Rundles wrap up: Frontier's flying circus

Don’t get me started on the $2 Cokes and $3 snacks

When I first became an adult, at least by outfitting standards, my shoe size was 9 and it stayed there until about age 40, when somehow my feet grew to size 9 1/2. A decade later, I swelled to a size 10, and a few years later my feet were 10 ½’s. Recently I went to buy a new pair of kicks and, lo and behold, I’m an 11. This didn’t really concern me until I kept catching my clodhopper toes on the stairs.

I got to thinking about this and it occurred to me the same thing has happened to my waist size. In college I was a 28”, in my mid- to late-20s I became a 29” or 30”. Over the years my waist gradually increased to where I am now, 34” – and trending upward.

So my feet have gotten larger, particularly the front parts, and my pants have grown to where it looks as if I have a barrel ring around my waist.

Turns out, I have become a clown. When I sign my name, instead of putting in my middle initial, I should assume a new middle name: “The.” 

That’s me. Doofus The Clown. 

Most of this, of course, is a negative, but as a clown – and someone who tries to find the upside – I have discovered that being a clown gives me special insight into the airline business, and in particular, Denver-based Frontier Airlines.

Before clown-hood I used to fly all the time on business, and my preferred airline was Frontier. Its people were kind, its systems worked well, I never had a problem with my bags. I enjoyed the (mostly) free beverage service, and the flights flew at my preferred times to my select list of destinations. This, at the time, was in direct contrast to United Airlines, and on the few occasions where I tried or was forced to fly some off-brand, like Spirit, Frontier was the clear choice. The Denver choice.

But then the airline decided it would be better to clown around with some of the newer concepts in flying. First, it became a low-cost airline and began to cut back on amenities. Then – following its acquisition in 2013 by Indigo Partners – the airline started to go with the now too-popular Ultra Low-Cost carrier model sweeping the industry. It comes as no surprise that the private equity firm Indigo also invested in Spirit.

Ultra Low-Cost carrier, to the normal person, sounds like a good deal. Hey, I can fly for cheap! But clowns, while silly, aren’t stupid: Only the actual flying costs are ultra low; everything else will make your orange hair stand on end. The airline now charges not only for baggage, and pretty steep, I might add, but also charges upwards of $25 to $35 for a carry-on bag. And don’t get me started about the $2 Cokes and $3 snacks, and the incessant bag measuring at the gate that leads to a $50 gate-check fee for us clowns with excess baggage. 

Then, of course, there’s the “customer service” – I put that in quotes to indicate sarcasm. Hour-long or more waits on the phone, a website that often locks up, and gate and in-flight personnel who make the skies a far less friendly destination.

It is no surprise that in a recent survey concerning airline quality, Frontier not only came in dead last, it set an all-time record for monthly complaints among airlines.

Frontier has recently cut its destinations from Denver by 21 percent, and posted such a drop in passengers in recent months that it dragged down the passenger counts for all of Denver International Airport in spite of increases for every other airline.

In the meantime, Frontier has had severe new-booking system snafus, has warned employees of coming layoffs, and has even blamed DIA’s high tax structure and landing fees for its change in direction. 

What’s really going on here is that the flying public is tired of being nickel-and-dimed into submission and is switching airline allegiance. The once proud local company – one that Denverites were proud to support – isn’t suffering from high fees and airline competition. It is – and has been for some time – suffering from bad management.

Any clown can see that. I’m taking my big shoes and baggy pants to a flying circus that appreciates my business.

Categories: Economy/Politics, Magazine Articles, Tech