Low Fare Airlines?

Don’t let the “Low Fare” fool you

These days everyone is looking for a bargain or simply the best bang for their buck no matter what they may be shopping for.  You might be in the market to purchase a new car or perhaps the best price on some new furniture and it’s no different when searching for flights for our next vacation.

By now, I’m sure you have either received an email or viewed an advertisement to the effect of “Fly (fill in an airline name) from as low as $39.) right?  Well, most of these have so many hidden fees or restrictions that the final cost is no less expensive than a flight you perhaps would have booked on a “regular” flight.  This isn’t to say that there aren’t truly low cost fares available but, they are in very short supply and are usually ones that don’t fit into the average persons travel itinerary or have restrictions that make the flight not doable.

I recently experienced falling for the low fare price.  Yes, I could have backed out and not paid all the extras (I did include extras which I will discuss) but, I was so intent on going on this trip it almost didn’t matter.

I live in a place where winter can last quite a while sometimes and my wife and I try and break up the winter by taking a trip to somewhere warm for a week or so, just to thaw out a little and take a break from some cold temps.  We did so again this year and went to Florida for 4 days.   Yes, I know it is a short trip but, it was the only one that worked with our given schedule so it was 4 days or nothing.

When we discussed taking this trip we were all for it because it looked like we weren’t going on our annual trip due to unforeseen circumstances.  But with good timing and one of those timely “Low Cost Airfare” emails, we were ready to go.

Now we have flown on one of the low cost carriers before and did not have a very good experience because of all the add on pricing but, we finally decided we would try again because the base fare was so low and we really really wanted to go on a trip.  So I started putting together our trip, starting with the airfare.

The email I received detailing low airfares centered around flights served by Spirit and Frontier airlines.  Spirit being the low cost airline we had flown on previously we had a little bit of an idea as to what to expect.  Frontier was new to us so we weren’t sure how they charged or what extras you might have to pay for.

The base price I paid for two adult fares, roundtrip, was $337.04.  Pretty good deal considering this was pretty much last minute and it was leaving on a Tuesday returning on a Friday.  I was happy with the deal I found, at least I was for about an hour that is until I realized all the extras I would need to add on.

The first leg of our flight was on Frontier.  Now, I stated earlier that I purchased 2 adult roundtrip fares and that I was traveling with my wife, right?  This applies to both airlines: I had to pay for seats to GUARANTEE that my wife and I would sit next to each other on the flights.  That may not be a big deal to anyone else and yes, it is an extra that I technically didn’t have to pay for, but I love/like my wife and I enjoy traveling with her so when we fly we like to sit by each other.  I think it would be very strange for us to fly on the same flight and I sit in row 11 while she sits in for row 24, so I was willing to pay extra to make sure we didn’t have the chance of this happening to us.  I won’t count the extra that I paid for exit row seats because most if not all airlines charge for these seats.

For our return trip, we were on Spirit airlines and again, I paid extra to make sure my wife and I sat together.  The difference that I encountered with Spirit and Frontier (and perhaps the best thing I can say about Spirit) is that while I had to pay for seats that were next to each other I did not have to pay extra for exit row seats.  I paid one price and choose the seats I wanted, regardless of where they were located, save for maybe a first class area.

So far I have paid extra for the guarantee to have side by side seats with my wife.  Additional fees so far are about $140.

We aren’t finished with add on fees because we have luggage to consider.  Most airlines charge some sort of fee for a checked bag with slight variations in size and most allowing a 50 pound weight limit.

After not purchasing bags at the time I paid for Frontier tickets, I paid about $5-$10 more for a checked bag.  I knew this going in and wasn’t too alarmed.  Since this was a last minute trip I didn’t want to pay for an extra bag and not need to.  And then there was Spirit…..

Carry On Size Chart

The same holds true for Spirit in that I paid a couple dollars extra for bags because of not purchasing them at the time payment was made for the flight.  While I own this error on my part it should be known that I bought the tickets on a third party site.  At the time of purchase I didn’t see or know how to purchase bags for either airlines and since I wasn’t ready didn’t think it was too big of a deal.

When paying for bags on Spirit I encountered an additional fee for a carry on bag.  You read correctly, there is a charge for a carry on bag.  I believe the charge was about $25.  Did I mention that the weight limit for a checked bag on Spirit is 10lbs less than most other airlines?  Ten pounds of clothing, toiletries, shoes or just whatever is quite a bit of stuff.   Should you go over this amount you will incur a substantial charge.

To sum it all up, I paid about $200-$250 more for my flight besides the actual cost of just the flight itself.  Grand total for everything was about $600.  While that amount is about what I would have paid for one of the conventional carriers it is considerably more than I expected to pay for a “low cost airline” rate.  Is it still a good deal, I guess it depends on your travel needs.  Are you traveling solo and don’t care where you sit?  Are you bringing any luggage with you?  Do you care if there is a snack or beverage included on the flight (both airlines charge for anything to drink and or snack on)?  If you said it doesn’t matter to all of the above questions than you are probably their ideal customer.  When I think of low cost I envision something costing me less money than the norm and I generally don’t think you find that with low cost airlines.

I’m not here to discourage you from using any of the above mentioned airlines, I just want you to have real information before you make your decision.

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