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Denver’s own budget-friendly Frontier Airlines is giving flyers a whole different kind of sticker shock this season. While supplies last, the already-affordable airline is offering a steep discount on its all-you-can-fly GoWild! Pass. The annual pass, which was originally $1,999 per person, is now just $499 for the first year (running May 1, 2024, through April 30, 2024). If you don’t want to commit to a full year of Frontier, you also have the option to purchase seasonal ($399) or monthly (first month $0 plus $99 enrollment fee, then $149 per month) passes. The offer gives users access to roughly 120 domestic and international destinations, including some 50 nonstop options from Denver International Airport (DIA) like Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Miami; and Salt Lake City.
There are caveats of course. Passengers may only book flights at the last minute (as in one calendar day before takeoff for domestic flights and 10 days before international flights). They also may only travel with a personal item no larger than 14 inches by 18 inches by eight inches, otherwise, they must pay extra. And while the airline advertises a miniscule $0.01 per-fare price, after factoring in applicable taxes, charges, and fees, the true cost is usually around $15 per flight for nonstop trips to U.S. runways. And if you think you’re going to hop on a flight the day before Christmas, think again. There are a slew of blackout dates that apply to the pass (including the days surrounding major holidays).
That's only $1 per issue!
But beggars can’t be choosers, points out Jacob Brown, a GoWild! passholder who also moderates (without compensation) the unofficial Frontier Airlines GoWild! Pass Holders Facebook group. He explains that the pass is Frontier’s attempt to sell an extra carry-on or Coke to the person sitting in a chair that would have otherwise flown empty. “You are getting the leftovers,” Brown says. “It’s as if someone says, ‘Hey, I made lasagna. Do you want this? I don’t want it to go to waste.’ And you hope to get some nutrients out of it, but ultimately you can’t complain if there are mushrooms in it.”
So is the juice from the GoWild! Pass worth the financial squeeze? We talked with Brown and two other Colorado-based GoWild! flyers to find out.
Editor’s note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Jacob Brown: Twentysomething music teacher with a four-day workweek who can see DIA from his classroom window; uses the Annual GoWild! Pass
John Kellogg: Senior at Metropolitan State University of Denver earning a degree in aviation and aerospace science with a dream to visit all 50 states; uses the Seasonal GoWild! Pass
Katie Sproles: Denver-based young professional with a flexible, work-from-anywhere schedule; uses the Annual GoWild! Pass
5280: Tell us about a recent GoWild! trip.
Brown: I wasn’t going to go anywhere the first weekend we came back to school in August because I knew I’d be tired, and it was stressful. But I ended up going to Cancun for the weekend—I thought, “I’m going to treat myself. I had a successful first week of school with the kids. Let’s go to Cancun while it’s still hot outside.” And I did. It was great.
Kellogg: My dad has always tried to get my family to all the states. So far, I’ve been to 44 of them. I got two more with the GoWild! pass last weekend, going to Philadelphia with my brother and driving down to Virginia, turning around, and coming back just to fly home again that night.
Sproles: I flew home [to Orlando] for Thanksgiving. I had to fly a little early, a week before the holiday, and I stayed until the Tuesday after [Thanksgiving] because of the blackout days. It was super easy, and it was $60 as opposed to $200-plus that I saw otherwise.
What do you like about the GoWild! Pass?
Brown: In my situation, it’s that access to be able to do those daytrips where you get to explore somewhere new, not pay for a hotel, and go do something really cool and crazy. It’s called the GoWild! pass, not the GoMild pass, right? The idea is that it is that last-minute, on-a-whim travel. Historically, if you just bought your ticket three hours before, there was a comma in your ticket price. Now, it’s totally possible to do that same flight for $15.
Kellogg: When you’re using the GoWild! pass and the airfare is only [about $15], it’s totally worth it. It’s basically going to a fast-food stand for a hamburger, fries, and a drink. I love the ability to go places affordably. Here in Colorado, people might drive two to three hours into the mountains for the day, do something, and then come back in the evening. Essentially with this pass, you can do that but with an airplane.
Sproles: It’s convenient how cheap it is. I fly home for $15 each way. My flights are cheaper than my Ubers. It saves me money, and I ended up using some of that money to get a nice credit card. Now I have the Capital One Venture X card so I have lounge access at the airport.
What are the downsides to the GoWild! Pass?
Brown: If you don’t want to book a full-fare ticket coming back, there’s that gamble of how you’re going to get home if that flight is full [since you can only book the day before]. You could get stuck somewhere. Sometimes people book a ticket on another carrier, and sometimes people say, “Screw it. I’ll stay another day. I’m stuck in Cancun another day? Drat.”
Kellogg: It would be really nice if I could include siblings or a friend in the GoWild! pass. Maybe one other person [could] pay the same fare as me on my itinerary. Otherwise, I’m either going alone or they have to pay the regular price. I guess the other person could also get a pass, but it’s harder if they’re not able to travel as frequently as I am.
Sproles: People complain about Frontier, but Frontier has only canceled on me once. I do often take red-eyes, but I prefer that. And there are blackout dates, but they were very clear with it, so I wasn’t surprised. It was expected, but it is a downside.
What tips do you have for using the GoWild! Pass to the fullest?
Brown: Have the right travel credit card because every airline has operational issues. Out of 51 [flights], I have had one cancellation and one missed connection. [Both were] weather-related. My credit card paid for the hotel, the rental car, all of my food, and my toiletries.
Kellogg: You have to be able to fly enough to make it worth it. For somebody that isn’t flying very frequently, the Discount Den (which gives travelers and up to nine other people on their reservation access to Frontier’s lowest fares for $60 a year, plus an initial $40 enrollment fee) is probably a better option, but for somebody that flies either every weekend or has the ability to fly every weekend and just wants to explore the country, it’s definitely a good option.
Sproles: Get luggage that meets Frontier’s personal item dimensions. Maximize what you can bring without the hassle of having to pay because they are strict, and they will charge you. Getting good at packing light or getting [organizational] packing cubes is the best thing you can do to save money. I also usually wear a jacket for the flight and pack snacks in my pockets.