Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Frontier is latest airline to do away with toll-free customer service number

For decades, travelers have been able to count on a toll-free customer-service phone number to contact their airlines. But those numbers are fading away at the nation's emerging "ultra-low-cost carriers" as more people use cellphones.

Frontier Airlines is the latest to do away with its toll-free 800 number, a move the Denver-based carrier made earlier this summer, according to The Denver Post. The carrier tells the newspaper that discontinuing the toll-free number will save it $160,000 a month — or close to $2 million a year.

That cost-cutting, says Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner, will help the carrier keep its fares low.

"We're passing along the savings directly to our customers," Faulkner tells the Post. "Also, we find that most of our customers use their cellphones with free (long-distance) calling plans. So far, we haven't seen a lot of feedback on the switch to this new number, and it's been in operation since the end of June."

Frontier's decision to ditch its toll-free 800 number comes amid its transition from a typical discount carrier to an ultra-low-cost one. Under that model, airlines charge bare-bones fares but have fees for everything from carry-on bags to seat assignments.

The ultra-low-cost niche has picked up steam in the U.S. aviation market during the past decade, filling a gap with a product aimed at the nation's most cost-conscious travelers.

Spirit and Allegiant — two airlines that helped pioneer the niche here — have become two of the USA's most-profitable carriers. Both of those airlines have already discontinued their toll-free 800 numbers for reservations, though less-publicized toll-free numbers remain for specific customers in need of special assistance.

"The ultra-low-cost model ... is all about not accepting any costs unless those costs clearly drive revenue, and this is one where they probably had a hard time figuring out where it was translating to meaningful revenue," Seth Kaplan, managing partner of industry newsletter Airline Weekly, told the Post while discussing Frontier's change.

As for Frontier, its transition to the ultra-low-cost model has not come without speed bumps.
Complaints about the carrier have soared during the past year as customers have had to adjust to the airline's new pricing model. And there were some service irregularities as Frontier outsourced some jobs that affected customer service and baggage-handling positions.nce.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - USA Today / Today in the Sky)

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