much longer layover, I am guessing that is why the $5.60 is doubled, compared with the >180 day flight with the shorter layover and single $5.60 fee.

    3. Quentin Guest

      If flying domestically with the exceptions of Alaska and Hawaii, each layover of >4 hours will result in another $5.60 fee.

  4. Derp Guest

    Confirmed this still works. You can even use the change flight button on the website instead of calling.

  5. Sarah Guest

    I just used this hack to save me $75 on a last minute flight. THANK YOU!!

  6. Angelo Guest

    It's still working, just used this to avoid the $15 fee for a trip 2 months away.
    Booked 181 days in advance, clicked on "change my flight" immediately from the booking confirmation page, selected my new flight 60 days away and confirmed the changes. Smooth!

  7. Shane Guest

    Thank you! Just saved $75.00. Frontier is ridiculous so it's good to save a fee that they shouldn't be charging anyway. The only reason why I'm flying with them is due the time of the flight and I have a bunch of miles from flying with them a couple of years ago.

  8. g Guest

    Love your post! I found it when trying to research how to redeem my Frontier miles for someone else to travel. So, if anyone else finds this page that way, here ya go:

    FRONTIER AIRLINES:

    For anyone else confused about the steps, please note YOU HAVE TO BOOK THE FLIGHT OVER THE PHONE WITH FRONTIER. I tried to book the flight online and it kept giving an error message saying that the passenger was a...

    Love your post! I found it when trying to research how to redeem my Frontier miles for someone else to travel. So, if anyone else finds this page that way, here ya go:

    FRONTIER AIRLINES:

    For anyone else confused about the steps, please note YOU HAVE TO BOOK THE FLIGHT OVER THE PHONE WITH FRONTIER. I tried to book the flight online and it kept giving an error message saying that the passenger was a different person than the rewards account holder (me). The website does not allow you to make the purchase using your miles for someone else to travel. You must make the reservation over the phone. Call the Frontier number 801 401 9000 to get to a representative. You should NOT be charged the $10 booking fee normally accrued for booking over the phone since the website does not allow you to make the purchase. I literally just did this today– after lots of searching and time spent trying to figure this out, I used my miles to reserve a flight for my spouse– so hopefully this info. can save other folks some time. Buying/gifting/transferring the points is waay too much $.

    All-in-all, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The Frontier rewards credit card is the equivalent of a scam. Here's my personal cost/savings breakdown:

    COST:
    $70 annual fee for the credit card
    $11.20 taxes and fees for the flights
    mucho time and effort obtaining the credit card rewards deal and avoiding a scam (eek!)
    mucho mucho time and effort searching flights (stress!)
    time and effort booking flights (sheesh)
    TOTAL $81.20 +++

    SAVINGS:
    roundtrip flight valued at ~$500

    NET:
    gained/saved $500-$81.20=$418.80 (~$420) technically speaking
    but WOULD NOT do this again due to all the time and effort required. I can't even count the hours I've spent searching for flights to use the points, with most of them being 14+ hours, overnight, etc. (for domestic flights!)... too many inconvenient pitfalls to list but you get the idea.

    So in conclusion, if you want to skip to the end of this rant: I am very frugal, responsible, and persistent in avoiding scams... but sometimes you are scammed in a silent-but-deadly manner, scammed of your time and sanity. Even though on paper, I saved $420, I strongly advise others to NOT fall into this trap. Even I would rather have spent that $420 than go through the year-long saga of agony and burden just trying to get the deal from Frontier. In the end, they came out ahead. Ick.

  9. Susan Guest

    Just tried this today. Was wanting to book 11/11 (today is 11/1) and was being charged the $50 fee. Instead I booked 5/10, and called to change to 11/11. They still wanted to charge me the $50 fee. I ended up quoting the website award ticket term to the agent on the phone (several times) and he eventually waived the fee. Just be aware that they may have changed their policy and this may not work anymore.

  10. Jeff Guest

    Can the ticket "switch" be handled online? On a different issue, I wanted 45+ minutes today to finally reach a customer service person to talk to. Love the idea, but not sure the wait time is worth it.

  11. Amelia Guest

    Thank you for this. I actually saved $35, which can be done any day of the year. I was booking a flight for 2 weeks out ($50 fee), and saw this post. I instead booked a flight for 5 weeks out that had the same itinerary for the same amount of miles, then called and made the change. Voila! Still had to pay $15, but it's better than $50 for a flight that otherwise would have only cost $90 anyways without miles.

  12. Nicholas Wojciak Guest

    This worked for me, thank you so much for posting something like this :)

  13. LaNita Guest

    I'm reading this exactly a year after this article was written and Frontier now is obviously charging $80 "close-in" fees for dates 35 days out. I noticed when I started to book the flight last night, the fee was $50. This is ridiculous.

  14. Al Guest

    I think it is illegal for Frontier to advertise no redemption fee for booking more than 180 days out, but at the same time do not provide any flights more than 180 days out for consumers to book.

    In fact one can simply file a complaint with DOT with this argument. Frontier is required to "provide a substantial response" within 60 days.

  15. Jason Guest

    Or just use the credit card.

  16. high end hobo Guest

    this is the same trick for united

  17. Travis OMAAT

    Kirby --

    I'm interested to hear how you think this was click-bait.

    The headline says this works on Frontier. It does.
    It says that it saves the award booking fee. It does.
    It says the trick is simple. I think it is very simple.

    What am I missing?

  18. Steven L. Gold

    Create Clickbait Headlines That Intrigue Some While Aggravating Others With One Simple Trick

  19. Kirby Guest

    This click-bait style headline doesn't belong on this blog.

  20. Noah S Member

    I think that we should stop moaning about a $15 dollar fee.

  21. Travis OMAAT

    AJK:

    I'm not saying the $15 doesn't contribute to their bottom line -- it clearly does.

    I'm saying I don't think they care about whether the trick is published. Because it literally only works for a week or so each quarter. 90% of the year, there is no way to use the trick. So why bother worrying about whether people know about it?

    But we'll see. And I'm sure that if the loophole gets closed 5 years from now, you'll come back to say I told you so. :-)

  22. Anonchi Guest

    What is the use of F9 miles? You use up a Barclaycard slot and have to wait 6 months for another card and F9 flights are generally pretty cheap to begin with so the opportunity cost of spending on this card is relatively high.

  23. AJK Member

    Travis: What about it goes away in the next 3-6 months? :) This is a big company we're talking about; it takes time for such companies to make changes like this, especially if they're respectable and provide any sort of lead time to their consumers.

    A $15 expedite fee, like a $15 seat assignment charge, or a $25 carry-on baggage fee (or whatever the costs), while not "huge" money in the specific instance, adds significantly...

    Travis: What about it goes away in the next 3-6 months? :) This is a big company we're talking about; it takes time for such companies to make changes like this, especially if they're respectable and provide any sort of lead time to their consumers.

    A $15 expedite fee, like a $15 seat assignment charge, or a $25 carry-on baggage fee (or whatever the costs), while not "huge" money in the specific instance, adds significantly in the aggregate to the bottom line of airlines employing this type cost structure. More so than, say, the legacies. So I'd disagree with your assertion that don't care very much.

    But I guess time will tell, eh?

  24. Travis OMAAT

    AJK: Actually, I doubt they care that much. It's a trick that exists for a limited number of days each year.

    And it's not like they are making HUGE money from it either.

    But if it goes away tomorrow, you can come back and blame me.

  25. AJK Member

    So, since we know there's a pretty decent chance the president of Frontier reads this blog, I say this trick is now on borrowed time. Sure, it's right there in the terms, but this is clearly outside it's intention.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Jason G. Guest

Thank you. I needed to call customer service to change the dates but avoided the $75 fee. There was a $25 fee. Saving $50 to make a call and read a few work emails was worth it to me.

0
pissed Guest

today nov 9th i booked july 8th 2022 but i wanted jan 8th...when called to change they still charged me 15 fee

0
Quentin Guest

If flying domestically with the exceptions of Alaska and Hawaii, each layover of >4 hours will result in another $5.60 fee.

0
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