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Frontier Checks Your Carry-On and Other Things to Know Before Booking

February 12, 2014 at 7:29 AM | by | ()

It was the first time we’d ever experienced an airline go that far to enforce the size limitations of a carry-on, and to be honest, it left us with a bag of mixed feelings.

If Southwest is America’s budget airline, then Frontier is our low-budget airline, offering some of the best and most competitive fares out there to its destinations (we just got a $90 one-way from Denver to Wilmington/Philadelphia, for example, and remember our $49 trip into Trenton?). Like most airlines, Frontier charges for checked luggage, and even carry-ons in some cases (which can be avoided, see below), but the biggest surprise was its determination to police the size of the bags passengers are carrying on.

Obviously, Frontier is hip to the fact that passengers are bringing oversized suitcases as carry-ons to avoid checked-baggage fees. To cut down on overstuffed bins and to be fair to everyone, the airline is popping them into baggage sizers prior to boarding (shown in photo above). Don’t try to hide -– the process was similar to that of a passport check for international flights. Before boarding, an announcement was made that all passengers had to come up and get their bag sized, and only after it fit would you get a stamp on your boarding pass that would allow you to board with your carry-on.

On one hand, it makes sense: Rules are rules, and when we play by them, everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into and everyone gets a fair piece of the pie. And how many times have we seen people try to avoid baggage fees by taking up the space of two carry-ons with their gigantic roller suitcase? That said, if you traveled before there were baggage fees, the idea of someone measuring your bag's dimensions in today’s world is, at best, aggravating.

We see both sides, so just be aware this may happen on your next Frontier flight. You should also be aware that bringing an oversized carry-on to the gate is not a strategy for ducking the baggage fee. If your carry-on is found to be too large, Frontier will charge you to check it.

Here are a few other good things to know about Frontier Airlines before booking:

Frontier’s policy of policing carry-ons is inconsistent. While the experience above happened a few weeks ago, we just flew them again last week and bags were not sized prior to boarding.

• Frontier openly penalizes those who don't book via its website, so be sure to make your reservation at FlyFrontier.com. Booking directly gets you an advanced seat assignment, the full amount of frequent flier miles, and a free carry-on. If you book through a third party, you won't receive a seat assignment until you check in, you will be charged for your carry-on ($25 in advance, $50 at check-in), and you will get only half the frequent flier miles the flight is worth.

• Harsh, right? Oh, and get this: If you book via a third party and show up at the gate with an oversized carry-on, you will be charged $100 to check it! Those who book via the website would only be charged $35 in the same situation.

• When booking through its website, you will have three options to choose from: Classic, Classic Plus, and Economy. The former two include free non-alocholic beverages and a free first bag, but all get you a free carry-on. Economy tickets get you a discount on checked luggage (first piece is $20 if you pay online), but you have to pay for drinks -- even sodas, which start at $1.99. See the breakdown of the different fare classes here.

Moral of the story: Book via the website, and don't try to pull one over. Frontier will make you pay, literally.

[Photos: Jaunted]

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