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Frontier Airlines does away with change fees in budget airline pricing overhaul

Frontier Airlines said it will stop charging customers a fee to change their flights, taking a page from larger competitors as the Biden administration issues stricter rules targeting so-called “junk fees.”

The change is part of an overhaul announced on Friday of the budget airline’s longtime pricing model, which brings customers in the door with eye-catching low base fares but charges a fee for everything else such as seating assignments and carry-on baggage. That model is shared by fellow discounter Spirit Airlines.

Frontier said it will start offering packages that include some of those add-ons, among others, such as early boarding. While some fares will still allow travelers to add on options a la carte, “we expect that option to be a minority of customers,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle told CNBC.

A new “economy” bundle that comes with a carry-on and a seat assignment will start at $30 more than a basic fare, while a “premium” bundle that offers those perks plus earlier boarding will be $50 more than the basic fare. For at least $100 more than a basic fare, “business” bundle travelers will also be able to check two bags and get a seat at the front of the plane with more room.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a final rule that requires airlines to tell customers about fees, including those for checked or carry-on baggage, up front, a change the DOT said would save travelers more than half a billion dollars a year.

Frontier currently charges up to $99 to change flights if the change is made within a week of the trip, according to the airline’s website. Larger rivals Delta, American and United scrapped change fees during the Covid-19 pandemic for travelers who were booked in standard economy class and above. Southwest Airlines does not charge customers to change their tickets.

“The truth is the big four [U.S. airlines] all have no change fees on the majority of their products, so we were not as desirable,” Biffle said. He said change fees were a “top complaint” of travelers. Travelers who buy the cheapest option on Frontier will still have to pay to change their flights.

Frontier also said flight credits would be valid for 12 months, up from three months, starting with tickets issued on Friday, and that it will reintroduce live phone support for travelers flying within 24 hours or to elite members of its frequent flyer program.

This post appeared first on NBC NEWS

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