Frontier Airlines does away with change fees in budget airline pricing overhaul

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A Frontier Airlines plane lands at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Feb. 27, 2020.
Elizabeth Page Brumley | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Frontier Airlines said it will stop charging customers a fee to change their flights, taking a page from larger competitors as the Biden administration issues stricter rules targeting so-called “junk fees.”

The change is part of an overhaul announced on Friday of the budget airline’s longtime pricing model, which brings customers in the door with eye-catching low base fares and charges fees for everything else such as in-advance seating assignments and cabin baggage.

The airline will start offering packages that include those add-ons, among others, such as early boarding. While some fares will still allow travelers to add on options a la carte, “we expect that option to be a minority of customers,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle told CNBC.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a final rule that requires airlines to tell customers about fees including those for checked or carry-on baggage up front, a change the DOT said would save travelers more than half a billion dollars a year.

Frontier currently charges up to $99 to change flights if the change is made within a week of the trip, according to the airline’s website. Larger rivals Delta, American and United scrapped change fees during the Covid-19 pandemic for travelers who were booked in standard economy class and above. Southwest Airlines does not charge customers to change their tickets.

“The truth is the big four all have no change fees on the majority of their products, so we were not as desirable,” Biffle said. He said change fees were a “top complaint” of travelers.

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