Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines is the latest to convert its loyalty program to a revenue-based model as it tries to attract more frequent flyers to its Frontier Miles program.
From early 2024, Frontier will no longer award miles based on distance flown but rather on the amount spent with the airline, not just on flights but also on checked luggage, seat assignments, and other extras. Standard customers earn 10 miles for every $1 spent.
By switching to a revenue-based model, Frontier is following the lead of bigger airline loyalty programs, including those operated by the Big Three: Delta, United, and American Airlines. Revenue-based models allow airlines to reward their big spenders rather than commuters with barebones seats in coach and are often controversial with customers.
But Frontier says the overhaul of its loyalty program will allow travelers who take just three or four flights each year to amass elite status and its perks, as well as miles toward a future flight.
“We are making the new Frontier Miles program like no other loyalty program in the airline industry when it comes to earning free flights and getting valuable status quickly and for less,” said Frontier CEO Barry Biffle.
As part of the changes, Frontier has overhauled its elite status system, renaming each rank and adding a fourth entry-level tier:
- Frontier Silver status: 10,000 qualifying miles per year
- Frontier Gold status: 20,000 qualifying miles per year
- Frontier Platinum status: 50,000 qualifying miles per year
- Frontier Diamond status: 100,000 qualifying miles per year
Frontier previously had three elite statuses: Elite 20K, Elite 50K, and Elite 100K.
The perks of each status have also changed. Frontier remains a low-cost airline with stripped-back service so that you won’t find upgrades to first class (there’s just one cabin on Frontier planes) or access to airport lounges (Frontier doesn’t operate them). However, elite status allows you to duck many of the additional charges where low-cost carriers make their money, including on seat assignments and luggage allowances.
Silver members receive:
- An assigned standard seat at booking
- Free changes or cancellations for everyone on the reservation until seven days before departure
- Family mileage pooling
- Premium customer care
- Priority boarding in Zone 2
Gold members receive those perks and:
- A free carry-on bag
- Premium “Stretch Seating” (with extra legroom, the ability to recline, and a larger tray table), allocated when they checkin and subject to availability
- Priority boarding in Zone 1
Platinum members receive the above perks and:
- Assigned seats at booking for their entire party
- Priority boarding in Zone 1 for everyone on the reservation
- Premium “Stretch Seating” for the member, allocated at booking, and for their party, allocated at check-in, subject to availability
- Free checked bag, including a ski and golf bag, for the member
- Free carry-on bags for the whole party
- A waiver on the fee for bringing a pet into the cabin (otherwise, $99 each way)
Diamond members receive the above benefits and:
- Premium “Stretch Seating” for the whole party, allocated at booking
- Boarding first
- Two checked bags free for everyone in the party
- Refunds for the flight, up to one day before departure
Frontier is also making it easier for elites to retain their status by offering them accelerated earning on miles.
- Non-elite members: 10x miles per dollar spent
- Frontier Silver status: 12x miles per dollar spent
- Frontier Gold status: 14x miles per dollar spent
- Frontier Platinum status: 16x miles per dollar spent
- Frontier Diamond status: 20x miles per dollar spent
That means non-elites can qualify for Silver status by spending $1,000 a year with Frontier, while Diamonds can retain their status by spending $5,000.
During the inaugural year, travelers with the Frontier World Mastercard can earn Gold status by simply spending $3,000 on the card.
Is the reward program worth it? If you live in a city served by Frontier, fly several times a year, and bring family along, you could rack up points quickly and attain elite status. That will then help you avoid some of the carrier’s more pesky charges, which can really add up if every family member brings a suitcase.
You can then spend the miles you’ve accrued on award flights. One-way domestic award tickets start at 10,000 miles, which non-elites can earn by spending $1,000, and Diamond members can earn by spending $500. However, that’s just the cheapest ticket, and most award flights require more miles.
Beyond flights, Frontier itself doesn’t offer many other perks to buy with your miles: it doesn’t operate lounges or have business or first-class cabins. Instead, you’ll be directed to its partner car rental companies and hotel chains to spend your miles.