The Basics

When Frontier Was a Better Choice Than AA – Could Have Saved Me More than Money!

budget airlines
Written by Charlie

The story of how Frontier Airlines would have beaten out American Airlines and why discount airlines should not be discounted by the flier.

I know there are many, myself included, that often discount the low cost carriers for different reasons. Many of these reasons have to do with the various fees they put on their customers that are included with legacy airlines (well, they are trying to change that now with their own set of fees!). But, you should still never discount the discount carriers as they can offer some great value – for many reasons. 🙂

When Frontier Was a Better Choice Than AA

Last year, thanks to the stacking of promos, I and many other people were able to get American Airlines Executive Platinum status through some mileage running. It was nice to be able to get that and the many miles I accrued along the way. It also gave me one of my favorite things about having top tier elite status.

American Airline Delays/Cancellations

But, if you know many AA flyers (or you are one yourself), you have likely heard about the terrible delays and even cancellations that occur with AA. I was fortunate on a recent trip to go 6/6 with AA in a few days but that is not everyone’s experience! And, unfortunately for me, it was not my experience on a trip a few months ago.

How Frontier Could Have Saved Me

I was flying back to Europe on an AA award ticket out of Cleveland. It had been a quick trip and I had to be in Europe by the following morning after I would land. I was due to fly from Cleveland – Philadelphia – Frankfurt and then hop on Aegean Airlines to Greece. I had a business class award and would be flying all American Airlines until Frankfurt. Everything was going great until weather issues started in the Philly/NYC area. It was summer and storms were delaying aircraft and had prompted a ground stop of aircraft coming into those airports.

The First Delay with AA

Ok, this is nothing new and not AA’s fault but I got on the phone with the AA Executive Platinum line to check my options and ensure I would still arrive at the right time. Let me say – the AA agents on the phone were excellent! I mean, they had me set up and backed up for every eventuality and even put me on a British Airways flight from London to Athens since I might miss my Aegean flight. This was above and beyond and they did an incredible job.

The Cancellation

But, on the ground, things did not go too well. I started watching as they flight got pushed back later and later with other AA flights to Chicago and DC being cancelled. After several hours, they announced the cancellation of my flight as well – even though the ground stop had been lifted. I was really not happy and began to ask what my options were now since I would definitely miss all the backup flights in Philly. The answer – no options but a refund.

But, Wait!

Meanwhile, there was a Frontier Airlines plane across the aisle from me that was flying to Philadelphia as well. It had also been delayed but was still saying they would take off, but not for an hour after this. I pulled up the flight and saw that I could purchase a seat for $66 and then would just need to pay for my bag. Doing this, I would be able to make one of my flights in Philadelphia.

But, I was assured by AA personnel on the ground that Frontier would likely be cancelling soon as well since all flights were being cancelled into Philadelphia. I know, my fault for believing that! But, I was weighing my options and I knew the only thing that would get me to Europe in time for my meeting was the Turkish Airlines flight out of New York the next day around noon.

With no flights headed there, I would need to rent a car and drive the 8 hours through the night to get there. Plus, I would have to secure that flight on my own since AA said they do not put passengers on other airlines (forget the fact that they did that with my father a few weeks later – moved him from an AA award to a Star Alliance business revenue ticket after a cancellation).

Distrusting the Budget Airline – And Losing Out Because of It

So, I went back and forth and thought I would be better off just heading to New York since if I waited for the cancellation of the Frontier flight, I would be under great pressure with the drive through the night to NY. I headed out for the long drive.

Oh, but wait – Frontier did not cancel the flight and they arrived in Philly in time for my flight out of there! Yes, that is right, a budget airline was able to get their passengers to their destination while one of the largest airlines in the world could not do that. Yes, I would have been better off had I booked a Frontier flight that day over the American Airline ticket.

In the end, AA gave me 10,000 miles for the problems – which did not touch the out-of-pocket costs and miles for the disruption. They did explain to me that each airline has to reduce the number of their hourly flights to make room for such ground stop delays when those stops are lifted. That forces the airline to prioritize which flights they keep and which ones they cancel. Unfortunately, the flight I was supposed to be on did not fit within their formula of what flights they keep.

Moral of the Story – Do Not Discount Discount Airlines!

What is the moral of the (long) story? Do not discount the discount airlines! They can often surprise you and in this case, it would have saved me time and money had I flown Frontier instead of booking with American Airlines – even at the last minute.

How have budget airlines helped you and do you find them a good value?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Hey Charlie! I posted this comment on one of Dan’s posts this week, but it 100% applies here as well, so please forgive the copy/paste!

    Had to jump in here, as I’ve flown 25K miles on Frontier over the past 12 months.
    Personal data points from this year:
    13/14 Frontier flights I took this year were on time. Not a single one was canceled. I didn’t have a single bad customer service experience.
    Flying United this year, 2/3 flights were canceled and rebooked.
    Flying American, 2/6 flights were on time.
    Maybe I’ve just had really good luck with Frontier this year, but I wanted to throw out those personal data points. Thanks for the post!

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