Lawsuit accuses Frontier Airlines of bogus baggage fees | Investigation

Passengers say they were charged for personal bags that met carriers guidelines

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
Lawsuit accuses Frontier Airlines of bogus baggage fees
Lawsuit accuses Frontier Airlines of bogus baggage fees | Investigation

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A popular discount airliner that operates out of both Philadelphia International and Trenton-Mercer airports is accused of misleading passengers and improperly charging for bags.

The Action News Investigative Team began looking into issues involving Frontier Airlines and its personal bag fees. Since our investigation began, a proposed class action lawsuit has been filed.

The lawsuit and some passengers said gate agents are flagging their free personal item bags that meet size requirements as oversized and then charging them a $99 fee.

"It was just embarrassing and just so frustrating," said Monica Smith of Bucks County.

Smith said she tried to board a Frontier flight to Florida at Trenton Mercer Airport in April. She had her backpack as her free personal carry-on item and said it fit in the sizer at the gate. But a gate agent said it didn't meet the size requirement and she would have to pay $100 on the spot at the gate.

"I'm in shock. I'm absolutely in shock," she said. "I'm looking at my bag and I'm looking at her and I'm like, 'No ma'am, no it clearly fits.'"

Smith said after some back and forth, the Frontier gate agent called the sheriff.

"The sheriff gives me instructions and he says, 'Listen, just take pictures of it, I see that it fits,'" she said. "Pay the $100 so that you can go on your trip."

Smith said that turned out not to be an option. The next thing she knew, the gate agent shut the boarding door, and she and her daughter missed the flight.

"She was just determined to make sure that I paid for this bag," she added.

On TikTok, the Investigative Team found video threads about complaints and even hacks to get a personal item bag past the gate.

"At the end of the day, they lied," said Attorney Mike Mann.

Mann represents nearly a dozen plaintiffs in a proposed class action lawsuit against Frontier. Smith is not part of the Mann's lawsuit.

"They said that personal items were a certain size and passengers were showing up with that bag size, and then getting charged," said Mann.

The lawsuit accuses the Denver-based airline of not only flagging properly sized bags but also accuses Frontier of using bag sizes smaller than the advertised dimension of 14" tall x 18" wide x 8" long.

Mann also claims Frontier has a quota for flagging personal items.

In exchange, he said Frontier gate agents get a $10 kickback for every $100 charged.

"We've got people bragging about it," said Mann. "You know, making a couple thousand bucks just off the commission."

A Frontier Airlines flight attendant spoke to the Investigative Team on the condition she'd remain anonymous for fear of losing her job.

"I feel the passengers are being extorted," she said.

She also confirmed the $10 commissions and said flight attendants like herself have to deal with the fallout from passengers.

"They're crying, they're distraught, they're angry," she said. "They want to take it out on the next Frontier person."

The Investigative Team flew Frontier from Philadelphia International Airport. We also witnessed passengers flagged at the gate and even emptying bags to avoid trying to pay the $99 fee.

"It's not fair," said one passenger to our Investigative Team. "They flagged my bag but not everyone's. Other people got on with much larger bags."

A spokesperson for Frontier told us it can't comment on pending litigation but did not deny the incentive program for gate agents.

In a statement, Frontier said:

"Incentives for our airport customer service agents help ensure compliance with our policies and that all customers are treated equally. Most customers pay for their bags in advance, in accordance with our policies, and we provide multiple reminders and opportunities to do so at a lower price in advance of departure. Allowing customers to board without paying would be inequitable to every other customer who paid for their bags as required."

Frontier has also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In legal filings, the discount airline said it is barred by the carrier agreement and federal law.