Ultra low cost carriers such as Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier Airlines offer eye catching fares that sometimes seem too good to be true. These carriers represent almost seven percent of all US airline departing seats. With the fleets they have on order, they will grow to over 12% in the next 18 months.
I often post airfare deals here from these airlines, mostly Spirit and Frontier. And, while they do offer some incredible fares such as $15 one way, you need to be familiar with their feed and lower your expectations a bit in order to keep these fares a great deal.
10 Things You Need to Know About Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers
Here’s some of the things that travelers should know about ultra low cost carriers:
- Ultra low cost carriers are safe – These airlines cut a lot of corners to offer low prices, but don’t worry, they’re safe. They save their money elsewhere.
- Fare price just gets you a seat – You shouldn’t expect much else besides that. Even that seat is random, you need to pay extra to select one ahead of time.
- Bags cost extra, checked or carry-ons – Passengers can bring onboard just one free personal item that fits under the seat, such as a backpack or purse or laptop bag. Frontier’s prices start at $30 each way, Spirit’s at $35 and Allegiant’s at $15.
- Wight limits could be lower – The weight limit for checked bags on Spirit and Allegiant is only 40 pounds, not the standard 50 pounds that is allowed at major airlines and Frontier. There’s fees if you go over weight and they’re more strict about that compared to conventional airlines.
- Food & drink are often extra – Don’t expect to get served any food for free. The “free meals” you receive on full-service airlines are actually paid for in your higher-priced ticket.
- Print your own boarding pass – Print your own boarding pass when you travel with these airlines. Spirit charges $2 to print a boarding pass at an airport kiosk and $10 if an agent has to help you do it. Allegiant charges $5 per boarding pass printed by an airport agent.
- Airports could be outside of major cities – One way for these airlines to save money and offer lower fares, is to fly to.from smaller airports and avoid costly major hubs. So make sure you research the locations of the departure and arrival airports.
- If flight is delayed or canceled you might not have many options – Ultra low cost carriers don’t have many daily flights and usually don’t have agreements to transfer stranded passengers to other airlines. You could be easily stuck with no options.
- Join their Frequent Flyer Clubs for lower fares – Frontier’s Discount Den membership is $50 a year and it gets you discounts for up to six people per reservation. The membership will always get you a lower price, but the savings will vary. Spirit offers the $9 Fare Club, which is $60 per year and covers up to nine passengers. These programs make sense if you’re flying often with the same ultra low cost carrier.
- Wait for sales – You’ll often see sales from these airlines. You could get $15 fares or 90% off base fares. These sales might be limited to certain dates and routes but if you can make it work, you’ll definitely save even more.
Flying with ultra low cost carriers might not be for everyone. Large families that want to sit together will have to pay more. If you have a long vacation and you need to check in luggage you will need to pay again. But there’s plenty of instances where these fares will provide everything you need and will save you tons of money. By adjusting expectations a bit, everyone can make it work.