Frontier Airlines President says travelers are too entitled

Frontier has new seats and most of them don't recline at all. Photo: Frontier. 

Frontier has new seats and most of them don't recline at all. Photo: Frontier. 

Are U.S. airline passengers too entitled? Do they want more perks than they're willing to pay for? Do they whine too much?

Yes, Frontier President Barry Biffle told me last month. "In the United States, relative to the average per capita GDP, this is one of the cheapest places on the planet to travel," he said. "Americans fly at several multiples of the average flier. There's not a country like it. And you get entitled. People feel entitled."

Frontier sells some of the cheapest fares in the world, but in exchange, there are drawbacks for consumers. The seats don't recline. Legroom is minimal. The airline charges for nearly every extra, including carry-on bags, sodas and advanced seat assignments. 

Biffle thinks that's a fair tradeoff. But some consumers, judging by Frontier's complaint rate, want it all - cheap fares and special perks. This perplexes Biffle. 

As you probably know, through the end of 2014, Frontier was a full-service carrier. It had decent seat pitch and a satisfactory onboard product. It even had a generous frequent flier program. 

The old Frontier, Biffle said, was giving its elite frequent flier members $46 in value on every flight segment, while it received only $25 in revenue in return. But that model wasn't sustainable, so Frontier changed its frequent flier program. It had no choice, Biffle said. 

"I can't continue losing money on every passenger," he said.

Biffle said U.S. consumers will eventually come around and fully understand the value proposition. Until then, however, he knows the airline will see its share of complaints from customers who want BMW service at a Chevrolet price. 

"Until you move to full acceptance, which I think will just take more time, I don't know that the value is completely there [for customers]," he said. 

What do you think? Are U.S. consumers entitled? Do they want more perks from airlines without having to pay for them? Will they eventually understand the trade off inherent in buying a ticket on Frontier or Spirit?


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