Frontier Airlines is one of the most popular low-cost carriers in the US. You can often save a lot of money by flying with Frontier as long as you don’t get surprised by baggage fees. But do you sacrifice safety for price when flying with Frontier Airlines?
In this article, I’ll break down if Frontier Airlines is a safe airline or not. I’ll look at things like their crash history, fleet condition, pilot qualifications, and other things like FAA fines and complaints.
Table of Contents
Is Frontier Airlines safe?
Yes, Frontier Airlines is certified by the FAA and generally a safe airline to fly on.
However, there are multiple factors to consider when deciding how “safe” an airline actually is. Below, I’ll go over some of these factors including the statistics for fatal crashes, fleet overview, and pilot certification.
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Frontier Airlines was created in 1994 and has never had a fatal crash.
It’s worth pointing out that there was an entirely separate airline also called “Frontier Airlines” which operated from 1950 to 1986. This company went out of business and is a separate entity from the Frontier Airlines being discussed in this article.
In 1978 the “old” Frontier Airlines had a fatal crash involving a De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. The crash happened in Pueblo, Colorado, and all three people on board the aircraft sadly passed away.
Unfortunately, a lot of people probably see the article about that crash and assume that it is related to the airline as it exists today. But make no mistake, the Frontier Airlines that exists today has not had any fatal crashes.
Looking at the data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), here are the number of fatal accidents recorded for U.S. Air Carrier Safety Data:
- 2010: 1
- 2011: 0
- 2012: 0
- 2013: 2
- 2014: 0
- 2015: 0
- 2016: 0
- 2017: 0
- 2018: 1
- 2019: 2
As you can tell, fatal accidents on aircraft are very rare and many years nonexistent. Therefore, it makes sense to look to other statistics to see just how safe a given airline really is.
Let’s start by taking a look at the Frontier Airlines fleet.
Frontier Airlines Fleet
- Airbus A320-200: 19
- A320neo: 72
- Airbus A321-200: 21
- Airbus A321neo: 168 (Deliveries from 2021 to 2029)
- Airbus A321XLR: TBA
As you can see Frontier Airlines is planning to invest a lot in the Airbus A321neo.
Both the A320neo and A321neo have a clean flight record, meaning that they are some of the safest aircraft you could possibly fly. Indeed, the A320 series is thought to be one of the safest lines of aircraft in the world.
A lot of these aircraft have been ordered fairly recently making this fleet one of the most modern and young. In 2018, the average age was five years which was pretty young compared to other low-cost carriers.
So overall Frontier Airlines has a relatively young fleet full of aircraft with great safety records.
Pilot qualifications and pay
Some of the requirements to become a Frontier Airlines pilot reportedly include:
- 2,500 hours total time
- 750 hours multi-engine fixed wing
- 500 hours pilot in command (PIC)
- 500 hours jet/turbo-prop
- Current FAA Class 1 Medical Certificate
- Vision corrected to 20/20
- ATP Certificate
- FCC Restricted Radio Operator’s Permit
It’s difficult to compare the requirements between airlines because sometimes they use different types of qualifications.
But it does look like certain qualifications stick out like the total hours of flight time and hours for multi-engine flight, both of which appear to be higher for Spirit Airlines than Frontier according to epicflightacademy.
The average pay of a Frontier Airlines pilot is pretty low.
For example, in or around 2018 the average pay of a pilot for Frontier Airlines was $145.79, which was even lower than Spirit Airlines. So if this data is still holding up in 2021, Frontier Airline pilots received some of the lowest pay.
It’s worth noting that Frontier states that they have the best pay for ultra low cost carriers so it’s possible that Frontier has data to support a different conclusion.
Having pilots that get paid less could mean less qualified pilots who don’t know how to handle emergency situations as well as higher paid pilots.
I haven’t seen hard data to back up that this is the case but from a commonsense standpoint it’s hard to deny.
In defense of Frontier, you can find instances where emergencies were faced and the situation was handled without anybody getting injured. So it’s not like if something goes wrong, you have no hope with Frontier.
Related: Is Spirit Airlines Safe?
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), in 2020 Frontier Airlines ranked in the middle of the pack for on-time arrival percentage among major US carriers.
Middle of the pack does not sound too impressive but they are sandwiched between Alaska and United and ahead of American and JetBlue.
More recent data from 2021 shows that Frontier landed in the bottom three for US carriers on time percentage:
1. Allegiant Air – 51.9%
2. JetBlue Airways – 55.7%
3. Frontier Airlines – 60.0%
So from an on-time performance perspective, Frontier has shown that they can compete with the legacy carriers but sometimes they may have issues.
You also have to consider that Frontier is headquartered in Denver, Colorado which in the wintertime may mean dealing with winter storms. That could explain some delays but some of the data above is from the summer so it can’t explain all of the shortcomings.
Frontier Airlines recently ranked as one of the worst airlines for cancellations.
In July 2021, BTS data shows the highest marketing carrier rates of canceled flights:
1. Allegiant Air – 5.8%
2. Frontier Airlines – 3.4%
3. JetBlue Airways – 2.6%
But if you zoomed out a little bit and viewed the first half of 2021 they were more middle of the pack for cancellations. So from a cancellation standpoint, Frontier Airlines appears to be mostly average with some months getting pretty bad.
Complaints and fines
According to Statista, Frontier Airlines received the most complaints per 100,000 enplanements out of any US airline. The sad part is, it wasn’t really even close.
Frontier is also one of those airlines that seems to attract passengers who act in unruly ways.
I have not been able to find official data on passenger flights but it seems like anytime these scuffles or all out brawls (like this) appear on social media, either Spirit or Frontier is often involved.
It’s a sad reality but some passengers actually feel like they have to “watch their back” when flying on these ultra low-cost carriers.
Frontier Airlines also recently had some issues with the FAA and they received a penalty for allegedly operating aircraft that lacked required medical supplies on hundreds of flights.
The FAA alleged that in June and July 2017, Frontier personnel installed aircraft emergency medical kits that lacked either injectable epinephrine, or atropine, or both.
Just about every airline has had issues with the FAA at some point so getting fined is not a red flag in and of itself.
Like many other US airlines, Frontier Airlines has done a lot to address coronavirus safety concerns. They perform a Disinfection Procedure in accordance with the Airbus Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM).
This involves making sure touchpoints and surfaces are sprayed and cleaned with a disinfectant cleaner, doors get opened, and anti-bacterial hand soap is added to the restrooms.
Also, on every flight they use HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestors) which are filtration systems that can filter 99.97% of dust particles and airborne contaminants such as viruses and bacteria.
Why do people fly Frontier Airlines?
Much like Spirit Airlines, people fly Frontier Airlines because it is very cheap to fly them.
Some people might even look to Frontier for extra seat comfort.
A lot of people don’t realize that Frontier has one of the widest middle seats in the industry on its Airbus A320 and A319 planes, bringing the width to 19.3 inches.
Frontier Airlines is a low-cost carrier that can save you some change when flying them. There’s nothing to indicate that they are an unsafe airline so you don’t need to worry about your plane crashing when you fly them.
With that said, they don’t have the best track record when it comes to customer complaints and being on time. So if you do fly Frontier just be prepared for a potential delay or even unruly passengers.
Cover Photo: BriYYZ.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.