My Experience Flying on Frontier’s Newest Aircraft, The Airbus a320NEO in Stretch Seat 13A
I’m embarrassed to admit it but I occasionally take road trips here and there. I’m still relatively close to my parents and I love to take family vacations. Both my parents have a somewhat negative attitude towards flying. They’ve spent their entire lives flying and they never really embraced air travel like I have. So, when my parents feel like saving some money and avoiding the stress of air travel, they inform me that we’re loading up the family car and driving.
Anyway, after a 13.5-hour drive from St. Louis to Breckenridge, Colorado, I realized that there was no way I could do the return drive and then fly 13 hours to New Zealand a day later. I began searching for flights home and managed to score a nonstop flight from Denver to St. Louis on Frontier Airlines for just $33.
Already excited realizing that my travel time would be cut in half, I nearly lost it when I found out that I’d be flying a brand new Airbus a320 NEO home. As one Twitter follower replied, “I think you’re the first person to ever be excited to fly Frontier.” That may very well be true.
That $33 fare didn’t include a carry-on, a seat, or any other extras. Frontier is an ultra-low-cost carrier and I knew exactly what I was getting into. However, I shelled out $20 for a “Stretch” exit row window seat. Since my parents were driving home, I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for any bags either. I scored a great seat and early boarding on a nonstop flight for a little over $50. However, another added bonus was the aircraft type.
As mentioned above, my flight was operated by one of Frontier’s brand new Airbus a320 NEOs. NEO stands for New Engine Option and is Airbus’ new generation family of aircraft. Aircraft with the NEO designation are more fuel efficient, technologically advanced, economically viable for airlines, and somewhat more passenger friendly. Here’s what to expect on Frontier’s next-generation Airbus.
Itinerary: Frontier Airbus a320NEO Denver-St. Louis
- Flight: Frontier F91218
- Departure City/Time: Denver (DEN) / 1:35 PM
- Arrival City/Time: St. Louis (STL) / 4:12 PM (18 Mins Early)
- Aircraft: N311FR / Airbus a320-251N (a320NEO)
- Flight Time: 1:32hrs
- Seat/Class of Service: 13A / Economy
Check-In at Denver International Airport
My parents dropped me off at Denver’s iconic Jeppesen Terminal nearly four and a half hours prior to boarding as they wanted to get back home before midnight. Waiting to check in wasn’t an issue as Denver is Frontier’s largest base and there are always agents at the ticketing counters. The walk from curbside to Frontier’s ticketing counter took less than a minute.
At most airports, Frontier offers both kiosks and traditional check-in. I opted to use a kiosk. Frontier’s kiosks at Denver might have been some of the most responsive and user-friendly kiosks I’ve come across. Within a minute, I printed my boarding pass and was making my way to security.
Taking Advantage of CLEAR at Denver International Airport
Traveling just a few days after the Thanksgiving holiday, both the TSAPreCheck and general security lines stretched around the terminal. I’ve never seen lines for security this bad in Denver. I would have to guess that passengers waiting in the general security line probably waited upwards of 45 minutes to get through security—if not longer. However, TSAPreCheck wasn’t that much better. As a matter of fact, the TSAPreCheck line spilled beyond the security screening ropes.
Luckily, Denver International Airport features CLEAR. I’ve written about CLEAR before, albeit, the post was negative. However, after taking advantage of the service a handful of times and seeing as CLEAR continues to expand, I now have a much more favorable outlook on CLEAR.
I located the CLEAR line and made my way to the kiosks. There wasn’t a single passenger waiting in the CLEAR line. One of the CLEAR reps informed me that they were scanning my right two fingers today. She took my boarding pass, scanned it, and then stamped it. She opened the ropes to the TSAPre Check line and there I was, at the front of the line.
All said and done, it took me under five minutes to get through security on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
A Long Wait in Denver
As mentioned above, I had to wait upwards of four and a half hours until boarding. Denver International Airport doesn’t have a true Priority Pass lounge, only restaurants offering vouchers. Additionally, though I can access Delta SkyClubs, I can only do so when I’m flying on Delta. Furthermore, Delta’s lounge in Denver features self-serve alcohol which means I wouldn’t have been able to access the lounge even if I had been flying Delta.
I remembered that I still had over $100 left to spend as part of my American Express Platinum Card airline expense stipend. I choose American Airlines as my preferred airline for the annual credit. That meant I could purchase a $59 day-pass at the Denver Admiral’s Club and later, be reimbursed by American Express. Given how long I’d be waiting in a fairly boring airport, I broke down and bought a day-pass.
The American Airlines Admiral’s Club is nothing special. It’s what you’d find at any non-hub airport. I was pleasantly surprised by the fairly modern furnishings and the interior as well as the breakfast foods available. The staff was professional and welcoming throughout my visit. One major drawback of the Denver Admiral’s Club is guests have to leave the lounge to use the restroom. Other than that, if you find yourself with a long layover in Denver, I’d consider spending $60 for a day-pass.
Frontier Airlines Flight F91218
Roughly thirty minutes prior to boarding, I made my way to my gate. Frontier operates out of the same concourse as American which meant my walk from the Admiral’s Club wasn’t too bad.
My aircraft, N311FR, was already waiting at the gate having just flown in from St. Louis. Though I’m not a big fan of Frontier’s new livery, it was almost bearable painted on such a beautiful aircraft, the Airbus a320NEO.
The gate agent provided updates on the boarding process, baggage, and the flight as we neared boarding. Boarding began ten minutes early with most passengers (myself included) huddling around the gate area eager to board.
Though I was in a “Stretch Seat”, I was assigned Zone 2. I thought Zone 1 would consist of just a few passengers, mainly elites and those who purchased Frontier’s fare bundle, “The Works”, however, I was very wrong. Roughly 50% of the aircraft was assigned to Zone 1 which meant I wouldn’t be able to get any great shots of the cabin without intruding on other’s privacy. It also meant I was left looking like a gate lice while everyone else boarded.
Finally, ten, maybe fifteen minutes into boarding, Zone 2 was called and I made my way down the jetway.
Frontier Airbus a320NEO First Impressions
I didn’t receive even a simple, “Welcome onboard” or “Hello” from any of the crew members though, to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting one anyway. The crew was going about their business monitoring overhead bins and paying little attention to passengers and could care less about being polite or welcoming.
I was expecting to be met with the “new plane smell” upon boarding the aircraft as it had been delivered less than six months ago. Instead, I was greeted by a rather stagnant smell of other passengers, snack foods, and faux leather. It was a rather underwhelming first impression.
Frontier has done a fantastic job making their aircraft look as basic and cheap as possible. However, based on what I’ve seen, Frontier is still offering a much more passenger-centric product that Spirit. The cabin was brightly lit, it felt open, and the slimline seating made the seat pitch look normal.
I made my way to my seat, 13A, and stored my personal item under my seat. The middle seat remained open until about five minutes prior to the door closing. Luckily, both of my seatmates were heavy sleepers and didn’t mind me getting up and using the restroom three times throughout the short flight.
Frontier Airbus a320NEO Stretch Seating
As I mentioned a few times now, I selected a Stretch Seat. Stretch Seating on Frontier is usually found in the first three rows of the aircraft and the exit row(s). Stretch Seats have more than 6 inches of additional pitch. The Stretch Seats located at the exit row(s) have by far the most pitch offering nearly 40 inches of pitch.
Also noteworthy is that Stretch Seats are designated by the pattern found on the seats. Rather than the traditional grey faux leather without any pattern or markings, Stretch Seats feature black faux leather and a diamond pattern across the seat. Finally, all seats on Frontier flights are “pre-reclined” even the Stretch Seats.
As one would expect from an ultra-low-cost carrier, the seats are bare bones. There aren’t any power outlets, there isn’t any in-flight entertainment, and you’re lucky to get a tray table. Many seats feature a tray table not even large enough to completely hold an iPhone 8+. However, the Stretch Seats feature full-size tray tables. While full size, the tray table was flimsy and seemed to be broken.
I made a trip to the lavatory to snap a few pictures. Though Frontier’s Airbus a320NEO seats 180 passengers, there are just two lavatories to serve the entire aircraft, one in the front and one in the back.
The lavatories are comically small. I’m 5’10” which is by no means tall and my head was hitting the top of the lavatory if I stood fully upright. I guess the lavatories are just part of the Frontier experience!
Frontier Airbus a320NEO On-Board Service
The flight attendants came around with a beverage and snack cart first serving Stretch Seats. The fact that Frontier has flight attendants serve “premium” seats first is a nice touch. However, the premium experience ends there. All passengers, if they want something other than water or juice, are required to pay for soft drinks and snacks.
I was feeling a little hungry so I opted to have some Pringles and a can of Coke. I believe I ended up spending $6 on the purchase. Interestingly, when the flight attendant handed me her table to complete the purchase, there was a place for a tip. It caught me by surprise and of course, I didn’t tip.
I really don’t have much to say about the crew other than that they were on the flight. They weren’t friendly but they weren’t actively unpleasant. As I said, it was like they were just there. I did notice that the crew was happiest when they were doing Frontier’s MasterCard pitch as flight crews receive compensation for each approved cardholder they sign up.
Overall, Frontier Airbus a320NEO
Though it might not seem like it, I was pleasantly surprised with my experience on Frontier’s Airbus a320NEO. Keep in mind I spent under $55 on this ticket. I received nearly the same service I’d receive on Delta or American with about as much enthusiasm by the crew as I received on my flight in DeltaONE from Sydney to Los Angeles a few days ago. The Airbus a320NEO is a quiet and comfortable aircraft that will suit ultra-low-cost carriers very well. Finally, and most importantly, I not only arrived on time but I arrived early. What more could I ask for $55?
What do you think about Frontier’s Airbus a320NEO? Would you fly Frontier for $33?