The Discount Airline Nickel and Dime

It’s easy to get lured into the cheap fares that some of the better-known discount airlines are offering. Carriers like Allegiant, Spirit, Frontier and the like have some eye catching prices when it comes to flights to some popular destinations. I’ll use the airline Allegiant as a prime example how these type of airlines work. Most of the things you may not be aware of until after you book and it’s too late to go with another airline.

The lure of the cheap flight is one that’s hard to resist. I mean, from Lexington, KY to sunny south Florida for only $59? That sounds too good to be true. Well, sometimes it is and sometimes you really can get the steal of a deal if you know how to play your cards the right way. Airlines now are required to show the full ticket price amount including all fees and government taxes and surcharges. It may be in a little finer print than the original fare you were first lured in by but they are displayed in full now nonetheless. So be sure you see the TOTAL fare before leaping into the buying line.


The next thing you must be aware of are the return flight prices. The return flights are priced separately on discount airlines. They know you are more than likely coming back so sometimes they will offer a good departure price just to hook you long enough before you realize that the return flights are more than double. This is their way of dollar cost averaging and leveraging those cheap fares that got your attention in the first place.


So now that you know exactly how much your round-trip flight will be with all taxes and fees, you’ll need to start thinking about some other fees they are going to try and slip in on you.


Picking your seat is one way these airlines recoup money. Large airline carriers almost never charge for this but you can bet your bottom dollar the discount airlines do. In fact, they almost make you feel lie you have no other choice but to pick your seat. They try and funnel you to seat selection without you knowing that you can proceed without this additional fee. Usually this fee is in the $15 per segment ballpark. So you’re looking at another $30 added to your round-trip flight.


So where are we now? Our $59 one-way flight to Fort Lauderdale and the return trip flight is $159. So now we are up to $218. But wait! There’s more. The fees and taxes. Add another $44 and we’re up over $250 now for your flight. Not too bad though right? Well, since you picked your seat you can now add another $30 to the total, which puts us almost $300.


Now, you’re probably going to need to pack some luggage for your trip. You’ve probably already guessed that you’re going to have to pay for that as well. Both ways that is and if you don’t pay for it now it’s an additional charge at the airport check in desk. So you’d better go ahead and buck up now. So now you’ve paid another $40 each way for your luggage and low and behold we are at almost $400 now.


Once you get to the airport and weight your baggage you find out it’s only 48 pounds. Shew that was cutting it close, right? WRONG! The weight limit on luggage is 40 pounds, not the industry standard 50. So now you’re stuck with another $15 overage fee for both trips. So you start stuffing it into your carry on bag on the find out that you also have to pay for any carry on luggage.


Did you forget to print your boarding pass before you left the house? No worries, you can just use the app like Delta has to scan from your mobile device. Nope. Not on Allegiant. If they spent the money on developing an app they wouldn’t be able to charge you $5 at the airport for a boarding pass. Yes, believe it. This is how these type of airlines operate.


I also hope that you’re on time because they just love to board early and shut you out of the cabin doors. No matter how many times their flights have been tardy or no shows they won’t ever cut you any slack for being there when normal airlines would let you board.


Now that you’ve finally made it into the sky you can kick back and relax with some pretzels or peanuts and a soft drink. For a fee that is. No freebies here. What does this look like, a flight on Delta? Forget about it. You’re going to have to pay for that.


You can also forget any chance of in flight Internet. These discount airline planes don’t have Gogo equipped planes either. So be prepared to entertain yourself or get work done in some other form or fashion.


So you can see how these $59 flights are really attractive initially. They rope the unassuming consumer in and then lasso them with all sorts of fees and charges.


Don’t get me wrong; I fly these type of airlines quite frequently but I also understand how to play the game.


  1. My flight schedule is flexible so that I can choose the cheapest prices going and returning.
  2. I don’t carry on anything larger than a shoulder bag.
  3. I don’t check luggage because I already have clothes at my condo (not always a choice for everyone but consider other options).
  4. I certainly don’t pick my seat. Either neither here nor there. LOL!


I hope you found these tips helping in choosing your next flight and travel plans. If done the proper way, you can fly these airlines for quite a nice price. As long as you understand and are able to play their game you can often beat them at their own game.