Everything You Need to Know About Flying Allegiant Air in 2020
When my wife and I moved to Springfield, Missouri almost exactly five years ago, one of the selling points (or at least what kept it in the running) was that there was a nearby airport that served a number of destinations. Unfortunately, while it is convenient, flying out of such a small airport can also get pricey at times. This is especially true when you’re looking to fly last minute.
Once upon a time, a friend of mine needed me to head out to Orlando with just a couple of days notice. Normally I would fly Delta, passing through Atlanta on my way to Orlando International Airport (MCO). But, with ticket prices above $700, that didn’t seem very feasible for such a short trip. Luckily I remembered that Allegiant Air — a budget airline that serves a number of markets — offered direct flights to the Orlando area. Not only would I be able to fly straight to Florida on Friday and return home on Monday but my base fare came in at less than half the price of Delta. Of course, with Allegiant being a “no-frills” airline, the experience of booking and traveling with them is a bit different from the big guys.
Since that excursion, I’ve flown Allegiant on multiple occasions, catching direct flights to Las Vegas and Los Angeles from Springfield in recent months. As a result, I feel I’ve gotten to know the airline pretty well, including many of its quirks. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know before booking your Allegiant Air flight.
Booking Your Allegiant Air Flight
One of the first things to know about flying with Allegiant Air is that you won’t find them listed on popular third-party travel sites like Expedia, Priceline, or Kayak. Instead, similar to how Southwest operates, booking for Allegiant is done exclusively on their website. Once there you can explore which destinations they service, view flight schedules, and of course book travel.
Like I said, what really attracted me to Allegiant was their fares, which start at less than $100. However, these base prices can be a bit deceiving as they don’t include everything your typical airline fare would. Additionally, there are a few other steps in the booking process to be aware of.
Prior to my initial Orlando trip on Allegiant, there had actually been times in the past where I considered flying them to Los Angeles. Sadly this didn’t happen because of the airline’s limited flight schedule. For example, my flight to Sanford (SFB — near Orlando but about an hour away from Walt Disney World) was being offered on Friday and Monday but not on either of the days in between. Moreover, there was only one flight each way each day.
Because of this, for subsequent trips, I’ve found myself planning around Allegiant’s flight schedule. This meant spending a week in Vegas when five days probably would have sufficed. I’ve also had times (like later this week) when their flight days to L.A. happened to work out perfectly. Ultimately you’ll just want to consider the added costs you may incur — such as spending an extra night or two in a hotel — against the savings you’d see by flying Allegiant.
Booking bundles (Allegiant Bonus and Allegiant Total)
Once you’ve selected your flights, you may be presented with different bundle options. For example, Allegiant Bonus includes a carry-on as well as Trip Flex (more on that later) while Allegiant Total also adds seat selection and Priority Access to the mix. Both of these bundles offer a discount price when compared to what it would cost you to select all of these options à la carte.
When I first encountered these bundles, I was initially excited as I tend to go for all the bells and whistles anyway. But then, looking at the price, I pondered why it was so high. That’s when I realized that the inflated cost was due to Trip Flex being included. As you’ll see, I don’t typically purchase this option, so these bundles don’t really make financial sense for me. That’s why it’s good that you can always choose to continue with Allegiant Basic and add your extras on individually later in the booking process.
Hotel and travel offers
An interesting aspect of Allegiant’s booking process is that, in between selecting your flights and entering your personal information, you’ll be invited to book hotels, rental cars, and other travel services. Presumably Allegiant has affiliate deals in place with these various vendors, entitling them to a cut of booking profits and allowing them to keep their fares low. It would also partially explain why they shy away from listing on third-party sites.
Personally, I didn’t have any need to book a hotel, although I suppose it could be convenient to have all of your travel reservations in one place. From the limited research I did, it seemed the prices Allegiant listed were in line with other travel sites. I should also note that, unlike some other sites I’ve encountered, Allegiant made it really simple to decline these extra services and get to the good stuff, as it were. So, three clicks later, I was ready to enter my info.
Entering passenger info
This next step is fairly straightforward. Here you’ll enter your name, birth date, e-mail and other information that’s usually required by air travelers. For those with special needs or who want to travel with their pets, this is also where you can make those arrangements. As I’ve since learned, this is also where you can enter your known traveler number if you’re a TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry member.
Choosing your seat
After you select your flights, make it through the additional services sections, and enter your traveler info, the next step in the Allegiant booking process is to select your seat — or not. Unlike many carriers, Allegiant’s system allows you to either pre-select a seat and incur an additional fee or have a seat assigned to you at check-in without a fee. Additionally, the various seats have different values assigned to them. For example, a window seat at the front of the plane with extra legroom might be close to $30 while a middle seat toward that back of the plane might only be $12 or so.
Now, you may be asking why you’d pay to book a seat all the way in the back of the plane. Well, if you’re traveling with a group and looking for a place to sit together, that may be your only option on a fast-filling flight. In fact, Allegiant advises that parties wishing to sit together should select their seats in advance as there are no guarantees this will happen if the computer assigns you a complimentary seat.
When I first flew the airline, I did wonder if the seats that were assigned automatically included some of the “premier” ones at the front. As someone who all but refuses to go to a movie without having a reserved seat, I have yet to find out for sure. But, if the empty seat we had next to us on the way to Vegas is any indication, it seems that they don’t hand out such key real estate willingly.
Luggage and priority access
Another big difference between most major carriers and Allegiant Air is that, with the latter, you will need to pay to travel with a carry-on item. That said they do allow you to travel with a “personal item” — such as a backpack, purse, or (my personal favorite) a messenger bag — as long as you stow it under your seat. In other words, if you want to be able to store your item in the overhead, you’ll need to pay up. Naturally, there are also fees in place for checked luggage as well.
The bag fees that Allegiant charges can also vary based on a number of factors. They advise that rates are far lower when you pay your luggage fees in advance, rather than wait until you’re at the airport. These fees can also depend on where you’re flying to. In my most recent test case (to Vegas), a carry-on would cost $25 each way, while each item of checked luggage would add $30 each way to the fare. Apparently, each of these fees would go up to more than $100 if done at the airport.
Speaking of luggage, perhaps the most stressful part of flying for me is worrying about finding overhead bin space. Heck, I presume that’s a large part of the reason why frequent travelers pine for elite status and the right to board the plane early. With Allegiant, such status can be purchased for just a few dollars. In my case, I was most recently able to purchase priority access boarding — which gets you on the plane after the typical pre-board — for $8.99 each way. Notably that’s up from the $6.49 I paid on that first flight to Florida.
Wait — but since Allegiant is charging for carry-ons, wouldn’t they know how many bags were coming on board and ensure there was enough space? Probably. However, that’s not to say that the open bin space you seek will be located anywhere near your assigned seat. Thus, in order to avoid a scenario where I might need to swim upstream to retrieve my bag after landing, I’ll admit that I’ve always ponied up for priority.
Selecting a boarding pass option
Yet another question that will affect your final flight price is how will you be checking in? If you plan to print your boarding pass at home or use their mobile option, you will not have to pay any additional fees. However, if you’d like to have an agent print a boarding pass for you once you arrive at the airport, this will cost you an extra $5. For me the choice was easy and I had no problems using the Allegiant app and my mobile boarding pass.
Trip Flex, changing fees, and checking out
Finally, Allegiant offers a service called Trip Flex that allows you to change your flight plans without incurring change fees. For my flight, this option would have been $26 — although this depends on your flight, with my most recent trip displaying a $68 Trip Flex cost. Without it, changes would result in a $75 per passenger, per way fee. Personally, I’ve declined this option each time but those who fear a change may be necessary might find it useful. Also keep in mind that, in adherence to federal law, you are able to change or cancel your booking up to 24 hours after you make it without incurring a penalty (as long as your flight is more than seven days away from the time you book).
As you’d expect the last step of booking your Allegiant trip is entering your credit card information. If you’re in the market for a new credit card, you can also save a few dollars by signing up for their Allegiant card — although beware the $59 annual fee. Otherwise just enter your existing credit card info, accept the terms and conditions, and clip “purchase my trip” to seal your booking. I’ve actually used my American Express Platinum to book flights so I earned 5x Membership Rewards points.
Something I noticed when booking an upcoming trip to Las Vegas is a new option called “Allegiant Extra.” Incidentally, this option was only being offered on my return flight, not my outbound. Looking further into it, it seems that Allegiant Extra is a feature the company has been testing out but has only equipped a few of their crafts to support it.
So, with that preamble, what is Allegiant Extra? It could almost be described as a new class of service for the airline. Allegiant Extra seats occupy the first few rows of the aircraft and apparently feature at least 6” of additional legroom. Plus, booking Allegiant Extra entitles you to priority boarding, a free in-flight beverage, and dedicated overhead bin space.
While I’m sure prices vary just like with many other Allegiant fees, on my flight, the cost for Allegiant Extra was around $48 per person. For comparison, my typical row 6 seat on my outbound flight was $22. And although I’m not 100% sure if the priority boarding that comes with Extra is the same as Priority Access, you can probably factor the $8.99 you would have paid for that service into your consideration of whether this makes sense for you.
On that note, one minor issue I encountered when booking Allegiant Extra was that I seemingly couldn’t deselect Priority Access for that leg of my itinerary (I wanted to keep it for my flight to Vegas since that one didn’t have Extra). Thankfully, after contacting Allegiant on Twitter, they were able to make the adjustment and refund me the difference.
Obviously I haven’t had the chance to try Allegiant Extra out for myself just yet but I’m definitely intrigued and will be sure to report back!
Flying with Allegiant
When it comes to Allegiant Air, the differences from major carriers don’t stop with the booking process. In fact, some of the most noticeable differences come when you arrive at the airport and board your flight.
Admittedly I still haven’t become too well versed in Allegiant’s boarding process considering that I’ve sprung for priority access each time (#BusinessTripWriteoff). That said it seems that they utilized boarding groups like most other airlines. When flying to Sanford, passengers would just line up once their boarding group was called but, returning from Sanford, they had a few lines already set up for each group.
Allegiant’s fleet is outfitted with leather seats that, to me, appeared to be a bit thinner on padding than most airline seats I’ve experienced. Meanwhile, the legroom in my standard seat seemed about normal and posed no issue. However, it should be noted that I am not a large man — neither in weight or height — so, unfortunately, I’m not really the right person to fully assess the comfortability of Allegiant’s seats. Still, for my less than three-hour flight, I was content.
I will also say that a hidden benefit of Allegiant not equipping its seats with features like charging ports means there’s far less clutter under the seats. This not only allows my bag to better fit but, in turn, also affords me a better space with which to stretch my legs. In all honesty, this is something I actually prefer about Allegiant over some other planes I’ve been on — although be sure to bring an external charger if you want to ensure your device is powered up for your flight.
Food and beverage
If you’re one of those travelers that can’t wait to hit cruising altitude so you can get your complimentary tomato juice, I have some bad news for you regarding Allegiant. While the airline does offer a number of snack and beverage options while onboard, each of these comes at a price. For example, cans of Coke go for $2 a pop (pun intended). Each of these purchases must be made with a credit card as they do not accept cash. In short, if you want to munch or sip during your flight, you might want to pack some snacks and fill a water bottle before boarding.
To be honest, I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with the gate and in-flight crew while traveling with Allegiant. In fact, on my flight home from Orlando that first time, one passenger had some medical issues arise and the crew proceeded to take good care of her, handling the whole thing very professionally. On other flights I’ve taken since, I’ve found the crew to be equally as personable and pleasant.
I suspect that some passengers who aren’t prepared to pay for water or aren’t happy with where they need to stick their luggage might take it out on these crew members. If that’s the case, it’s a real shame considering what lovely people the workers of the airline seem to be. While I’m sure everyone has bad days and there are some crew members who are better than others, I personally have nothing to complain about in this category.
Pro Tips for Flying Allegiant
Like I said, I’ve now flown on Allegiant a few times. As a result, I’ve come across a few “pro” tips to be aware of that could save you either time or hassle:
1) If you’re going to pay for a seat and carry-on, start with row 6
Look, I’m the type of person who likes to sit as close as possible to the front of the plane so I can get the hell off ASAP. Sadly, this instinct is often compromised by the fact that I travel with an additional bag I’ll need to access during the flight. In other words, the bulkhead (row one) is ruled out as there’s no seat in front of you to place such personal items.
That’s why, one flight back from L.A., I snagged a seat in row three. The problem here was that, as soon as I boarded, I noticed the overhead was already closed. It turns out that the first two bins on each side of the plane are reserved for emergency supplies as well as the luggage that passengers in the aforementioned bulkhead carry on.
Obviously this wouldn’t be a big deal except that it means trying to fight the crowd to grab my bag behind us. That’s why, on our next trip to Vegas, I made sure to select seats no closer than row six, as this is where the first available overhead bin was located. This plan worked like a charm and helped facilitate my goal of exiting the plane as quickly as possible upon landing.
By the way, it looks like this trick may soon be irrelevant if Allegiant Extra continues to roll out, so stay tuned.
2) Don’t forget to enter your known traveler number
Booking my first flight on Allegiant since joining Global Entry, I realized after the fact that I hadn’t entered my known traveler number (KTN). Leaving this piece of information off of my reservation would mean I wouldn’t be able to access the TSA Pre✓ line at the airport. After panicking for a moment, I headed back to the Allegiant site to try to correct the mistake… only to worry more once as I couldn’t locate where I was to enter this info.
Eventually, I did find that I could add my KTN by going to the “Who Will Be Traveling?” screen (step two), next to where the “Special Assistance” and “Pets/Service Animal” tabs are. Additionally, you can save your KTN to your Allegiant account profile so that it will be automatically applied to future entries.
Hopefully you can properly save your KTN to your reservation and, if you do, a TSA Pre✓ logo will appear on your mobile boarding pass. If it doesn’t you may want to double check that you entered it properly or contact the airline. Remember: TSA is unlikely to let you through the Pre✓ queue unless your actual reservation shows you’re a member.
3) You may only need one priority access
As I’ve noted, my main motivation for purchasing priority access (P.A.) is to ensure that my carry-on is located in bin above my seat. Despite this being the goal, I’ve ended up buying P.A. for my wife and myself on each of our flights. Then it occurred to me that, in theory, only one of us needs this upgrade as they can take the carry-on, stow it, and take their seat while waiting for the other.
Of course, this either means sticking my wife with the bag or ditching her at the gate. In other words, your mileage may vary with this plan (how much is that $18 really worth to you?). Still, if you’re traveling in a group and not everyone is bringing their own carry-on, it’s definitely worth considering just how many P.A. upgrades you really need.
My Experiences Flying Allegiant and More on the Airline
My delay and compensation story
At this point, I’ve taken several flights with Allegiant and had mostly positive experiences. However, on a recent trip to Las Vegas, I got to see a bit of what happens when things go wrong and how the airline handles it.
We were set to fly from SGF to LAS at around 8:30 p.m. one night in January. When I woke up that morning, I saw that our flight had been delayed by about an hour. Obviously that wasn’t a huge deal but, a few hours later, we got another alert that our plane would now depart at 2:30 a.m. the following morning. Being curious, I did some tracking and saw that the plane that was set to come our way was more or less on time leaving Tulsa for Las Vegas so I wasn’t sure why it was going to be on the ground at McCarran for so long.
To their credit, this notification came several hours ahead of the bumped departure, which meant we weren’t waiting at the gate while they moved the time back further and further. However, normally in these situations, it is advised that you arrive at the gate at your original departure time as the airline can pull the time up without notice. That said, continuing my tracking, I could see that our inbound plane still hadn’t departed. We ended up getting to the airport well ahead of that 2:30 a.m. departure but we would have been cutting it close if our plane really did miraculously leave on time.
Since our tiny airport isn’t used to such late departures, the TSA employees were forced to stay late as well. It was from them that we heard the delay was due to a crewing issue — although no one from Allegiant ever offered an explanation (I also never asked, for the record). In fact, none of the crew ever really even acknowledged the fact that leaving in the middle of the night was not the plan nor was there ever really a verbal apology. This struck me as a bit odd but, really, what would a “sorry” really do?
As it turns out, Allegiant actually did end up apologizing in another way: by providing us compensation. After awakening from what would probably best be described as a nap (since we got to our hotel at around 5 a.m.), I checked my inbox to find that the airline had sent me two $50 vouchers — one for my ticket and one for my wife’s — good for one year. I was honestly quite shocked by this gesture, especially since our base fare for the flight was only slightly more than that amount.
We actually just booked another trip to Las Vegas via Allegiant and, sure enough, the vouchers worked. At check out, all I needed to do was copy and paste the code for each and the $50 came right off. So, while it sucked missing out on a night at our hotel room (although I was sure glad to have it ready when we arrived in the morning), I have to say that I thought Allegiant did a decent job of making it up to us.
If you Google news stories about Allegiant, amid stories about the new stadium bearing their name coming to Las Vegas, you may also come across reports regarding various incidents. Perhaps most notably, these safety concerns in an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes. This segment reported that the airline had experienced 100 incidents including aborted takeoffs, unscheduled landings, and in-flight engine issues between January 2016 and October 2017. Despite these troubles, the airline has never experienced a fatal crash in its near 20-year history.
Obviously safety is extremely important when it comes to air travel. Thus, these reports have rightfully concerned some flyers. It seems that Allegiant has continued to work through these issues as they also expand their operations. Most importantly, the company has now retired all of the old MD-80 planes that presented the majority of these issues and now flies an all-Airbus fleet (at the time of the 60 Minutes segment, 30% of their planes were MD-80s). The FAA has also taken on greater oversight of the company as Allegiant is now the nation’s 11th largest carrier.
Thankfully, I’ve never encountered any of these maintenance issues with Allegiant and I am obviously comfortable flying with them. Still it is important to make note of these reports.
Ranking Allegiant on stats
As I noted, Allegiant has been growing in the time I’ve been flying with them. With the airline now publicly reporting their operational performance statistics, they were included in The Wall Street Journal’s ranking of “the best and worst” domestic carriers this year. Overall, Allegiant placed fourth behind Delta, Alaska, and Southwest. The airline also had the best record regarding mishandled bags and was second in terms of canceled flights, as well as two-hour tarmac delays. And while you might assume a budget airline that charges for everything including a glass of water might get hit with complaints, their sixth-place rank still put them ahead of Spirit, Frontier, and American. Oddly though, the carrier does apparently have a lot of involuntary bumping, with only American having a worse record.
To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what to make of these particular rankings but it is interesting to see how Allegiant compares in certain measurable ways. Of course, while “complaints” might partially quantify customer experience, it’s hard to take into account factors such as seat comfort or even cost when determining what makes an airline the “best.” Still, I think a fourth-place ranking is pretty strong for carrier overall.
Benefits for active duty military and veterans
Ever since I posted my original review of Allegiant, one of the comments I’ve received most often is about how the airline honors members of our military. As part of a program called Allegiant Honors, U.S. active and reserve duty military and military veterans of the seven uniformed services are offered several free benefits, such as complimentary carry-on and checked luggage (with limitations). Additionally, qualifying service members will enjoy early boarding and can make changes/cancellations to their itineraries without a fee. To learn more about these great benefits and more, be sure to visit the Allegiant Honors page.
Final Thoughts on Allegiant Air
Overall I have to say that my experiences flying Allegiant have been quite positive. Even with the additional fees and upgrades I allow myself to splurge on, my total costs have regularly come in at less than half of what I’d spend on other airlines. Plus, while I don’t mind layovers on the whole, having a direct flight is a breath of fresh air.
Since I’ve been monitoring Allegiant’s flight prices, I’ve seen tickets from Springfield to Sanford going for as little as $63 each way! With flights from here to L.A. starting at $78, I’ve even wondered if it may even be worth arranging an itinerary where Allegiant takes me to LAX before boarding a flight with a different carrier to Asia or wherever.
As far as traveling on a budget airline, considering that I’m not big on eating or drinking while in flight and don’t really have leg room requirements, there was really nothing for me to dislike about my flights. In my initial review, I did note there was some noticeable wear and tear along with some dinge on the plane I took to Sanford. However, I’ve since learned that that model plane was one of those older ones that have since been decommissioned. Thus, during my flights to L.A. and Vegas, I haven’t noticed any such issues, with both planes looking clean and welcoming.
To conclude, I’ve really enjoyed flying Allegiant Air so far. That said I will likely keep purchasing the same upgrades I’ve indulged in previously — although I might forgo a carry-on if I’m taking another short trip. On the other hand, it’s nice to know that some of these add-on fees can be passed over if I so choose. For that reason, I’d recommend checking out Allegiant the next time you need to fly.
Also published on Medium.