Nowadays a vast majority of airline passengers buy their tickets online, given the practice of electronic ticketing. However, some ultra low cost carriers give you an incentive to book tickets at the airport.
I’ve written about this practice at Allegiant Air, Breeze Airways, and Spirit Airlines, and in this post wanted to look at how you can save money by buying your Frontier Airlines tickets at the airport.
Long story short, you can save $23 per person per segment by booking your Frontier Airlines ticket at the airport, though there might be a catch or two.
How to avoid Frontier’s “carrier interface charge”
Frontier Airlines is one of the largest ultra low cost carriers in the United States. As is standard for ultra low cost carriers, the business model is to have incredibly low base fares, and then charge extra for just about everything.
When you look at Frontier Airlines base fares, you’ll see that each fare includes a $23 per person per segment “carrier interface charge.” Here’s how Frontier Airlines describes that on its website:
Carrier Interface Charge: the standard fare price we display online includes a charge per passenger, per segment, that is assessed on tickets purchased through the website or our call center. The Discount Den fares we display online include a charge per passenger, per segment, that is assessed on tickets purchased through the website.
You won’t even notice this charge unless you’re really looking for it. For example, take the below $95 fare from Tampa to Burbank via Las Vegas.
When you get to the final booking page that shows the breakdown of the fare, you’ll see how that $95 fare breaks down. You’ll see that the single biggest part of the fare is the $46 carrier interface charge ($23 per segment).
If you book your ticket through Frontier Airlines’ website or call center, you’re on the hook for paying that fee. However, there’s a way to avoid it — if you instead book at any Frontier Airlines ticket counter, you won’t have to pay the “carrier interface charge.”
While other ultra low cost carriers very clearly spell out ticket counter hours and procedures for ticketing, Frontier Airlines doesn’t. That’s not to say that you can’t ticket reservations at airports, though.
While it might not be worth making a special trip to the airport for a one-way ticket for one person to save $23, if you’re traveling as a larger group, booking multiple tickets, etc., the savings could add up.
There are two catches, though
There are two major considerations to be aware of if you’re choosing to ticket a Frontier Airlines reservation at the airport. First of all, the employees at Frontier Airlines ticket counters are almost entirely outsourced staff, and often aren’t very knowledgable.
You’re absolutely supposed to be able to ticket reservations at airports, and many people report luck with that. However, others say they’re told at the counters that they can’t ticket the reservations. Given that Frontier’s website isn’t very explicit, that does make it tricky, even though this is 100% supposed to be possible.
Now let’s talk about the major downside of ticketing at the airport, if you’re able to do so. Since Frontier Airlines is an ultra low cost carrier, the airline charges for almost everything, ranging from seat assignments, to carry-on bags, to checked bags. Generally speaking, the airline charges the least when you purchase extras during the initial booking process.
Frontier sells different “bundles” at the time that you book, and these aren’t available for the same price at a later point. These bundles are available exclusively online, creating a strong incentive to book online.
Generally it’s going to make the most sense to ticket at the airport if you don’t plan on buying lots of ancillaries. If you do plan on buying lots of add-ons, paying more for those after the fact might wipe out most or all of your savings.
Why are Frontier tickets cheaper at the airport?
Okay, you can save money by booking your Frontier Airlines tickets at the airport, but what’s the logic for this policy? It comes down to taxes.
Airlines have to pay a 7.5% federal excise tax on airfare, but not on optional fees. In order for something to be considered an optional fee, there has to be a way to avoid paying it. So Frontier doesn’t have to pay taxes on the “carrier interface charge” portion of the ticket cost because it’s technically a fee, rather than airfare, since you can avoid it.
Of course Frontier doesn’t want to make it easy or lucrative to avoid paying this fee, which is why the airline only lets you avoid this by booking at the airport, and then also charges you more in other fees for choosing to use this ticketing practice.
Virtually all ultra low cost carriers have similar made up charges that make up a big portion of the airfare, in order to reduce the taxes they have to pay on ticket costs. In this particular case, Frontier is saving 7.5% of $23 (per segment), which is ~$1.75. Those tax savings add up when you consider how many tickets Frontier sells. On a full A320 with 180 seats, that’s an extra $315 worth of “profit” per flight.
Frontier Airlines charges a $23 per segment “carrier interface charge,” which applies if you’re ticketing online or by phone. This often makes up a majority of the base fare, and the logic is that Frontier doesn’t have to pay taxes on that portion of the fare, since it’s technically an optional fee.
The reason this fee is “optional” is because you can avoid it by ticketing at the airport. This is a practice that virtually all ultra low cost carriers use. While this could save you money, just keep in mind that not all Frontier agents are well trained in this, and you’ll also end up paying more for ancillaries if you don’t ticket online.
Have any OMAAT readers ever ticketed a Frontier Airlines reservation at the airport? If so, what was your experience like?