My recent Frontier flight from Denver to Philadelphia ended up being delayed after the pilot called in sick. First it was delayed by one hour, then three, and then five, finally taking off at 6:30 AM in the morning. You can read the whole story in my review of the flight.
I felt a bit bad for the gate agent who stayed with us the entire time, presumably extending his shift all the way through the night. He was also very open about the situation and seemed to be sharing information as soon as he received it from operations, which I appreciate.
Passengers sleeping on the floor during our delay
Does Frontier offer compensation for a delayed flight?
I was curious if we would receive any compensation for the delay. As we were boarding the second time, I heard a few customers ask about it, and the gate agent told them that we would receive an email after the flight with an electronic voucher in it. There was some confusion about the amount, probably because our delay had slowly crept from 1 to 3 and then to 5 hours. Presumably there is a threshold where you get $100, and then other threshold for $200, and so on.
Apparently we had crossed the second threshold.
I checked my phone upon landing in Philadelphia and sure enough there was an electronic voucher good for $100 off a flight. I was very impressed with the proactive response. I’ve had lots of delayed flights on United over the years, and in the vast majority of cases I’ve had to email customer service to get delay compensation. In this case, they were handing it out to everyone, no questions asked.
That said, I heard a few of the passengers grumbling about the fact that we had been promised $200. I figured I would email customer service to see if they could increase the amount to what we had been promised.
Frontier planes at Denver International Airport
Frontier’s customer service team is actually great
So a few hours later — after I had napped a bit — I sent off a quick email explaining the situation. This is the short and sweet email that I sent via the web form.
Customer By Web Form (Travis)
My flight was supposed to depart at 120AM. It eventually departed at 630AM.
The gate agent told us that we could expect at $200 voucher for compensation since the delay was 5 hours. But the email I received only had a $100 voucher. I feel that $100 is too little for such a lengthy delay.
A few minutes later I had an auto-response confirming that they had received my submission.
Auto-Response – 04/23/2017 12:35 PM
Thank you for sharing your feedback. Please be assured your message is important to us and is being reviewed in the order it was received. A specialist will respond as soon as possible.
For immediate travel concerns, please contact Reservations at 801-401-9000 for assistance.
But then just a bit over two hours later, I had this response from Tanner, one of their customer service agents. And mind you, this was on a Sunday afternoon!
Response Via Email(Tanner) – 04/23/2017 02:50 PM
Thank you for contacting us about your recent flight from Denver to Philadelphia. I am sorry to hear about the delay you experienced.
What I Know
Earlier today there was a miscommunication about the value of the vouchers that would be issued for your delay. We are currently working to address that and will honor the promise of $200 vouchers. You should be receiving another email shortly that corrects this. If you do not receive any such email then please respond to this one and I would be happy to fix that myself.
We Can Do Better!
I understand that this was a frustrating inconvenience and I can only assure you that these are not the standards we strive to maintain. I hope that you will choose to fly with Frontier again and that we can impress you aboard your next flight.
Customer Relations Specialist
A few days later I emailed Tanner to let him know that I had not received the $200 voucher. He apologized and sent it right over.
Before we go any further, I just want to say that this level of customer service completely blew me away, especially from a low cost carrier.
I’ve been a United Premier 1K for nearly a decade and have had numerous delays and service issues during that time. For as great as 1Kvoice is at resolving complaints for their best customers, I have never seen them respond that fast. And if you don’t have status, I’ve heard it can take weeks. Oh, and then when you do get a response, it often seems like they haven’t even read your email!
So just getting a timely, compassionate response was impressive, let alone the fact that it was coming from a low cost carrier.
Is $200 fair compensation for a 5-hour delay?
I have mixed feelings as to whether $200 is really fair compensation in this case. On one hand, I value my time at more than $40 per hour, and frankly I probably value my sleep at even more than that. On United, I’d probably expect about $250 – $300 in vouchers for a delay of this duration based on past experience, but that’s only as a Premier 1K. (My understanding is that compensation amounts tend to increase with status.)
On the other hand, I wasn’t flying United. I was flying Frontier. A low cost carrier.
I’m not sure that it really should matter, but I paid $100 for my ticket ($130 with the bag). So in my case, they gave me twice the value in credits that I paid for my fare.
I can’t really argue with that.
What are the terms of Frontier vouchers?
The email that included my voucher also contained these instructions.
Just follow these simple steps to redeem your voucher:
1. Visit www.flyfrontier.com and select your flight.
2. On the payment screen, select Have a Voucher from Frontier? Add Voucher Here, enter your voucher number in the field provided, and select Apply Voucher.
• It’s not redeemable for cash.
• It must be booked within 90 days from date of issue.
Note: There are no restrictions on travel date.
• It’s one-time use, meaning there will be no remaining value after redemption.
• It may not cover the entire value of the purchase. Any remaining balance due must be paid by the customer.
• It’s not transferable and may only be redeemed in the name of the passenger to whom it was issued.
• The name on the new reservation must match the old reservation exactly.
• It may not be applied toward group bookings or paid options such as baggage, change fees, seat assignments, or other charges.
As you can see, Frontier’s vouchers are fairly restrictive. The key terms are that you must book within 90 days and you can’t transfer the voucher to another person. (The latter is true, I tried.)
Note that this is a ticket-by date, not a travel-by date, so the flight can actually be for anytime in the future. That means if you receive the voucher on August 15, you would need to use it by November 15, but the flight could be for any time in the future. Keep in mind though that the Frontier booking window doesn’t open very far in advance, so you may only be able to book a flight up to six months in advance anyway.
Frontier ticket counter in Denver
Overall, I was really impressed with how Frontier handled my delayed flight. To me, they did three things really well:
- They issued $10 meal vouchers during the delay
- They proactively emailed everyone a $100 voucher for the delay (despite promising $200)
- When I emailed customer service about the discrepancy, I received a timely, appropriate reply on a Sunday afternoon remedying the problem
Irregular operations can happen to any airline — it’s how they respond that sets them apart. In this case, Frontier far exceeded my expectations for how a low cost carrier would handle such an incident. Kudos to them, and it will certainly influence my decision to fly them in the future.*
*As long as they are really really cheap.
Do you think that $200 is fair compensation for a 5-hour delay?