Late last week, Frontier Airlines became the first U.S. airline to unveil a new “menu-pricing” fare structure, in which passengers can choose from among three different pricing levels: Classic Plus, Classic, and Economy. Each ticket level comes with a certain number of amenities—the more you pay, the better services you get.
Here’s how it works: The Classic Plus ticket, which costs about $55 more than a Classic ticket on a New York-Los Angeles one-way flight, is fully refundable, and includes priority boarding, advanced seat assignments, two free checked bags, free DirecTV, a 150-percent frequent flier mileage credit, a snack and a "premium" beverage.
The Classic ticket, about $25 more than the Economy ticket, gets you advanced seat assignments, two free checked bags, free DirecTV, and a 125-percent frequent flier mileage credit. Ticket change fees are $50, down from the normal $100.
And if you choose economy, you are really slumming it. You get no free perks, or increased mileage earnings. Nothing extra. Nada. It’s just your seat, and if you’re lucky, a cup of water or Coke. Frontier charges economy passengers $15 for the first checked bag, and $25 for the second. Snacks on long flights are $3.
Air Canada has had a similar price structure for years, and other U.S. airlines are rumored to be thinking about moving in this direction, including American Airlines. For Air Canada, menu pricing has not only proven to be a money-maker, it’s also relatively popular among passengers. If passengers are willing to forgo all the extras, they can actually save money on their flight. On the downside, however, are you going to feel a little DirecTV-envy if the passenger sitting next to you is watching The Office, and you’re stuck reading the in-flight magazine?
Keep a look out for our story in the February issue on the advantages and disadvantages of this shift to a menu pricing structure.