Budget airline carriers can be a tough sell. Many travelers are reluctant to try an airline they perceive as "cheap" because they fear that cut costs mean cut corners. I have avoided flying carriers like Spirit and Allegiant for exactly that reason. Since cost savings can end up being fairly minimal, between luggage fees and airport taxes (and in our case travel to Buffalo), I've often chosen to spend the extra $500 or so for our family and fly with a "brand name" carrier.

All that changed with the introduction of Frontier Airlines Kids Fly Free promotion. It sounds like a crazy idea. After all, there's no such thing as truly free travel. Even with points redemptions, there are fees and taxes that must be paid. However, Frontier's promotion is exactly what it claims to be. On certain dates, Frontier's "Discount Den" members get one free children's fare with every adult fare purchased. As with every kid-related promotion, there is an age restriction (kids must be 14 and under), but otherwise, the promotion is extremely straight forward.

For my family, the Kids Fly Free promotion was enough to push us over the edge and try a budget airline. Even with the checked bag fee, we came out at least $1200 under the competition and so we took the leap.

So, how was Frontier?

 

 

 Perhaps the best way to sum it up was exactly as promised. 

Our trip began with a two-hour trek to Buffalo. Despite the lack of traffic, I spent the drive concerned about what we would encounter at the check-in desk. Having had many a Rouge check-in disaster, I was ready for extra fees and previously opaque restrictions, particularly for the car seat which (according to the website) would fly for free.  Instead, the Frontier gate agents were efficient and polite, which kept the small line moving rapidly and increased our confidence that the trip would go as planned.

The boarding process was likewise very efficient. Unlike Southwest, where passengers aren't assigned a seat until boarding, Frontier assigns seats when you check in online (up to 24 hours in advance). As you might expect, if you would like to choose a seat there is an associated fee. However, unlike Rouge which has regularly placed my family in individual seats across the plane (including a 3-year-old who was given a middle seat two rows away from the nearest parent), Frontier assigned our family to a row all together. Judging by the calm boarding, this was the case for every group traveling together, as there were no pleas for seat switches.

Another pleasant surprise at boarding was that there was no rush for overhead bin space. As a budget carrier, Frontier charges for anything more than a personal item (which must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you). This meant that there wasn't the familiar rush to cram overlarge bags into the overhead bins and also that the flight attendants didn't need to spend time moving items around the cabin to squeeze in as much as possible.  Best of all, flight attendants didn't seem to mind if you tossed your personal item into the overhead bin, which freed up some extra leg room.

 

The flight itself was entirely predictable. Thanks to a very clear and easily navigated website, we knew ahead of time that Frontier offered only for-a-fee refreshments and prepared accordingly. They also don't offer any entertainment, even for rent. While this may seem like a disaster waiting to happen with family travel, it was actually smoother for us than the constantly relaunching entertainment system we normally encounter on flights (I'm looking at you Rouge player!) We simply used one of the personal items to store snacks, colouring, books, and a mini iPad that has pass-along board games and spend a very pleasant couple hours munching our way through the Game of Life.

After landing, the luggage arrived quickly and efficiently, and we were on our way. The flight experience was so smooth I wondered whether it was an anomaly. Having had many a recent Rouge flight where things were delayed/cramped/broken I thought perhaps I was just overly excited to not have to battle the entertainment system again. However, the flight home was exactly the same.

Sure, the check-in counter was the absolute furthest from the door. Sure, the flight was delayed and over-sold. Despite that, the active communication from Frontier made it stress-free and efficient. Despite my initial reluctance, I would recommend Frontier to Canadian families flying within the United States, particularly if the Kids Fly Free dates work for your travel plans. With careful packing and a touch of research, you could find yourself pleasantly surprised!