Business/Economy, Columnists, Jon Caldara, Uncategorized

Caldara: Flying Frontier a descent into hell

(Editor’s note: You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

It doesn’t matter what airline I use I always have the happy privilege of getting the middle seat between two guys trying out for the “Weight Watchers before photo contest” on a flight that’s chartered for the Annual Colicky Baby Conference. My luggage always goes to more exotic destinations than I will ever know. And somehow the action of my rear touching that narrow seat causes mechanical failures and massive delays. It’s kind of a super-power.

All the same I’ve had enough of the oligopoly of poor service from United Airlines and Frontier, the only two airlines anchored in Colorado. Time to focus on Frontier.

When Frontier became our little hometown heroes in the mid-90’s they challenged United’s dominance. Frontier’s staff was friendly, their service was great, and they even had free live TV. Jokes from Frontier’s casually dressed flight attendants matched the lost Colorado character of taking your job seriously, but not taking yourself seriously.

But that was years ago when a good cigar cost five cents and there were only two genders.

I wasn’t wild about Frontier’s switch to an “a-la-carte” pricing model where the flight was inexpensive, but you had to pay for add-ons like bringing luggage, having a soda, or getting a better seat (as if there is a better seat on a Frontier flight). I’m waiting for, “In the unlikely event of a loss of air pressure, oxygen masks will drop. It’s $5 for the first 10 minutes and a dollar a minute after.”

But I got used to the pricing model and as a guy who needs nearly nothing for a night or two away, was able to take some $25 one-way flights. Once you accept you’re flying a bus with wings, Frontier was okay. Was.

There are a lot of super low-cost businesses that thrive in America with great customer service. It’s why Walmart is so prosperous. Walmart doesn’t despise their customers

About a month ago I took the whole family, including my son with Down syndrome, to Dallas for “parent’s weekend” at the college holding my daughter and all my money hostage. We then went to the airport to find my Frontier flight home, scheduled at about 5:00 p.m., was “delayed” (not canceled mind you) to 6:00 a.m. the next day.

The rude and cruel gate agents gave us no information. They finally sent us to the Frontier ticket counter, which after an hours-long line the rude and cruel agents there sent us to the Dallas airport customer service line.

There we waited en mass on a cement floor for several more hours while a befuddled Dallas customer service agent tried to get someone at Frontier on the phone to authorize hotel rooms for us.

After being told we would get vouchers for meals, which of course never came, we were finally squeezed on to a shuttle to a faraway hotel which likely doubled as a half-way house. The next morning I asked the replacement flight crew what was going on? They said they didn’t know; even they weren’t told what went wrong.

On the flight back my son needed more water than one complimentary cup. He was a heart condition due to his Downs; keeping him hydrated is crucial. I was told I’d have to buy a bottle if he needed more.

Like an abused spouse who keeps going back to the abuser (and as if United is Prince Charming?), I was boarding a Frontier flight the other day to witness the thuggery that makes them so loved.

Every passenger, young and old, needed to demonstrate they could “easily and comfortably” drop their “personal item” into the metal box sized to what the airline has scientifically determine a personal item is down to the micron.

Like so many others there, an older gentleman was not allowed to use his hand to lightly push down his little bag to fit into the box, which it easily would have.

Over his reasonably quiet, then reasonable loud and frustrated objections he was told to pay the extra $50 or not fly.

On the way to the plane, I saw his wife who went before him, confused, waiting for her husband, and wondering why he wasn’t joining her by the plane.

I realize Frontier isn’t the only airline that treats its customers like baggage. But it’s the carrier I’ve witnessed in action. Whether it’s Frontier or another, fliers have a right to be treated with a little more dignity.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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