Budget carrier Frontier Airlines is facing a $100 million class action lawsuit alleging the company is not really a budget carrier at all. Instead, the airline is charged with deliberately obscuring actual total fare costs in a way that has defrauded consumers. Does this lawsuit have any merit?
Frontier Airlines $100 Million Class Action Lawsuit Over Deceptive Fees
There’s no question that Frontier has fully embraced the “unbundled” model of selling airline tickets in which your ticket comes with a seat and little else. It’s not just checked bags that cost extra, but also carry-on bags, drinks, snacks, printing a boarding pass, or standing by for an early flight.
The lawsuit opens with a dire warning:
“FRONTIER is not a budget airline. FRONTIER does not have the lowest airfares. FRONTIER just breaks its fees into tiny little pieces and checkpoints to water down the appearance of what is actually an average airfare when combined and compared to the industry.”
That’s true…add all the extras and you are often better off buying a ticket on a full-service legacy carrier. But for those who are able to pack very light and don’t mind where they end up seated onboard and don’t need to print a boarding pass…Frontier is cheaper.
But there’s one area of the lawsuit that particularly interests me. The complaint alleges that Frontier uses “bait-and-switch” tactics to “confuse, trick and trap consumers” specifically in the context of personal items. While larger carry-on bags are not permitted, Frontier still allows each passenger to travel with a “personal item” provided it fits underneath the seat and within the dimensions of 8 x 18 x 14 inches.
However, the lawsuit alleges that the personal item sizers at airports are actually smaller than 8 (length) x 18 (width) x 14 (height). We just wrote about an incident in which a passenger’s personal item purportedly fit inside the sizer but was still not allowed to board, but this is a far more serious allegation. If Frontier has a smaller sizer at airports, that does constitute an actionable offense.
The lawsuit also says that the entire fee structure at Frontier Airlines is obscure, especially when purchasing through online travel agencies:
“FRONTIER’s fees are not conspicuously shown on its website or on the websites of third-party vendors and consumers are often unaware of FRONTIER’s large and plentiful fees until after they purchase a ticket that initially appeared attractive.”
This is an interesting component of the lawsuit because transparency is critical: if the entire business model (one that I like in theory, I might add) is shouldered on trickery, then there is a huge problem.
Frontier faces a $100 million class action lawsuit by disgruntled passengers.
The $100 million amount is punitive in nature and intended to deter other carriers from similar action.
I am particularly interested to learn if the actual dimensions of carry-on and personal sizers differ from the published regulation sizes.
image: Frontier Airlines