Are Budget Airlines Really a Discount?

budget airlines

The hidden fees of budget travel

If you’re on social media at all, you’ve probably seen the ads: “Flights as low as $49! Roundtrips under $100!” Next thing you know, you’re scrolling through a list of destinations and planning your next vacay. And while it’s great to book those cheap flights, there’s a dark side to budget travel… you can almost bet that those cheap flights are going to end up costing more than you thought!

Here’s the thing. Budget airlines, especially the Big Three (Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit Airlines), have an “a la carte” menu when it comes to pricing. You’ll have to pay extra for just about everything, from picking your seat to bringing a carry-on aboard. And those fees will add up really quickly!

So is that budget airline really worth it? Check out our list of hidden fees and decide for yourself.

  • Budget airline carry-on fees

    There was a time when you could travel with one personal item and one carry-on for free. You could pack for the weekend with a backpack or small suitcase, there were no suitcases… and no fees. But those days are over, at least for the budget airlines.

    Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit all charge fees for a carry-on. So if you thought you could save money by traveling light, you’re in for a costly surprise.

    According to their websites, these are their current carry-on fees (depending on travel dates, times, and flight durations):

    Allegiant Carry-On Fees: from $10 to $75
    Frontier Carry-On Fees: from $42 to $79
    Spirit Carry-On Fees: from $26 to $75

    The cheaper (and easier!) alternative is to ship your carry-on with LugLess. For an average cost of $14 to $39, we’ll get your carry-on to your hotel or Airbnb. You’ll save money and not have to worry about hauling bags through the airport.

  • Budget airline baggage fees

    This is the big one, you guys. Here’s where the budget airlines might be not-so-budget. You’re looking at fees on top of fees on top of fees.

    We’ll start with the obvious: checked baggage fees. These are the fees listed on their websites:

    Allegiant Checked Bag Fees: from $37 to $79
    Frontier Checked Bag Fees: from $42 to $79
    Spirit Checked Bag Fees: from $27 to $75

    And here’s the kicker: they’ve actually reduced the weight limit. Before, your bag could weigh up to 50 pounds. Now, the maximum weight allowance is 40 pounds. Hit 41 pounds, and you’ll be paying extra!

    Ouch! But we’ve got you covered. Save on budget airline baggage fees with LugLess. Our average price to ship your stuff is $20 to $45. And that goes up to 50 pounds, not the “new standard” of 40 pounds.

    And while we’re on the subject, check out some of the additional fees you might have to pay:

    Overweight baggage fees (up to 70 pounds)
    Overweight baggage fees (71+ pounds)
    Oversized baggage fees

    Of course, sometimes that overweight baggage fee seems almost unavoidable (*souvenir shopping*), but we’ve tips for you overpackers!

  • Other fees

    Did you think you were done, once you’d paid for your seats? We wish! But that’s not quite the case…

    Choosing Your Seat

    Budget airlines don’t automatically give you a seat choice. And while you might not mind where you sit if you’re traveling alone, if you’re on vacay with friends or your S.O., you’ll probably want to sit together.

    If you show up at the gate without assigned seats, you might get lucky and find two seats together. But if you don’t want to take the risk, you’ll have to choose your seats ahead of time. And yep, you guessed it, Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit all charge a fee for choosing your seat.

    Prices will vary depending on your flight and seating choice. Keep in mind that these fees are per flight, not for the whole trip. And if you have a connecting flight? Well, that’s two seat booking fees, not one.

    Food and beverages

    Does traveling make you feel snack-ish? If so, and you’re flying with a budget airline, get your wallet ready. Because a bag of pretzels might be the only freebie on board. And when you’re stomach starts growling, you might have to pay for “snack packs”—even on longer flights.

    Save money and hunger pangs by packing snacks from home. Trail mix, dried fruit, granola bars, whatever you need to tide you over until you land.

    And don’t forget the drinks! The beverage cart might only come around once, so stay hydrated by bringing a drink with you. To avoid issues with TSA, buy your fave thirst-quencher at the airport after you’ve gone through security.

    Pro Tip: Don’t want to pay for overpriced water at the airport? Bring an empty bottle and fill it at a water fountain, post-security. You’re welcome!!

Can a budget airline ticket really stay within your budget? Absolutely… with a bit of planning. Follow our suggestions and you’ll save on everything from baggage fees to bottled water. Whether you spend that extra money on an “I heart NY” tee or plan your next getaway is up to you!