Are low cost carriers really low cost??
As air travel has gotten more popular, and the costs of operating an airline have risen dramatically, many travelers seek out low cost airlines as a means to save money. However, are they REALLY a big cost saving? Well, the truth is, maybe they are – and maybe not! When booking a low cost carrier, there are a number of things to keep in mind. First, compare fares and fees to your destination on a variety of carriers. You’ll want to use the airline websites directly as many of the on line flight search engines, such as google flights, do not include lower cost carriers like Southwest, Frontier and Spirit. Once you have an idea of the cost of the airfare portion, then research extras such as checked or carry-on bag fees, upcharges for better seats, priority check in charges and even boarding pass costs. Yes, some airlines like Allegiant charge you if you print your boarding pass with an agent at the airport. All the additional costs can almost double the price of your plane ticket. So that $39 airfare no longer looks like a good value does it? Some of the ultra-low cost carriers serve smaller airports that are not always convenient to your actual final destination. You’ll want to include additional transportation fees such as cabs, shuttles, rental cars or Uber into your total as well. Next, think about the route that you’re taking. Sometimes you may be routed from, for example, Philadelphia to Detroit to Orlando on Spirit, whereas if you try Southwest, you can go nonstop, thus saving yourself maybe 4 hours travel time each way. A random check on a low cost carrier (not Southwest) showed an approximate fare, from Philadelphia to Orlando of $140. Once checked bag fees, better seat fees, airport check in and taxes were added, the total for the trip jumped to $475! Yet on Southwest, the same trip on the same days would cost $330. You could save $30 by not selecting “Early Bird Check In”. ! A round trip flight on American Airlines for the same time period would cost around $232 plus another $50 (total) to check one bag. See, it pays to shop around! One other thing to remember is that if you’re flying a smaller, low cost carrier from an airport with minimal flight options, your chances of being re-accommodated in the event of a cancellation are slim. First, most of the low cost airlines do not have “interline agreements” with the larger carriers. That means that if your flight on, for example, Frontier is cancelled, they cannot book you on United to get you to your destination. But, if you’re booked on Delta and there is an issue, they might be able to get you booked on American at no additional cost to you. If you’re on Spirit or Allegiant and the flight is cancelled, chances are you are going to be stuck at the airport until they can find you a seat on one of their planes. (That’s a whole different topic!!) Finally, airlines like JetBlue and Southwest only open their bookings about 6 months ahead, whereas American, United and Delta will allow you to book approximately 330 days in advance. In this case, while you may find a cheaper fare on the low cost carriers, you might not. And since the other airlines have likely already sold their lowest fares a few months before, there’s a chance you will pay more for your ticket on the low cost carrier than you would have on one of the major airlines. Do your research, add up all the costs, read the rules about changing your flight and be well prepared BEFORE you buy that ticket! What might seem to be a super deal at first could wind up costing you a lot more money!