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I prefer to fly low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier over major airlines

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Spirit Airlines A320 at Boston airport

Spirit Airlines A320 at Boston airport Taylor Rains/Insider

  • Low-cost carriers offer an a-la-carte business model that charges for extra amenities like luggage and seats.

  • The surprise fees can frustrate passengers, but knowing what to expect can help avoid last-minute expenses.

  • Customers can save money by buying tickets at the airport and booking add-ons in advance.

Budget carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant have made flying affordable for many travelers, though the low-cost business strategy can throw passengers for a loop if they are unprepared.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A321

Frontier Airlines Airbus A321 Carlos Yudica/Shutterstock.com

Part of the reason why flying on a budget airline is so cheap is because the carriers unbundle the fares, meaning when a customer buys a ticket, all they get is a random seat and a small personal item like a backpack or briefcase. Anything more, like a carry-on, checked bag, reserved seat, snack, or priority boarding costs extra.

Spirit Airlines bundles

Spirit Airlines bundles Spirit Airlines

Source: Spirit Airlines

Despite these carriers telling customers the add-on amenities will cost extra during the booking and check-in process, many travelers still show up at the airport with more than they paid for, causing last-minute stress and an expensive day of travel.

Allegiant

Allegiant Air aircraft Markus Mainka/Shutterstock

To avoid any surprises, it is helpful to understand the potential fees and learn how to dodge them, even if it means sacrificing a bit of comfort and convenience.

Spirit Airlines aircraft

Spirit Airlines aircraft Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock

Personally, I prefer flying low-cost carriers because, as opposed to popular belief, it is frequently cheaper to fly a-la-carte where I can pick and choose what I need for a particular flight versus flying on a mainline carrier.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic

Frontier Airlines gate Thomas Pallini/Insider

For example, I flew six hours on Spirit from Boston to Las Vegas for a short weekend trip, and I chose to only add a seat to ensure I would not get stuck in the middle seat on the long flight, but I did not pay for a carry on or checked bag because I didn’t need it.

Spirit Airlines A320 at Boston airport

Spirit Airlines A320 at Boston airport Taylor Rains/Insider

As a frequent flyer on low-cost carriers, I have learned the ins and outs of ensuring I am paying the least amount of money possible for the service, which includes knowing exactly how to avoid certain fees.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic

Frontier Airlines kiosk Thomas Pallini/Insider

First and foremost, what many people do not know is that purchasing airfare at the airport ticket counter can save customers up to $46 roundtrip per ticket.

Spirit Airlines counter at Boston airport

Spirit Airlines counter at Boston airport Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: airfarewatchdog

This is because low-cost carriers tack on a “passenger handling fee” for online bookings, but it is waived for customers who buy in person at the airport.

Spirit Airlines ticket bought at the airport

Spirit Airlines ticket bought at the airport Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: airfarewatchdog

Three carriers impose these additional fees, including Spirit that charges up to $22.99 each way…

Spirit Airlines passenger usage fee

Spirit Airlines passenger usage fee Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: airfarewatchdog, Spirit Airlines

Frontier, which charges up to $23 each way…

Frontier Airlines carrier interface charge

Frontier Airlines carrier interface charge Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: airfarewatchdog, Frontier Airlines

And Allegiant which charges up to $18 each way.

Allegiant Air carrier usage charge

Allegiant Air carrier usage charge Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: airfarewatchdog, Allegiant

It is important to understand that tickets can be bought at the airport ticket counter for flights on Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant only – it does not work on other carriers.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic

Frontier Airlines ticket counter Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: airfarewatchdog

Spirit and Frontier tickets are available for purchase most times of the day, though Allegiant has specific windows of availability which can be found on the carrier’s website.

Allegiant Air

Allegiant Air counter Joni Hanebutt/Shutterstock

Source: Allegiant

Moreover, Allegiant also offers special discounts for roundtrip fares purchased on its website, but they do not apply to tickets bought in person.

Allegiant Air

Allegiant Air aircraft Daniel J. Macy/Shutterstock

Source: airfarewatchdog

Another way to avoid surprise fees is by buying carry-on and checked luggage online before arriving at the airport. Paying bag charges at the airport can run passengers an extra $100 per bag depending on the carrier, versus $30-$75 it costs when purchasing in advance.

Spirit Airlines bag size checker

Spirit Airlines bag size checker EQRoy/Shutterstock

Source: Spirit Airlines, Allegiant, Frontier Airlines

Customers should also pay attention to the weight and size of their luggage. All three airlines have strict dimensions for personal items, carry-on bags, and checked luggage, and airline employees are required to enforce them.

Spirit Airlines bag size checker

Spirit Airlines bag size checker Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: Spirit Airlines, Allegiant, Frontier Airlines

Spirit personal items can be no bigger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches and carry-ons must be 22 x 18 x 10 inches or smaller including wheels and handles.

Spirit Airlines bag check

Spirit Airlines bag check Eric Glenn/Shutterstock

Source: Spirit Airlines

Frontier has the same dimensions for personal items as Spirit, though its carry-ons can be up to 24 x 16 x 10 inches, which is a little larger than Spirit’s allowance.

Flying Spirit Airlines across the US - Spirit Airlines Flight 2021

Frontier Airlines bag check Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: Frontier Airlines

Allegiant’s personal item and carry-on size allowance are the smallest of the three carriers at only 7 x 15 x 16 inches and 9 x 14 x 22 inches, respectively.

Allegiant Air bag restrictions

Allegiant Air bag restrictions Allegiant Air

Source: Allegiant

Because of the strict restrictions, passengers need to ensure they measure their bags before heading to the airport or measure them in the dedicated bag size checkers at the ticket counter or gate.

Spirit Airlines bag size checker

Spirit Airlines bag size checker Taylor Rains/Insider

Source: Spirit Airlines, Allegiant, Frontier Airlines

Passengers need to be particularly mindful of the weight of their checked luggage on low-cost carriers. Spirit and Allegiant’s maximum weight allowance for checked bags is only 40 pounds, which is less than the 50 pounds allowed on mainline carriers and Frontier.

Flying Spirit Airlines across the US - Spirit Airlines Flight 2021

Spirit Airlines kiosks Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: Allegiant, Spirit Airlines

Showing up at the airport with an overnight bag will run the customer anywhere from $30 to $100 extra depending on the weight and carrier.

Flying Frontier Airlines during pandemic

Frontier Airlines check in Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: Spirit Airlines, Allegiant

Moreover, showing up with an oversized bag can cost up to $150 extra. Spirit and Frontier have a strict 62 inches total dimension for checked bags, while Allegiant offers a more flexible 80 inches.

baggage conveyer belt

Checked luggage Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Source: Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant

Low-cost carriers are no-frills, meaning they offer nothing onboard, not even water in most cases, so customers should plan on bringing their own drinks and snacks. Buying onboard will cost anywhere from $3-$35 depending on the package.

Flying Spirit Airlines across the US - Spirit Airlines Flight 2021

Inflight snacks and drinks cost extra Thomas Pallini/Insider

Source: Spirit Airlines, Allegiant, Frontier Airlines

If you’re like me and do not care about where you sit on most flights, then you should be okay with the random seat assigned by the airline at check-in. However, if you want to ensure you are not in the middle seat, you should buy your seat in advance, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $80.

Allegiant aircraft

Allegiant Air aircraft Joni Hanebutt/Shutterstock

Source: Spirit Airlines, Allegiant, Frontier Airlines

Reserving a seat as far in advance as possible is recommended because the closer the departure date is, the fewer options there will be. This means you may have to pay more for a window or aisle seat in the exit row or towards the front of the plane because the cheaper ones towards the back are already taken.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320neo cabin

Frontier Airlines seats Thomas Pallini/Insider

Checking in online or at the self-serve kiosks at the airport is also imperative for saving money. Spirit charges customers who check-in at the ticket counter $10 per boarding pass, so avoid this by using the airline’s mobile app to check-in in advance.

Spirit Airlines passengers during the pandemic

Spirit Airlines passengers during the pandemic PATRICK T. FALLON/Getty Images

Source: Spirit Airlines

Read the original article on Business Insider

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