Review sponsored by Wayman Flight Training Miami
When Frontier announced its $19 one way flights from Long Island’s Islip MacArthur Airport to Miami, Fort Myers, and Orlando in September, it was an offer I just couldn’t resist. I impulsively reached out to my travel group and within an hour of finding the deal, we had four roundtrip tickets to Miami booked for November 10th.
Frontier’s website is very easy to navigate. During the booking, we had no issues locating the correct flights and dates. Being a low-cost carrier, Frontier presents you with several tack-on options before payment to generate ancillary revenue. Seat selection costs an extra $13, checked bags range from $30-$40, and a preset travel insurance cost offers to save you from a $99 cancellation fee. Being Avgeeks, we all had to splurge an extra $13 for window seats for the flight to Miami.
At the end of the booking process, our total cost for 4 people amounted to $205.60.
Here is the cost breakdown:
Total Base Fare: $76.80
Taxes and Carrier imposed fees: $3.72
Extras: Seat Selection: $52 ($13 each for 4 people)
(Frontier actually has the Airfare and Taxes and fees numbers switched on the website, but I’m guessing its a glitch)
Total Base Fare: $76.80
Taxes and Carrier imposed fees: $3.72
All this works out to $32.20 one way with pre-selected seats and $19.20 one way without pre-selected seats.
Frontier lets you check-in at the airport or online (up to 24 hours before) at no additional cost. We opted to check-in at the airport for the flight to Miami and online on the way back. Online check-in is quick and easy; simply pick the passengers flying, hit the check-in button, and jump through the ancillary fee hoops. Keep in mind that you are not able to choose any seats at check-in if you do not pay the seat selection fee. If you don’t choose your seats, Frontier promises to do their best to keep your party together. On the return flight from Miami at night, we did not select any seats and all four of us got assigned the same row.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 10:50 AM. We arrived at MacArthur at 9:40 AM and parked in the economy lot. Islip charges $4.00 per hour up to a max of $14.00 a day. The economy lot provides a free shuttle that runs to the terminal every 10 minutes.
Frontier’s check-in area is adjacent to Southwest’s. Check-in took under 5 minutes, there was barely a line. Likewise, the security line was pretty much non-existent. Even though TSA Pre-check was printed on my boarding pass, there was no pre-check line. The main terminal at Islip is surprisingly large and modern. Since Southwest has been running the show at Islip for years, Frontier’s recently introduced flights are relegated to a small rustic ground-level building haphazardly attached to the main terminal. Since I forgot to take any photos of it, let me leave you with a fitting image: think of a coach bus terminal with Long Island aviation relics and hoards of people crowding three tiny gate doors.
Frontier boards in zones. I think they offer an expedited boarding option for sale on their website. On our flight to Miami, there were 3 zones. We were Zone 3 and subsequently last to be called. On the flight back, we were Zone 4, and again last to be called. I’m not completely sure how the zones work, nor do I really care. Since I almost never need to use the overhead bins, I always get the luxury of being able to stroll onboard at my leisure.
We got pretty lucky on the flight to Miami and scored an A320NEO (for the non-avgeeks, a new Airbus plane boasting quieter engines), N305FR, “Cliff the Mountain Goat”. Unlike other low-cost carriers, Frontier appeals to avgeeks by listing the registration of the scheduled flights on Flightradar24 more than 24 hours in advance. I had the registrations of our planes down more than a day in advance. I remember reading somewhere that Frontier wasn’t concerned about on-time departures as much as other carriers. Once again, with Flightradar24 and Flightaware, I confirmed that this was the case; this flight FFT1793 had an average departure delay of 10-20 minutes.
Our A320 came in from Miami earlier in the day with a Denver based crew. Despite being the second flight of the day, departing out of a Frontier focus city, and being only 11 months old, the plane was pretty dirty. Crumbs littered the cabin floor around my seat and some unknown substance was smeared across the seatback in front of me. Looking around the cabin, all the other seats looked fairly clean so I’ll give Frontier the benefit of the doubt on this one.
1,185 Miles to Miami
Pushback was at 10:51, followed by the unique startup sounds of the NEO’s PW1000G engines. A short taxi to RWY06 proceeded. The departure was very fun, winds were 320 degrees at 22 gusting to 34, giving us a crosswind component of 28 knots. (The A320 has a 29 knots gust 38 knots max limit for a crosswind takeoff). A few bumps later, we hit our cruise altitude of 38,000 feet. The rest of the flight was very smooth.
Flight attendants passed through the cabin to try to take snack orders for $2.99 but to no avail. Most passengers had their window shades closed and were trying to catch up on sleep before arrival. Despite being a NEO, I personally found the engine noise to be not much quieter than a CFM or IAE equipped A320. Although the takeoff was noticeably quieter, once in cruise, I could not notice a difference. Frontier’s A320s have 3 lavatories, one up front and two in the back. One feature I especially liked was the large lighted signs between the bulkheads that lit up green for a vacant bathroom and red for an occupied one.
Frontier’s basic economy seats offer an unimpressive 28 inches of pitch and stretch seats a more acceptable 37 inches. The flight to Miami was completely full, probably because it was a three day Veterans Day weekend. Our flight back, however, had a load factor of around 65%. 2 hours and 52 minutes in Frontier’s economy was not as bad as I had imagined. Frontier’s slimline seats and useless tiny tray table opened up a few inches of extra legroom. The A320’s wide cabin, 18 inches of seat width, and space between the seat and cabin walls also ensured I wasn’t plastered to my seat neighbor.
I should also note that it is wise to choose a seat on the right side of the plane down to Miami so the sun isn’t on your face when the window shades are open.
Before I anticipated, we were descending towards Miami on the HILEY6 arrival. Treated with spectacular views of the coast of Florida, we were vectored around storm buildups and traffic from Fort Lauderdale as we made our way to intercept the ILS for RWY12. The window began to warm up, the water on the wings began to condense, and the cabin grew livelier in anticipation of the 86 degree Florida heat. Glideslope captured, gear down, flaps full, and finally a smooth touchdown on Runway 12 20 minutes early
Having never flown Frontier before, I honestly had no clue what to expect. I knew Frontier was a low-cost airline mostly operating flights in the Midwest but I wasn’t sure if it was more along the likes of jetBlue or Spirit.
To conclude, Frontier mirrors neither. Frontier resembles Spirit with its no-frills style fares with many additional add-on purchases. However, Frontier doesn’t force these options upon its passengers and does not charge any hidden fees. Frontier, like jetBlue, tries to recapture the humanity of air travel with its lively crews, low ticket prices, and animal caricatures dotting the tails of their planes and hearts of their young passengers. In contrast to jetBlue, Frontier offers much cheaper prices and more convenience for travelers on Long Island. Frontier’s vows to remain a customer-friendly airline with its slogan Low Fares Done Right. I honestly believe Frontier has captured this essence. At no time during my experience on Frontier did I feel like I was flying an ultra-low-cost airline like Spirit or Allegiant.
Frontier’s presence on Long Island is brand new but growing by the flight. Islip has historically been a tough airport to sustain service to, carriers such as American Airlines, Spirit, Allegiant, and Penair have all tried to maintain operations out of Islip but with no success. Frontier is the latest airline to give Islip a try, turning Islip into a focus city and launching operations on August 16th, 2017. As a passenger determined to take advantage of Frontier’s low cost and convenience to escape the cold weather again, I really hope Frontier finds success in Islip. To lose yet another airline at Islip, especially one as large as Frontier, would be a huge disappointment.
Featured photo by Adam Juriga