The Rundown on Ultra Low-Cost Carrier Fees

The Rundown on Ultra Low-Cost Carrier Fees

It doesn’t always make sense to use miles or points for a domestic ticket. You have to compare the price of the ticket to the amount of miles you would have to use for the same route. But beware of the extras you would have to pay if you are comparing the price of a ticket on one of the legacy carriers to one of the ultra low-cost carriers (ULCCs).

Their low fares can be quite enticing, but it’s important to consider the total cost of the ticket before buying, especially if you’re using points to buy your ticket. You might get charged some extra fees for things you thought were free like a boarding pass at check in or carrying a small bag on board. One even charges you to pay by credit card even if it’s their own co-branded card. Let’s take a closer look at the U.S.-based carrier fees on Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit.

These carrier’s websites are fairly similar to other carriers, so I’ll breeze through the process. And like many carriers, these ULCCs attempt to sell you add-ons (hotels, rental cars, ground transportation, etc.), but for the sake of this post, I won’t spend time diving into these extras.

Allegiant

Allegiant’s fees are the easiest to navigate online during booking, and they also provide a link to all the fees at the start of the search process.

Book a trio with Allegiant
Allegiant’s online booking engine

Picking your seats is a challenge. The seat map is easy to understand, but the costs of standard and Legroom+ seats can vary widely (based on route and location of the seat), and you aren’t shown the price of the seat until you click it and a small window pops up.

Standard seats on Allegiant are pretty tight with a width of 17-17.5” and a pitch of 30”. However, you can buy Legroom+ seats for an extra 4” of pitch. Additionally, Allegiant flies their Boeing 757 on certain routes where they offer Giant Seats that provides the extra legroom in addition to a much comfier 25” width.

Allegiant seat map
Allegiant seat map

After picking seats, the next page allows you to choose your baggage options as well as how you’d like to obtain your boarding pass. The fees you’ll pay at booking for baggage also depend on the route.

Allegiant baggage options
Allegiant baggage options

Allegiant boarding pass choice
Allegiant boarding pass choices

But the fun isn’t over yet. When you get to the last page to make your payment, you’ll see that Allegiant charges a fee to pay with a credit card. Even if you pay with their co-branded card, you still have to pay the extra credit card fee.

Unlike its competitors, Allegiant does not give you the option to bundle any fees for a discount, so everything is a-la-carte. Here’s a full list of their fees.

Baggage Fees:

Personal Item: $0

At Booking

  • Carry-on: $15-$20
  • Checked: $18-$30 per bag

Pre-Departure

  • Carry-on: $45
  • Checked: $45 per bag

At the Airport

  • Carry-on: $50
  • Checked: $50 per bag

Oversized

  • At the airport: $50-$75
  • Gate check: $0-$75
  • Overweight/oversized: $50-$125
  • Sports equipment: Follows standard baggage policy
  • Boarding pass: $5

Call center booking fee: $14.99
Cancellation: $75
Credit card payment: 3.2% up to $8
Debit card payment: $0
Food and Beverage: $2-7
Pet-in-cabin: $100
Priority Access (priority boarding): $4-12

Seat Selection

  • Standard: $0-$20
  • Extra Leg Room: $13-$70
  • Giant Seat: $85-$90

Trip Flex (extra charge to allow you to make a one-time change): $8-$20

Frontier

Frontier likes to market their Discount Den membership heavily. For roughly $50 each year, you can receive their e-newsletter publishing deals and promotions, and you’re also eligible for cheaper airfares but no further discounts.

Unlike other ULCCs, Frontier differentiates itself is when it comes to bundling. As you navigate through their site, a pop-up displays how to save money by bundling all their fees together for a discount.

Frontier Works
Frontier Works is the carrier’s bundled extras

As you can see, this could save you a few bucks if you were planning to pay for a better seat, carry-on a bag and check luggage.

One thing I dislike about Frontier is that there is another bundle that is purposely hidden in hopes you’ll pay for the more expensive option. The Perks package is their cheaper bundle that includes a seat, carry-on and checked bag, but it’s only available after you purchase your ticket and later go back to their website to manage your booking.

If you don’t buy one of their bundles, you’ll see the price of your seat on the map when you book. Frontier’s seats are all 18” in width and have pitches that range from 28”-32”. Their Stretch seats have 36”-38” of pitch for an extra cost. Here is the full list of fees on Frontier:

Baggage

  • Oversize/overweight: $75 each
  • Prices vary on time of year of travel and when they’re paid for. See chart below.
  • Sports equipment: Bicycles are $75, other equipment follows normal baggage pricing

Bundles

  • The Works (starting at $59): refundable fare, no change fee, seat fee, priority boarding,
    as well as one checked bag and one carry-on
  • The Perks (starting at $49): select your seat, one carry-on, one checked bag an priority
    boarding.

Cancelation: $99
Change fee: $99
Food and beverage: No prices printed online, but nothing is complimentary
Name change fee: $75
Pet in cabin: $75

Seats

  • Standard: $0-$11
  • Stretch: $20-$25

Frontier baggage options
Frontier baggage options

Spirit

Spirit Airlines is the largest of the ULCCs and also the most hated according to the annual complaint list published by the FAA. Digging through their website, I can see why.

Spirit also has a membership program (the $9 Fare Club which costs $60 the first year and $70 every year after), and members receive discounts on fares and other fees even when the $9 fares aren’t available.

Spirit Latrobe-Kansas City baggage chart
Spirit Latrobe-Kansas City baggage chart

Like with Allegiant, once you start to book and pick your flights, you have to navigate past the hotel and car rental options before you can proceed with your booking.

Spirit has the most pop-ups, especially if you attempt to bypass their fees. Additionally, if you’re tall, you may want to splurge on extra legroom as all of Spirits standard seats have 28” of pitch. That’s tight! Here’s a full list of what they charge.

Baggage

  • Oversize/overweight: $75 each
  • Sporting Equipment
  • Bicycle: $75
  • Surfboard: $100
  • Golf clubs, skis, snowboards: Same as checked baggage with overweight charges
    if applicable

Prices vary on time of year of travel and when they’re paid for. See chart below.

Bundle (The Fast Lane gets you airport check-in, a carryon, and seat assignment): $59
Cancelation: $99
Change fee: $99
Food and beverage: Varies, https://customersupport.spirit.com/hc/en-us/articles/221861687
Name change fee: $75
Pet in cabin: $75

Seats

  • Assigned at check-in: $0
  • Other seats: $12-$199

Spirit overweight or oversized baggage chart
Spirit overweight or oversized baggage chart

Spirit seats
Spirit seating rates

As you can see, flying on these ultra low-cost carriers can be attractive until you dig a little deeper. That said, even with these extra fees, you may pay less than what the competition offers just as long as you know exactly what you are or aren’t getting.

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