Earlier this week, the Transportation Department fined Frontier Airlines more than $2.2 million in fees for failing to provide legitimate and expeditious refunds to thousands of disgruntled and dissatisfied passengers, including many at the busy Trenton-Mercer Municipal Airport. The low-cost, low-budget, and low-flying carrier is the only American airline company penalized by the Department of Transportation and was also assessed more in fines than any of the other six carriers named in the DOT filing, totaling more than $7 million, according to published reports.

Frontier Airlines at Trenton-Mercer Municipal Airport (File photo)

Other carriers assessed fines by the DOT included Air India, TAP Air Portugal, Aeromexico, El Al, and Avianca. In a press statement Frontier Airlines issued shortly after the DOT announcement, the carrier said it had allocated about $100 million in alleged “good-will refunds.” The statement added that Frontier was not legally obligated to refund customers impacted by poor service, canceled or delayed flights, and other problems. As part of an agreement with the DOT, Frontier will pay only $1 million of the $2.2 million cost since the carrier did provide some refunds to passengers that canceled nonrefundable tickets during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Denver-based carrier started offering extended daily non-flight service from Trenton to dozens of locations in November 2012. According to state statistics, it is the only commercial airline offering scheduled service out of the Trenton-Mercer County Airport–the third-busiest airport in New Jersey. 

The fines announced are part of a growing effort by the DOT and Secretary Pete Buttigieg to hold the airline industry responsible and sufficiently accountable for customer dissatisfaction resulting from carrier delays and inefficiencies. In a statement, Buttigieg said, “Even though we are dealing with tens of thousands of complaints …..we are moving quickly to make sure airlines understand that they are accountable for the rules and for treating customers the way that they say they will.”

Earlier this month, Frontier celebrated its 10th anniversary in the city of Trenton earlier the Sky Lounge Restaurant in Ewing. The event featured recently re-elected Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assemblywoman Verlina Jackson Reynolds. However, the carrier continues to fall short in forming significant and notable strategic business alliances with minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) in the predominantly Black and Brown city of Trenton. “While we have no formal agreement with Frontier, they have hired some Black individuals (people of color) which is evident in their check in and boarding operations at the Mercer County airport,” said John Harmon, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey-based in Trenton.

Additionally, a Frontier flight had to make an emergency landing in Atlanta last week after an unruly passenger caused a disturbance on board and wielded a box cutter. And last year, Frontier Airlines was ranked the 5th worst airline carrier in the country, according to the popular online website www.bestlifeonline.com. A similar poll in Forbes magazine ranked Frontier as one of the worst airlines in the country in terms of customer service. 

Lastly, to improve it’s reputation and image in the wake of widespread negative press, in October, the carrier announced it would be offering a new unlimited all-you-can-fly (Go Wild flight pass) in early 2023. According to the company website and an announcement, the pass will be valid for unlimited travel to all of the carrier’s destinations—with some stipulations. The statement reads, in part, “……you will be able to get confirmed for your flight the day before you take off….” Someone posted, “In other words, the earliest a passenger can get a confirmed seat on a flight is the day before the scheduled flight, which limits the usefulness of the pass for most passengers who need to book and confirm a seat on a flight more than one day in advance.”

Glenn Townes

I'm an award winning journalist based in Edison, NJ. My work has been featured in dozens of publications including, Black Enterprise magazine; ESSENCE magazine and Real Health magazine. I am also a featured...

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