Forty-four minutes early was one minute too late for Michael Monroe Brown Tuesday when he tried to fly the low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines back to Indianapolis from a business trip to Houston Tuesday.
The 22-year-old budding entrepreneur and recent Indiana University business major graduate says he arrived at the Frontier ticket counter at George Bush Intercontinental to find no one there. Employees at the nearby American Airways counter warned him that he was probably out of luck.
He got on the airport phone and tried to get someone to come to the counter, without luck.
Frontier has a rule that passengers must be checked in by at least 45 minutes before any flight's departure -- with or without luggage (Brown was without). As far as Brown could figure out, he said, Frontier takes its counter crew and uses them to handle the gate duties as well. So they had already left by the time he made it to the counter.
"The people at American told me it happens every day," a frustrated Brown said. Four other people -- including a woman who arrived at the 40-minute mark -- were also held off the same flight and told there wouldn't be a flight out till the next day, he said.
When he finally contacted Frontier, Brown said he was told it was his fault and Orbitz's fault (he booked his ticket through them) for not following the rules. To get out on Wednesday, he'd have to come up with another $100 for the change in flights, he said.
In between phone calls, Brown Googled customer complaints about Frontier and found he is far from alone in his experience. In fact, according to Mark Harden of the Denver Business Journal (where Frontier has its hub) Frontier had the highest complaint rate at the beginning of 2013.
A check by Hair Balls found the same thing. There were some compliments, but others talked of encountering unfriendly, overstretched Frontier staffs who were either getting passengers on a plane at the gate or loading baggage onto the plane.
Not a stellar flight from PDX to IAH, but the return was truly horrid. We hit traffic, got lost and arrived with just 20 minutes to departure, but boarding passes and baggage fees receipts in hand because we knew we had to check baggage due to there extreme size and weight policies. There was no one at the counter. It turns out they close the counter 45 minutes before departure. Really? 2.5 hours later, around 20 people were waiting to check in. I had to pay $100 to rebook the next day and get a hotel.23 October 2013 by C Kidd
My niece and her new husband were flying last Sunday, 10/6 from SLC to Denver and on to Cancun. They arrived at the ticket counter at 6.45 am for a 7.25 flight to Denver. Frontier has a policy that you have to check in at the ticket counter 45 minutes before your flight. No where on the printed ticket did it say that. When they arrived, the person at the ticket counter told them they were 5 minutes late so they would not let them check a bag or go through security. There were 6 other people in the same boat. When someone finally came back to the ticket counter 45 minutes later, they charged an extra $200 and were told to come back tomorrow. Frontier went out of their way to make sure people didn't get on their flight. We will never fly Frontier.17 October 2013 by G Knight
arrived at the gate with 40 minutes until departure. They would not give me a boarding pass! Additionally the rude lady at the counter would not re-book me or put me on standby for another flight. I had to buy new same day tickets with Southwest Airlines. Worst of all, because I didn't make my outgoing flight, they cancelled my return flight. 25 September 2013 by C Donnelley
Those of us who arrive at airports at least two hours before a flight probably can handle Frontier and its no exceptions policy. For those inclined to run late, you might want to take another airline, even if it costs a bit more.