Trip Report: Frontier Airlines

Frontier is not an airline that we typically fly on, but we both had 50,000 miles from opening the Barclays Frontier Mastercard and we wanted to go visit family in San Francisco over Labor Day. We had to redeemed 20k each way – which is their highest redemption level. We were OK with this because Frontier is in changes to become a ULCC and burning the miles was fine by us. Before we flew we made sure to have Frontier match our status with American, because even these elite tiers are changing soon. Our mileage redemption gave us a checked bag, carry-on,  stretch seating (at booking) and one drink on board. Craig’s Summit status gave him two bags, priority check-in, priority boarding, and unlimited beverages on board. My Ascent status gave me similar perks, but my beverages were limited to non-alcoholic choices.

Check-in at Midway:

We aren’t really fans of Midway – no lounge, limited food options – it’s not really how we travel. Check-in was simple. We entered the priority line and the agent quickly acknowledged us. Our boarding passes were ticketed and our bags checked for free. The lady next to us didn’t know about Frontier’s change to a ULCC and she was shocked to find that her bags would have a cost to be checked or carried on the aircraft. We had two thoughts: we were happy to have booked higher redemption levels and did a status match; and we felt that Frontier did a pretty good job of advertising it’s fees – the woman next to us had no reason to take her dissatisfaction out on the ticket agent.

Now we were off to security. It should be noted that Frontier does not participate in TSA Precheck. We were allowed to use the priority security lane, and ended up in Precheck anyway so it was no big deal. After a quick dinner at Harry Carry’s we boarded early. We were the only two elite passengers who pre-boarded.

On Board: MDW > DEN, F9 915

We received a very warm greeting by the Flight Attendant, and took our seats at the bulkhead. Frontier’s planes are fine, but it is clear they don’t get many cleanings. Our flight was delayed because the First Officer was stuck in traffic. We were nervous about our tight connection, but the FA assured us he was near the airport. Ten minutes later, he was on board and we took off.

After takeoff, beverage service commenced. The FA greeted both of us by last name, thanked us for our status, and then asked us what she could get us. We both opted for the Breckenridge Bourbon (Ryan with water, and Craig with Ginger Ale).

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Having redeemed for the Choice Plus ticket and having status really made the leg enjoyable. We were even given large bottles of water, which was a nice offer.

Layover at DEN

We made up time in flight, but it didn’t really matter because our next leg was delayed too. We spent 30 minutes the the Admirals Club at DEN. This club is used for BA flights leaving DEN too, so it had nicer than usual finishings. Also, the staff working the club were fantastic and very helpful (even though we weren’t flying American that day). We had a couple drinks, and snack, and we went to board our connection. It surprised us again that we were the only elites to board, even more so because DEN is a hub for F9.

On Board: DEN > SFO, F9 667

Our boarding was completed quickly as we were delayed. The FAs on this fight did not have the same level of energy as the last crew – but they were efficient and polite. Craig slept most of the flight, and I took advantage of his Summit status and tried the Macallan 12 year. It was great, and we again had bottles of water before landing.

Upon landing, our luggage took a a solid 20 minutes to arrive, and our bags were not handled with the same priority an elite would have on another airline.

Return to Chicago

Craig had to go to Philly for work so he was flying on US on our return. Luckily they leave from the same terminal at SFO. After saying goodbye to Craig I went to the check-in counter – where a line had already begun to form (it was not open yet). I was first in the priority line, and once it was opened I was the first customer assisted. The ground crew at SFO was great! It should also be noted that they tagged my bag for priority – and upon my return to Chicago it was the first bag off the conveyer belt.

I had a nice meal at Perry’s in the terminal. And, could even see Craig’s flight getting ready for boarding.

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On Board: SFO > DEN, F9 662

Boarding was done quickly, and again I was the only elite to board. The aircraft was really warm, and the flight attendants requested that all window shades be lowered. We left SFO early, and were in the air in no time. Fantastic!

Once beverage service started I again had a Macallan 12 year, and a water. And, it should be noted that I was able to sweet talk the FA into another Macallan for good measure.

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Layover at DEN

My flight arrived to DEN a solid 30 minutes early. I happily returned to the Club for a light dinner. Sensing that my next leg might board early, and made my way to the gate when I was done eating. And, my flight was about to board.

On Board: DEN > MDW, F9 538

Boarding was frustrating on this leg, it was as if some passengers never had boarded an aircraft before. Sadly, the FAs didn’t really assist in speeding up the process. However, we did leave on time and had a very quick flight to Chicago. After drink service, I slept for the remainder of the journey.

Back at MDW

Labor Day at MDW is really busy, even for a late evening flight. I was thankful my bag was the first off (with a nice priority luggage tag) and off I was to the taxi stand. The line was about 40 people deep, so I opted for an Uber Cab which arrived in 3 minutes.

Conclusion:

I think it is sad that Frontier is becoming a ULCC like Spirit or RyanAir. They generally had very friendly and efficient service. I doubt we will have any reason to fly F9 in the future.

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year’s Eve! After a very tasty vegetarian dinner at Al Natural we made our way to Puerta del Sol. As one of the busiest spots in all of Madrid on an average day, you can only imagine the crowds on New Year’s Eve – there must have been half a million people.

At midnight, the clock in Puerta del Sol chimes twelve times. Onlookers eat a grape on each of the chimes for twelve months of good luck. The pits in Craig’s grapes prevented him from staying with the chimes, but he eventually ate them all.

After we finished the cava (that we snuck in to the square) we followed the crowds of people to the bars to start off 2014 with a bang! We eventually made it back to the hotel at 6 AM, and after packing odds and ends we left at 7 AM for the airport.

A great start to 2014!

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Something better than wine?

Could there be something better than wine? Yes, there could, and it’s called Tinto de Verano, or summer red wine. It’s a drink of red wine and soda (can be soda water, a sprite like drink or Fanta). We ordered one during lunch at a local food market. It’s quite delicious! You can even make it at home…

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First European Futbol Game

Soccer fans in Europe are nuts. They love the game, and even a charity game gets them revved up. The Monday night game, benefiting families in the Philippines, put players from teams of eastern Spain against teams western Spain. Since Madrid was on the west team we rooted for them. A new roster of players for each team took the field every thirty minutes. Every time they announced a player from Real Madrid the crowd went crazy.

Before the game started we went to the concession stand for some beer. Listed was “Mahou (local beer) Sin” and “Mahou Mixto”. Realizing that sin meant without I asked about Mixto. He explained it was non-alcoholic Mahou mixed with lemon soda. He then went on to say it’s law that there is NO alcohol at sporting events in Spain. The look on Ryan’s face was priceless. So, we ordered two Mahou Mixtos and a bag of chips – so much different than baseball or football back in the US.

The game was a ton of fun, aside from being freezing cold, but our Real Madrid gear helped. The final score was 6-8 with east winning.

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Museo de Cera esta Fantastico

Neither of us of have ever been to a wax museum (nor any desire to go), so since free admission the Museo de Cera in Madrid was included in our Madrid card we paid them a visit. It was cheesy beyond belief. While there were a number of celebrities and sports stars, there were a number of Spanish historical figures including Franco (with whom people were actually posing for photos, odd). The most disturbing room featured a bull fighter being gored in the eye by a bull. Highlights included meeting Barack Obama and Justin Bieber.

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Hot Chocolate y Churros

Chocolatería San Ginés is, many would
say, the best place in the city to eat chocolate and churros. We stopped by for an early afternoon cup of hot chocolate and a few churros (and their larger cousins, porras). The place was packed and for good reason, as the churros and chocolate lived up to their reputations. I can definitely see why they have been in business since 1894. The churros soak up the chocolate when dipped – the longer you leave the churro in the more chocolate saturates the pores of the churro. And, to top it off, there is powdered sugar to sprinkle over each bite. Mmmm!

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Touring Real Madrid’s Home

We all know soccer is one of Europe’s most beloved sports, so where better to tour a stadium than Madrid? The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is home to Real Madrid, one of Spain’s most popular clubs. Our tour started with a panoramic view of the field from the uppermost level of seats. We then walked through a club history museum with dozens of trophies – opera music was playing in the background for effect. After leaving the museum we walked around the field and made our way into the Real Madrid changing rooms before walking into the field. The tour, of course, ended in the official Real Madrid merchandise store where you can buy a jersey for 96€, yikes!

While getting tickets for the tour we learned that a charity game was being played on Monday, December 30. We had tried to purchase tickets to a game during our trip, but none of the teams were playing at home when we were in their cities. So, we decided to go and bought tickets. Stay tuned…

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Our Palace

Our first hotel in Madrid was the Palace Hotel by Westin. It was directly across from the Prado Museum. They upgraded us to a larger room overlooking a beautiful fountain. And, the manager sent a bottle of cava!

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¡Hola Madrid! ¡Comamos!

We arrived in Madrid on Saturday morning. Since our hotel room wasn’t ready we set out for lunch. So, if you’ve been following the blog (or know us at all), you know we like to eat – so we apologize for making you hungry. The Mercat San Miguel sits just to the west of Plaza Mayor, and has a ton of small restaurants where you can eat at their counters. All the tapas are sitting on the counters or behind glass cases. We settled into one with what looked to be good, and interesting food. We had no idea what we ordered as there were no menus, we just pointed. The triangular shaped omelet was great – oozed with cheese. The dish with the large piece of bread was piled with a creamy salad, the best of the dishes. And the last was a giant seashell filled with a creamy substance like mashed potatoes with bay scallops hidden within. At first the consistency made us a bit squeamish, but once we figured out what it was we were fine. The only bad thing was the price, at about 19€ it was more expensive than the other cities we visited. We hope that’s not a trend!

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Lunch in the Market

For lunch on our last day in Barcelona we visited the Mercat de Santa Caterina just east of the Barri Gótic. Refurbished just a few years ago, it reputedly has the best market restaurants in the city; our lunch definitely held true to that claim. Just to the right of the main entrance was a small restaurant with two-thirds taken up by a bar and the kitchen at its rear. Five spunky older women wearing red feathered hats were serving the large crowd gathered around the bar and at the few tables. We had grilled asparagus with a heavenly sauce and a fried egg dish with fried potatoes and blood sausage. The latter was phenomenal – the blood sausage had a sweet note to it , which really complimented the salty potatoes and rich egg yolk. Why don’t we have more of these markets in the US?

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