After a year in which one has hardly left the driveway, the desire is great to fly the friendly sky. However, the bank balance is still low for a lot of people, so low cost airlines are a great way to travel.
For example, the newest low-cost airline, Avelo Airlines, which launched in April, charges $ 19 for one-way flights from Los Angeles to numerous western destinations like Bend, Ore. And Bozeman, Mont. Frontier Airlines is promoting $ 39 flights to Orlando from most of its domestic cities and $ 39 a return ticket.
“Low cost airlines are one of my favorite ways to find cheap travel. I got really great deals. That’s how I got my $ 99 flight to Iceland, ”said Jen Ruiz, author and blogger of Jen on aJetPlane.com. “People want to spend more money on the destination than how they get there.”
Low-cost airlines definitely offer cheap flights. However, they must be aware of any additional fees and other costs associated with entering and leaving the secondary airports they serve.
“Things like checking your luggage, buying your seat, getting your boarding pass – it all adds up,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, which hunts airline deals for more than 2 million free and paid subscribers.
Flying with low cost airlines “can be very good business for someone who travels light and doesn’t care what seat you are in,” he said.
Define budget airlines
The difference between low-cost airlines like Allegiant Airlines and older airlines like American Airlines has been harder to define over the past 15 years, Keyes said. Since around 2015, older airlines have been offering more and more discounted airline tickets, and some are charging preferred seating or checked baggage to keep up with the low-cost airlines.
Here are three main differences:
While low-cost airlines consistently offer lower fares, they may charge you for seat selection, extra legroom, groceries, checked baggage, carry-on baggage, and boarding pass printing on the date of departure.
Low-cost airlines usually fly in and out of smaller, less busy airports, where they pay less money to use gates and save on other airport fees. For example, a low-cost airline tends to use Hollywood Burbank Airport rather than Los Angeles International Airport in California or Concord-Padgett Regional Airport, which is 17 miles from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.
Most low-cost airlines fly the same jets used by older airlines. When the COVID-19 pandemic cut flights dramatically, some traditional airlines sold their planes to discount airlines. However, low-cost airlines fly more smaller planes than large airlines. However, according to Keyes, their planes are safe.
“Flying has become remarkably safe. Personally, I am not concerned about low cost airlines, ”he said. “I would say the low-cost airline planes may be a bit older, maybe a bit dingy, and just a bit cramped.
“For an hour or two there isn’t much of a difference. If you’re flying 10 hours it can get pretty noticeable,” he added.
These distinctions are not hard rules either. There are exceptions. Southwest Airlines is considered a low-cost airline and serves many major airports. Also, passengers can check two pieces of baggage for free and there is no hand baggage charge.
Budget Airlines’ hidden costs
Canceled flights consume time and money
Low-cost airlines have fewer planes and fly fewer routes than large commercial airlines. If a flight is canceled for weather, mechanical or scheduling reasons, it is less likely that you can be booked for the next flight in an hour or two.
Some low-cost airlines only fly certain routes on certain days of the week. If your flight home is canceled from your vacation, the airline may not have another for four days. This disruption can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to your trip adding up to days in hotel rooms and extending rental cars. And if you absolutely have to go home and need to book a flight with another airline at short notice, it can cost hundreds too.
Legacy airlines offer more options. “A cancellation is nowhere near as likely to burden your trip. (Big airlines) have partners …. And agreements. If your trip is disrupted, you can be transferred to another airline,” said Keyes. “I may be less inclined to Book a flight (to low-cost airline) to Chicago in February if the weather is constantly bothering flights. But it’s more likely that I’ll take a flight (to low-cost airline) to Las Vegas or Hawaii in June. “
Additional fees add up
See the additional charges for an Allegiant Airlines round-trip flight from Boston to Sarasota, Florida, valued at $ 81, with Allegiant Airlines. Carry-on baggage charge is $ 20 and baggage check-in is $ 30 if prepaid. (If you pay at the airport, it’s $ 50.) A seat with the most legroom is $ 26, while the cheapest medium seat is $ 11. If you don’t need to check in and print out a boarding pass using the Allegiant app, that’s $ 5.
So if you pay the highest fees, that’s an additional $ 101 each way or $ 202, more than double the price of your ticket. If you can get by with a carry-on bag, don’t need a boarding pass, and take the cheapest seat, pay $ 31 each way or $ 62 for round-trip fares and a total of $ 143 for the trip. So read the fine print before you book.
While most major airlines have recently followed the lead of Southwest Airlines and dropped flight change or cancellation fees, discount airlines have additional restrictions. However, JetBlue Airways is suspending all change fees. Allegiant Airlines allows a change for free, while others like Frontier Airlines set the base rate for how far before the flight’s departure date the flight is changed.
Travel to and from distant airports for cheap flights
If you’re not relying on friends or rental cars, the cost of an Uber or Lyft from a remote airport to your whereabouts can cut your savings on airline tickets.
For example, in Arizona, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which is served by more low-cost airlines, is 32 miles from the main Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. An Uber from Phoenix-Mesa to downtown Phoenix costs about $ 38, while a ride from Sky Harbor costs about $ 7. If you take Uber during a busy time of the day, consider the $ 21 one-way difference, plus any price increases.
One advantage of remote airports, however, is the lower parking costs. They’re also less crowded, so cheap flights can save time, if not always money.
Tips for Flying Budget Airlines
Sign up for Deal Alerts
“Allegiant, Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, all of these low-cost domestic airlines have different fare sales that happen every four to six weeks,” said Ruiz. “Allegiant has a lot of one-way fares for $ 19 and Southwest has flights for $ 50. That happens all the time when they’re trying to sell unsold seats. “
Travelers can sign up with any low-cost airline and receive email notifications of cheap flights. You can also customize these just for the places you want to travel to.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is regularly looking for deals for your favorite destinations. Free subscribers get searches on a limited number of destinations, while those who pay $ 49 per year get unlimited destination searches.
Try budget airlines in international destinations
“There are many (European) low-cost airlines. So once you get close to you, you can easily access other areas. If I can find a good deal anywhere near my destination, I’ll take it, ”said Ruiz.
For example, instead of paying $ 700 to $ 1,400 round-trip flights from New York to Paris, consider getting a half-price round-trip ticket price of $ 300 to Barcelona instead. “There is easy access from Barcelona to Paris and other major cities,” she said.
Also try to fly low cost airlines within the same country. “I flew from Athens, Greece, to Santorini once for $ 9,” said Ruiz.
Quick deals to save you money
When Ruiz sees a lot of international destinations, she doesn’t take the time to plan the rest of her trip. She buys the flight that takes her across the ocean before it sells out and then books the shorter flights to transport her around the region.
Expect more direct flights to fun places
As larger airlines offer more flights, they typically operate a hub-and-spoke model with multiple routes and connections to get from point A to B to C to D. Discount airlines with fewer planes are more focused on just getting from point A to point B, Keyes said.
“They can be more direct and take less time depending where you go,” he said. “If I went to Vegas for the weekend, I’d spend twice as long on American Airlines,” he said.
Because leisure travelers are more price sensitive than business travelers, budget airlines are mostly targeting this audience, he said. “You will see more low-cost airlines flying to destinations like Las Vegas, Hawaii and Fort Lauderdale,” he added.
What to take with you on low cost airlines
Some low-cost airlines charge dues for blankets, headphones, and groceries. So bring your own snacks and headphones for in-flight entertainment, Ruiz advised.
It’s also smart to wear an extra coat or sweater as a blanket. Don’t pack it in your carry-on bag, however, as you’ll need every ounce of space there for clothing to avoid checked bag fees.
Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This article originally appeared on www.thepennyhoarder.com