Even for budget carriers, earning elite status is now all about how much you spend.
Frontier Airlines on Tuesday joined larger airlines in announcing an overhaul of its frequent flyer program to reward travelers depending on how much they pay to fly.
Frontier and other discount airlines offer low, no-frills fares and fees for everything else from seat assignments to carry-on baggage. Those add-ons will count toward elite frequent flyer status on the Denver-based airline starting next year.
The carrier’s current program gives travelers one frequent flyer mile for each physical mile they fly on Frontier.
The new model based on spending is similar to other large airlines’ recent program changes like those at Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. Last week, Delta walked back some of its new elite status thresholds and limits on airport lounge access after customers complained about the changes.
Frontier said customers will be able to earn earn silver elite status, a new tier, after racking up 10,000 miles, which the carrier said is equal to spending $1,000. The tiers go up to “diamond” level at 100,000 miles, though there are accelerators to earn more miles at each level.
Perks include fee-free flight changes, seat assignments, in-cabin pets and, at the highest level, a second free checked bag.
Ancillary revenue is especially important to budget carriers. Frontier said in the second quarter it’s ancillary revenue rose 6% year over year to $80 per passenger, while revenue from airfare fell 15% to nearly $48 per passenger.
Frontier is scheduled to report third-quarter results before the market opens on Thursday.