Last Updated on February 27, 2021
Frontier Airlines doesn’t allow you to bring a free carry-on bag. You need to pay extra if you want to bring a carry-on or a checked bag.
For free they only allow you to bring one personal item bag that needs to fit under the seat in front.
So you find yourself trying to squeeze more clothes into a smaller bag and wondering…
Does Frontier really check the size anyway? What will happen if your personal item is slightly too big? How strict is Frontier about enforcing their personal item size restrictions?
This post has the info that you need, but first let’s remind ourselves what the personal item size limit is.
Frontier Personal Item Size Limit
Frontier Airlines personal items cannot exceed 8 x 18 x 14 inches (depth x width x height). A perfect rectangle this size would be 2016 cubic inches or 33 liters.
So Frontier’s free baggage allowance is probably not as restrictive as you think. Often a regular carry-on suitcase only holds around 40 liters because of spinner wheels and a hard case. The good news is that if you can find a bag close to the 18x14x8 restrictions you only lose 7 liters of packing space.
These bags are illustrated to scale if you want to see what 18 x 14 x 8 personal items look like compared to regular carry-on baggage.
Not such a huge difference right? With a few packing light tips you can easily make things work.
How Strict Are Frontier At Enforcing The Personal Item Size Limit?
Fronter is an ultra-low-cost or no-frills airline. This means that they keep airfares as low as they possibly can to attract passengers.
They then attempt to make up for the lost revenue by charging extra fees.
Simply put, if Frontier Airlines were not strict about enforcing their hand luggage limits they would go out of business. Or they’d need to put the ticket prices up.
They depend on the revenue from things like carry-on bag upgrades and seat selection to continue to exist.
You will find that low cost airlines are always more strict about luggage size restrictions.
It doesn’t matter what type of bag you bring. It’s all about the size.
A backpack can be a personal item with Frontier. A duffel bag can be a personal item. Any bag can be a personal item if it’s under the size limits!
And the size limit includes anything sticking out from your bag. You need to include handles, wheels, and straps when you measure your luggage. The Frontier agents will for sure!
But passengers don’t always understand this business model.
This traveler had a “rude” encounter at the front desk because he hadn’t included the wheels. It gets awkward when gate agents enforce the rules…
If you turn up at the airport with an oversize personal item and the Frontier Airlines agent catches you they are aggressive with their prices. They know they’ve got you and you’ll pay up whatever they demand so you don’t miss your flight.
Look what happened to Jay:
Jay was charged $60 at the airport because his bag exceeded the size limits.
And look at Sami saying “let’s fix this”…
Sami thinks that because her bag ending up fitting under the seat that she shouldn’t be charged the carry-on bag fee.
But as far as Frontier is concerned their system is working perfectly. They hooked you in with a cheap flight then squeezed extra money out of you that you didn’t expect to pay.
It’s not broken! It was designed to work like this! It’s their business model! You need to play by the rules with these people.
This traveler was charged for a carry-on even though his bag did fit under the seat.
Remember if you don’t pay to bring carry-on you are not permitted to use the overhead bins. So you will have less leg room.
Frontier would argue that they are always fair. But Logan might not agree. Fitting in the bin can become a matter of dispute.
Frontier won’t let sanity get in the way of profits. The good news is that if you do pay for a carry-on you should be able to find a space in the bin.
But isn’t it ridiculous that passengers sit with bags jammed at their feet when there is space available.
You know how at McDonalds if you get the meal deal everything is included and it’s cheaper?
Full-service airlines are like the meal deal. It’s all inclusive, and there are no surprises.
Low-cost airlines are like buying everything separately, it can add up to be a lot of money.
In the industry, it’s called “unbundling”. Because you’re not buying the bundle the individual items cost more.
You can save money if you choose a only cheap burger from the dollar menu. But don’t expect the same experience.
Or as this passenger says…
Frontier “charge for select seats, carry-on bags, breathing, living”…
Does that sound like an airline that will let you get away with over-sized hand luggage? I doubt it! If you got caught twice at the gate that would be $120 for a round trip!
No. It’s their very intention to catch you and profit from your error. Kenzie figured them out, but only after she’d paid a ridiculous fee.
Or look at this story…
So $370 extra at the ticket counter? That must have been a shock. Are you getting a feel for how low-cost airlines operate?
Only the basic fare is low cost. This is the hook that catches you. You need to be smart to not fall into low-cost airline pricing traps. And being smart means not turning up at the airport with a bag that is too big!
Look, I’ll admit it, they don’t catch everyone, some people do get away with bags that are slightly too big. But it doesn’t make any sense to mess with this airline. This isn’t Delta or Southwest. This business planned to make its profits this way.
Personal items with dimensions exceeding the limits will be a problem, and when they catch you they’ll be rubbing their hands with glee. Okay maybe the airport staff won’t be gleeful, but the fat cats will be. The more bags they catch the more profits they make. Simple.
Tori said, “flights shouldn’t cost less than my luggage”. But Tori… this is how low-cost airlines operate. Fliers need to be wise to it.
Bread shouldn’t be so cheap at the supermarket, but it is. To lure you in! And then they profit when you can’t resist the donuts.
If your flight is crazy cheap they are going to try to squeeze you in other ways. Like implementing the rules about personal items!
Martha thought she had beat the system. She planned to wear a fanny pack and also bring a personal item.
Frontier didn’t answer that enquiry but they answered Thomas.
If you wear a fanny pack they’ll count that as your bag and then charge you the $60 to bring two bags. Sounds strict to me! I hope Martha got away with it!
Diana thinks that Frontier Airlines are more strict than Spirit about hand luggage size.
More strict than Spirit…. let that sink in for a minute.
And btw check out smarmy Spirit sucking up. We know they aren’t any better!
To Sum Up
You chose to fly with Frontier Airlines because of the cheap price. Now you are dealing with the reality of why that flight was cheap.
My advice to you is not to try to fly with over-size personal items. You’ll just add unnecessary stress to your journey. Flying can be stressful enough without wondering if you are going to be hit in the pocket for baggage fees. It’s usually embarrassing or rage-inducing to be fined for oversize bags. Think of your blood pressure!
There are really only 2 solutions. Find and pack a bag that is under 18 x 14 x 8. Get the measuring tape out and measure your personal item including handles and wheels and don’t risk it with a bulging bag.
Or, if you need to bring more belongings cough up the money in advance so you can bring a full-size carry-on. When you pay Frontier allows you to bring a 24 x 16 x 10 inches carry-on. The price to add a larger carry-on starts at $37 and goes up for some flights.
A checked bag can be another option if you really can’t slim down your luggage.
You can get a cheap flight with Frontier but you need to play them at their own game. Learning to pack and travel light will be a good start.