Frontier launches $29 flights to Chicago

Frontier Airlines has announced it’ll start service between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare with an introductory price of $29, eventually rising to $59.

Of course the airline has gone no-frills, so you’ll pay extra for baggage, including carry on. But any time a carrier takes on the “big airlines” — now down to a very few — it’s worth watching whether other airlines try to match the fares in some way.

The Chicago-MSP route has been a fascinating lab rat for people who try to figure out the byzantine nature of airline fares.

But a little competition never seems to hurt.

In 2008, before Southwest moved into the market, Northwest was charging $634.

After Southwest started flying to Midway, Northwest matched fares to Midway, but kept them high on flights to O’Hare.

Fast forward to 2016 and the lowest fare on Southwest to Chicago (Midway) is down to $79 one-way now, including free checked bags. Delta charges $172 on the Midway route, but is charging the same now on the O’Hare route too.

That’s the benefit of the “Southwest Effect.”

Given the add-ons for the basics, it’s unlikely today’s Frontier announcement will make much difference in fares.