When my wife and I moved to Springfield, Missouri almost exactly three years ago, one of the selling points (or at least what kept it in the running) was that there was a nearby airport that served a number of destinations. Unfortunately, while it is convenient, flying out of such a small airport can also get pricey at times. This is especially true when you’re looking to fly last minute.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine needed me to head out to Orlando with just a couple of days notice. Normally I would fly Delta, passing through Atlanta on my way to Orlando International Airport (MCO). But, with ticket prices above $700, that didn’t seem very feasible for such a short trip. Luckily I remembered that Allegiant Air — a budget airline that serves a number of markets — offered direct flights to the Orlando area. Not only would I be able to fly straight to Florida on Friday and return home on Monday but my base fare came in at less than half the price of Delta.
Of course, with Allegiant being a “no-frills” airline, the experience of booking and traveling with them is a bit different from the big guys. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know before booking your Allegiant Air flight.
Booking Your Allegiant Air Flight
One of the first things to know about flying with Allegiant Air is that you won’t find them listed on popular third-party travel sites like Expedia, Priceline, or Kayak. Instead, similar to how Southwest operates, booking for Allegiant is done exclusively on their website. Once there you can explore which destinations they service, view flight schedules, and of course book travel.
Like I said, what really attracted me to Allegiant were their fares, which start at less than $100. However these base prices can be a bit deceiving as they don’t include everything your typical airline fare would. Additionally there are a few other steps in the booking process to be aware of.
There have actually been times in the past where I considered flying Allegiant to Los Angeles. Sadly this never happened because of the airline’s limited flight schedule. For example my flight to Sanford (SFB — near Orlando but about an hour away from Walt Disney World) was being offered on Friday and Monday but not on either of the days in between. Moreover there was only one flight each way each day. Thankfully this schedule worked well in this instance but you may need to adjust your travel plans a bit if you really want to save with Allegiant.
Hotel and travel offers
An interesting aspect of Allegiant’s booking process is that, in between selecting your flights and entering your personal information, you’ll be invited to book hotels, rental cars, and other travel services. Presumably Allegiant has affiliate deals in place with these various vendors, entitling them to a cut of booking profits and allowing them to keep their fares low. It would also partially explain why they shy away from listing on third-party sites.
Personally I didn’t have any need to book a hotel, although I suppose it could be convenient to have all of your travel reservations in one place. Plus, from the limited research I did, it seemed the prices Allegiant listed were in line with other travel sites. I should also note that, unlike some other sites I’ve encountered, Allegiant made it really simple to decline these extra services and get to the good stuff, as it were. So, three clicks later, I was ready to enter my info.
Entering passenger info
This next step is fairly straightforward. Here you’ll enter your name, birthdate, e-mail and other information that’s usually required by air travelers. For those with special needs or who want to travel with their pets, this is also where you can make those arrangements.
Choosing your seat
After you select your flights, made it through the additional services sections, and entered your traveler info, the next step in the Allegiant booking process is to select your seat — or not. Unlike many carriers, Allegiant’s system allows you to either pre-select a seat and incur an additional fee or have a seat assigned to you at check-in without a fee. Additionally the various seats have different values assigned to them. For example a window seat at the front of the plane with extra legroom might be close to $30 while a middle seat toward that back of the plane might only be $12 or so.
Now, you may be asking why you’d pay to book a seat all the way in the back of the plane. Well, if you’re traveling with a group and looking for a place to sit together, that may be your only option on a fast-filling flight. In fact Allegiant advises that parties wishing to sit together should select their seats in advance as there are no guarantees this will happen if the computer assigns you a complimentary seat.
Luggage and priority access
Another big difference between most major carriers and Allegiant Air is that, with the latter, you will need to pay to travel with a carry-on item. That said they do allow you to travel with a “personal item” — such as a backpack, purse, or (my personal favorite) a messenger bag — as long as you stow it under your seat. In other words, if you want to be able to store your item in the overhead, you’ll need to pay up. Naturally there are also fees in place for checked luggage as well.
The bag fees that Allegiant charges can also vary on a number of factors. For one they advise that rates are far lower when you pay your luggage fees in advance, rather than wait until you’re at the airport. These fees can also depend on where you’re flying to. In my test case, a carry-on would cost $18 each way while each item of checked luggage would add $25 to the fare. Apparently each of these fees would go up to $100 if done at the airport.
Speaking of luggage, perhaps the most stressful part of flying for me is worrying about finding overhead bin space. Heck I presume that’s a large part of the reason why frequent travelers pine for elite status and the right to board the plane early. With Allegiant, such status can be purchased for just a few dollars. In my case I was able to purchase priority access boarding — which gets you on the plane after the typical preboard — for $6.49 each way.
Wait — but since Allegiant is charging for carry-ons, wouldn’t they know how many bags were coming on board and ensure there was enough space? Probably. However that’s not to say that the open bin space you seek will be located anywhere near your assigned seat. Thus, in order to avoid a scenario where I might need to swim upstream to retrieve my bag after landing, I’ll admit that I ponied up for priority.
Selecting a boarding pass option
Yet another question that will affect your final flight price is how will you be checking in? If you plan to print your boarding pass at home or use their mobile option, you will not have to pay any additional fee. However, if you’d like to have an agent print a boarding pass for you once you arrive at the airport, this will cost you an extra $5. For me the choice was easy and I had no problems using the Allegiant app and my mobile boarding pass.
Trip Flex, changing fees, and checking out
Finally, Allegiant offers a service called Trip Flex that allows you to change your flight plans without incurring change fees. For my flight this option would have been $26. Without it, changes could only be made seven days before the flight and would result in a $75 per passenger fee. Despite the fact that I was already beyond that window when booking, I declined Trip Flex and proceeded on.
As you’d expect the last step of booking your Allegiant trip is entering your credit card information. If you’re in the market for a new credit card, you can also save a few dollars by signing up for their Allegiant card. Otherwise just enter your existing credit card info, accept the terms and conditions, and clip “purchase my trip” to seal your booking. (Bonus tip: book the flight with your Uber card and earn 3% cash back.)
Flying with Allegiant
When it comes to Allegiant Air, the differences from major carriers don’t stop with the booking process. In fact some of the most noticeable differences come when you arrive at the airport and board your flight.
Admittedly I didn’t become too well versed in Allegiant’s boarding process considering that I sprung for the priority access. That said it seems that they utilized boarding groups like most other airlines. When flying to Sanford, passengers would just line up once their boarding group was called but, returning from Sanford, they had a few lines already set up for each group.
Allegiant’s fleet is outfitted with leather seats that, to me, appeared to be a bit thinner on padding than most airline seats I’ve experienced. Meanwhile the legroom in my standard seat seemed about normal and posed no issue. However it should be noted that I am not a large man, neither in weight or height, so unfortunately I’m not really the right person to fully assess the comfortability of Allegiant’s seats. Still, for my less than three-hour flight, I was content.
Food and beverage
If you’re one of those travelers that can’t wait to hit cruising altitude so you can get your complimentary tomato juice, I have some bad news for your regarding Allegiant. While the airline does offer a number of snack and beverage options while on board, each of these comes at a price. For example cans of Coke go for $2 a pop (pun intended). Each of these purchases can be made with a credit card as they do not accept cash. In short, if you want to munch or sip during your flight, you might want to pack some snacks and fill a water bottle before boarding.
To be honest, I had nothing but positive interactions with the gate and in-flight crew while traveling with Allegiant. In fact, on my flight home, one passenger had some medical issues arise and the crew proceeded to take good care of her, handling the whole thing very professionally. I suspect some people who aren’t prepared to pay for water or aren’t happy with where they need to stick their luggage might take it out on these crew members, which is a real shame considering what pleasant people they seemed to be.
My Impressions and Thoughts on Flying Allegiant
Overall I have to say that my experience flying Allegiant was quite positive. For one, even with the additional fees and upgrades (some of which I could have avoided), my total was still $250 less than flying Delta — and was direct (well, it was a longer Uber ride from Sanford than MCO, but still). Furthermore, as I’ve been monitoring Allegiant’s flight prices, I’ve seen tickets from Springfield to Sanford going for as little as $63 each way! With flights from here to L.A. starting at $78, it might even be worth arranging an itinerary where Allegiant takes me to LAX before boarding a flight with a different carrier to Asia or wherever.
As far as traveling on a budget airline, considering that I’m not big on eating or drinking while in flight and don’t have many leg room requirements, there was really nothing for me to dislike about my flights. That said I will say there was some noticeable wear and tear along with some dinge on the plane, but nothing rising to the level of being a turn-off.
To conclude, I’m definitely interested in flying Allegiant Air again and would likely purchase the same upgrades as I did this time around — although I might forgo a carry-on if I’m taking another short trip. On the other hand it’s nice to know that some of these add-on fees can be passed over if I so choose. For that reason I’d recommend checking out Allegiant the next time you need to fly.
This article was first published on Dyer News.