Last week, I was standing in a very long line to check in for a flight from Tulsa to Orlando. It was taking forever because it seemed no one had ever flown before or at best, hadn’t read the fine print on how a discount airline works. At one point, the ticketing agent was on the phone with some guy’s mom explaining why he was needing to pay an extra $50 for an overweight bag.
I was texting my husband while waiting for what seemed like forever. We are both travel pros and honestly, we both have to work on our patience with those that might not be on a plane at least once a month. He reminded me that we needed those people to keep not reading all the rules so airlines like Allegiant can stay in business.
I personally love that Allegiant flies direct to Orlando from my town. With any other airline, I would have to connect in Dallas or Houston and spend 8 hours getting there. Allegiant arrives in 2.5 hours and I typically pay about $60 each way.
The basic premise of discount airlines is they offer you a super cheap fare then make up for it with all of the add-ons. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up spending as much as with a legacy carrier like American.
Here are a few things to be aware of when flying a discount airline like Allegiant, Spirit or Frontier. Most of these tips will also apply to European discount carriers like Easy Jet and Ryan Air. You can avoid most of the add-on fees if you do your homework.
- Pay attention to which airport you are flying into. Discount airlines often utilize a more remote airport. My flights to “Orlando” are actually landing in Sanford, about 45 minutes from the Disney area and I know I’m going to have to rent a car. There is shuttle service available but the cost is about the same as a car rental. Be sure to calculate any additional transportation costs into your trip total when evaluating the overall savings.
- Read the luggage requirements. For Allegiant, checked bags are limited to 40 pounds. You can carry on one bag for free but there are size limits and technically you’re supposed to put it under the seat in front of you. On every flight I’ve taken, there has been room in the overhead that I’ve used but don’t bank on that. A backpack or tote bag will meet the requirements for the freebie.
- Pay bag fees in advance and share luggage. Allegiant charges half the fee when you reserve a bag more than 24 hours in advance of your flight. For the Orlando flight, it’s $25 each way or $50 each way at the airport. We will also share one large checked bag then each carry on our freebie so that we’re only paying one bag fee.
- Download the app. Allegiant charges $5 for each boarding pass printed at the airport. You can avoid this by downloading their app. You can check in through the app, get your boarding pass and check flight status.
- Skip priority boarding. It’s not worth an extra $10 or $15 to get on the plane first. You’re all going to the same place eventually.
- Don’t be picky about your seat. This is the one I think most people succumb to on the extra fees, but here’s the thing….you have to pay for the seat selection both ways. It’s not worth adding another $30 to your ticket price. When I’ve booked 2 tickets at once, we’ve been placed either in consecutive rows or in aisle seats next to each other. Don’t worry about this if you’re traveling with kids either. You have to enter the kids’ birthdates when purchasing the tickets so they will automatically put at least one parent with each kid. Trust me, no one wants to be in charge of your 3-yr-old on a flight but you.
- Just say no to all of the ‘specials’. After selecting your ticket, Allegiant’s site will cycle you through multiple screens to attempt to add on hotel, car, or entertainment tickets. I have never seen a good deal in these options. Just skip them and research those items separately.
- Pack snacks. There are no free drinks or snacks on Allegiant flights. No, not even a water bottle. We pack snacks in our carry on and either pick up a water bottle after security or pack an empty one to refill before boarding. There are snacks and drinks to purchase on board if you forget.
- Be prepared for delays. I have been fortunate and have not experienced a lot of delays with Allegiant; none more than an hour. The downside of a discount airline is they don’t have a large fleet so if one plane is down for maintenance or weather, it can have a trickle down effect to your flight since they have limited inventory to substitute.
I can deal with no frills to save a lot of money and in my case, also time. Since I have a daughter that lives in Orlando, I am a frequent Allegiant customer and am appreciative of the service they provide to my smaller airport. Just focus on how much you’re saving and the lack of a reclining seat or in-flight entertainment system won’t seem so important anymore.
Have you flown with a discount airline? Tell me about your experience in the comments!