Randy says he’s a free agent.
I knew it. I knew it was just a matter of time and I knew it would potentially alter my plans. I just knew it.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve occasionally commented on a malady known to frequent flyers as FOC—fear of change. While FOC can also mean fear of coach, the meaning for me this time is related to my struggle around upcoming changes to the Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns program. Make no mistake, I liked the simplistic airline and their frequent flyer program. Sure, I didn’t get the big seats up front, but I was happy with their route network and the benefits of EarlyReturns.
Many of our readers might think that I fear nothing, that I am truly a Master of the Universe in how I travel and deftly tread through the maze of travel loyalty programs. All of that is generally true and I’m pretty good at what I do and write about. However, when change comes calling, I become a different person and one who is not used to controlling my own destiny. Many road warriors feel that programs and the industry must/should/will change around their needs. Well, it doesn’t look as if my struggles accepting change from Frontier Airlines was met with much empathy—they recently announced a sale to Indigo Partners LLC, who controls Spirit Airlines. The clue for me? The article headline in The Wall Street Journal which read, “At Frontier, Prepare for Less Leg Room.”
It’s hard to imagine that a new owner who plans on significant growth and as stated plans on new fees and less legroom for Frontier will pony up a strategy to improve, enrich or even continue with EarlyReturns. The head of Indigo Partners LLC is actually someone that I think has earned respect in the industry for the segment he has targeted. The bottom line is that Indigo has been successful and there is a market for less legroom. It certainly means that any dream I have of enjoying perks commonly associated with more frequent travel such as upgrades and even free bags (in Spirit’s case, it doesn’t matter if checked or carried on … pay at the pump!) will certainly be lost in the future strategy of EarlyReturns. With Mr. Franke saying he plans to parallel Frontier with Spirit (one wonders which brand will disappear so that a single network becomes more attractive to your budget-minded traveler), it’s clear that I need to make my move now.
Which move is that you may ask? My move is common in many arenas and especially so in sports. I’ve become a free agent. I always want to control my participation in the product and services of those loyalty programs in which I participate. Based upon the history and forward-looking statements that Mr. Franke has made, I don’t feel that EarlyReturns will fit the types of return I expect from the airlines I choose to fly. What I’ve found is that price is not everything and the basis of Spirit and thus the new flight pattern for Frontier is lowering the base fare and then upcharging for everything else, including at times even a boarding pass. I don’t fault that strategy and think it works wonders for pay-as-you-go Spirit and similar airlines. Maybe I should do a reality check and go with that flow? But the reality is that I have plans for the miles I’ve earned along the way—and I’m not thinking Myrtle Beach will be in those plans for this flyer.
While this is a decision for forward booking travel (Southwest does great for similar pricing and better overall benefits with their loyalty program), I’ve already decided that it makes sense for me to burn my current balance with EarlyReturns before any of the perks I currently enjoy disappear in the transition. It’s just a few award tickets, but rather than earning miles to Mexico this winter on Frontier, I’m thinking I’ll fly for free.
For whatever reason, this final curtain call decision of mine with this airline has been difficult. I like the airline and have enjoyed a pleasant relationship with all the marketing personnel in the past and wish them all the luck in the future. I’ll still look to see if Jack the Rabbit is peeking at me from the tail of the plane when taxiing away from DIA on another airline, but that’s what loyalty is all about—there are painful decisions to make when change greets you at the check-in counter. In this situation, it is the direction of the airline predicating my loyalty decision and that’s always the prerogative of the customer.
It’s been real, it’s been great and here’s to many happy EarlyReturns for others.
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