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Allegiant Airlines Review: Pros, Cons, Tips

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Allegiant Airlines Review: Pros, Cons, Tips

This post gives the pros and cons of Allegiant Airlines to help you decide whether or not to use it. You will also find helpful tips for traveling on Allegiant Air.

Allegiant’s robust finances

At least in the short term, one thing you probably do not have to worry about is Allegiant going out of business before your trip.

Allegiant Airlines (The actual name is Allegiant Travel Company) attracts considerable attention by making big bucks in this down economy, while providing low fares on nonstop routes nearly never served by other airlines.

Allegiant profits in spite of its rock bottom fares (which went as low as $9 each way LAX to Monterey in 2009) by aggressively pushing hotel and car rental packages on its website and by charging fees above its fares that must make other airlines salivate.

How Allegiant operates

Allegiant considers itself a package vacation company, not an airline in the way we usually think of them.

This is a company that thinks deeply about what it does. From selecting viable routes and airports ignored by other airlines to flying only on days of high customer demand, Allegiant maximizes its revenue. In fact, the airline virtually shuts down on Tuesdays, as it sees so little demand for flights that day.

Frankly, Allegiant serves communities that should have been served by Southwest Airlines long ago, but for years in my opinion Southwest stubbornly stuck to a rigid formula of adding only new airports that have potential for flights all day, all week long. (Since its purchase of AirTran, the policy has changed.)

On the other hand, Allegiant Airlines seems perfectly willing to hire part-time people, in order to serve an airport for as little as once a day several times a week. Based on the money it makes, this has proven to be viable business model.

LAX service

Allegiant Airlines now serves LAX - LA INC

Allegiant looks for opportunities, even when these do fit its existing operating patterns.

When told that a lot of its customers in Las Vegas were racking up rental car mileages way beyond normal, Allegiant found that many of these people were using its cheap airfares to Las Vegas to access Southern California. Research showed what airports these people were coming from and what airport in California would best serve them.

Not known for flying into incredibly busy airports like Los Angeles International, Allegiant does now!

Moreover, Allegiant has since aquired larger Boeing 757 aircraft so that it can serve Honolulu and Maui from places needing this service. Its flights from Bellingham, WA airport to Hawaii and elsewhere attract thousands of Canadians who face much higher fares at Vancouver International Airport.

Image above courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

The pros – reasons to use Allegiant

The fares!

Remarkably low priced tickets come especially easily if you are flexible about dates and can avoid the high fees for checking bags ($35 each if paying at the airport) and for advance seat selection and priority boarding.

However, even with its fees, Allegiant’s total cost can be a remarkable value.

Allegiant’s policy says fill every plane. To do this, it lowers fares as necessary to often astonishing rock bottom levels knowing it will make money via its aggressive fees and car rental and hotel sales. Besides, after a certain point, Allegiant Airlines has already broken even on a trip and these additional sales are nearly pure profit.

One-way tickets. Like JetBlue and Southwest, you are not penalized for buying one-way tickets on Allegiant. This gives the added flexibility that many people wish. You can spend the winter in Florida without having to decide a return date in advance.

The service. In my experience so far, Allegiant employees have been unfailingly energetic, cheerful, and professional. I have flown with Allegiant into and out of six airports with no problems.

I have also talked with many Allegiant Air customers, who have reported no unusual concerns other than the online booking fee described below. (However, the comments below written since this was originally posted tell a different story.)

The comfortable leather seats. On most of its fleet, these do not recline, which gives extra legroom and makes using a laptop easier.

Nonstop flights. You do not connect through “hubs” on Allegiant Air. This airline serves cities that haven’t seen nonstop service to Arizona, California, and Florida for years, if ever, and customers love this.

Note: If you book a connection, you are on your own! You must reserve and pay for each sector separately. Allegiant will not be responsible if you miss your connection. Overnight in Las Vegas or another connecting city if you want to connect more safely–and even this does not totally protect you, as what happens if Allegiant cancels one part of your itinerary?

Cons – things you should know

Think of Allegiant as a charter airline. Its flights are scheduled, but it acts as a charter.

That means, for example, that you have to allow extra check in time or you may be denied boarding. Always check what the current minimum check in time is and pad that, in case you are delayed getting to the airport.

Check in takes time, as Allegiant seems to allot fewer counter agents than most U.S. airlines. Moreover, fewer passengers show up with boarding passes already printed, in order to go through security without stopping at the check in counter.

Flight delays

As with most charter flights and airlines like Southwest, if there is a mechanical problem, you will NOT be put on another airline. You must wait for the problem to be fixed or for Allegiant to send another plane—even if you are in Grand Rapids and that plane is in Las Vegas.

In contrast to Southwest at most airports, Allegiant likely does not have another plane nearby if one of its planes cannot operate.

In some cases, Allegiant has canceled without offering alternative transportation. Of course, Allegiant refunds, but that does not help much if you now must purchase a high last-minute fare elsewhere. Nor does it help you if you have made nonrefundable hotel, tour, and other arrangements elsewhere, in conjunction with your Allegiant ticket.

As a consequence, Allegiant may not be the airline to take when you have tightly scheduled vital business meetings or a cruise ship to catch.

The fees

Fees are really in your face. Allegiant Airlines builds its profitability on high fees and lots of them.

Free water? Ha! Free coffee? You must be joking. Instead, you’ll be offered bottled water for $2.00 or a coffee-like drink for around $4.00 (I believe).

On some flights, Allegiant even has a fun fee that some passengers enjoy. You can pay an optional $5 (or more for extra tickets) to enter a raffle.

The winner gets half the proceeds ($135 on my last flight), a few runners up receive prizes like beach towels and bags, and—guess whom?—Allegiant gets the rest. As those bags don’t come from Gucci, that residual money adds up.

Checked bag fee

Checked bags set you back $35 each (less if purchased online when you book).

Carry on bag fee

During 2012, Allegiant became the second U.S. airline (after Spirit) to charge for carry on bags, a remarkably dubious honor. Fees range from $10 - 35 per bag depending on flight and whether paid online or not.

Advanced seat selection fee

Choosing a specific seat usually costs $11.00 to 14.00.

Note: Only passengers who have paid the pre-selected seat fee may use online check-in and print a boarding pass before arriving at the airport.

Already having a boarding pass cuts the check-in time needed, if you have no luggage to check, because you can go directly to security and the gate. You will need to ask someone what gate though before proceeding through security.

Because Allegiant MD-80 seats are configured two by three, with no more than a one in five chance that you will get a middle seat, you may wish to take your chances by not paying for advance seat selection IF you are traveling on this aircraft. (You can tell by the seat map showing two seats on one side, three on the other.)

Priority boarding fee

Although you can pay the optional priority-boarding fee only if you’ve paid for seat selection, priority boarding may be well worth it.

Priority boarding gives you first crack at the overhead bins.

This cuts the chance that there will be no room for a somewhat larger than normal carry on, resulting in a $35 checked bag fee. Some airlines do not collect these fees at the gate. Allegiant Airlines (of course!) does.

Online booking fee

Paying extra to reserve online has become Allegiant’s most controversial fee. After all, you are paying to use a procedure that likely saves the airline lots of money!

Frankly, I believe that the online booking fee is an ill-advised policy—in contrast to so much at Allegiant that is so well thought out. Why have something that attracts so much negative attention and so many unfavorable customer comments and reviews?

How many customers will Allegiant lose if it nixes the fee and adds $7.00 to 10.00 to its usually already low fares?

At a conference, I listened to Ponder Harrison, Allegiant’s good-humored Managing Director – Sales and Marketing at the time, defending the fee by saying that you can always make your reservations at an airport to avoid it. However, that dog does not hunt.

Not only are airport hours quite limited at most and parking fees in place, you will likely be asked to wait while Allegiant boards passengers.

Allegiant car rentals

One of Allegiant’s busiest airports Mesa Gateway near Phoenix lacks the car rental competition you will find at the main airport used by other airlines in Phoenix. That can make prices higher. Also, the hours some companies are open are limited.

If you book through Allegiant, normally cancellable car rental reservations become non refundable. That could cost you big time.

Allegiant hotels

Hotels booked through Allegiant become nonrefundable.

Make sure that the savings are worth it when compared to sites like Hotels.com, which usually have more liberal cancellation policies.

Customer service

Allegiant does not provide a toll-free number for either reservations or customer service. You must call 1-702-505-8888.

Or, you can present customer service issues to Allegiant’s Twitter account at @AllegiantTravel. Recently, an answer came within moments.

@AllegiantTravel is a good place to keep up-to-date on new routes and specials. Loyal customers are always suggesting new routes.

In conclusion

Overall, its passengers like Allegiant Air. Remember that Allegiant serves many airports that often have not had low fares and nonstop service in years, if ever.

Other than its online booking fee, the lack of enough airport agents, the possible terribly inconvenient and expensive consequences of canceled flights, and a few other things, I tolerate the airline and love its employees. Of course, I do not travel with several bags to check that can add up to as much as $140 extra in fees each trip.

With its low fares, Allegiant Airlines lets people travel to places like Florida, who might otherwise not have the chance.

Just be aware that you are not dealing with a traditional airline and keep in mind the cautions and tips above.

Comments

Michele GILL
September 21, 2011

My family travels on Allegiant about 10 times a year.. I understand the benefit of a low cost, no frill flight. But there are several aspects of their standard policies that make me wish I never had to fly them again:
* Pay trip flex so you can make changes and get NO credits for changes made within 24 hours of take off. That is not standard airline industry policy and is an unexpected ‘ZERO’ for the customer.
* Allegiant often lower fares after you purchase your ticket and you get ‘nothing’, another ‘ZERO’. Even if you pay the Trip Flex fee.
* Don’t pay for priority boarding and you and your 4 year old are likely to end up on opposite sides of the plane. It’s happened to me.
* The Web Site strongly (almost deceptively) guides you into paying for priority boarding, seat assignments, and especially Trip Flex. I work for a large software company and it still took several attempts to turn it all off.
* They have a captured market in my area. I so wish it wasn’t so.
* They are almost always higher than Southwest, a similarly conceived airline.

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Don Nadeau
September 21, 2011

Thank you very much, Michele. Your comments will be very helpful to travelers deciding whether or not they want to use Allegiant.

Allegiant depends on low prices and, as you mentioned, convenient flights from underserved communities (in some cases the first nonstop service to Las Vegas and Orlando from these ever) to gather passengers.

Unfortunately, its negative and resented policies will never bond customers with it, in sharp contrast to the situation at Southwest.

I do not believe that business model maximizes Allegiant’s potential.

Thank you again.

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Wendy George
September 21, 2011

I actually travel on allegiant a lot with family. I have never taken priority seating or seat assignment. For a family of 5 we have always sat together. The furtherest apart was 3 seats in one rown and 2 across the row or 2 behind. They do charge for snacks, but bring your own. Soda and water bought inside the gate, can be taken on the plane. Fill it back up with water or buy a soda before you get on. Great way to travel cheap.

The only drawback is if a flight is really cheap, take the ticket reservation. It may be triple the cost the next day.

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Don Nadeau
September 21, 2011

Wendy, thank you for your comment. Sorry for the late reply, as your comment accidentally ended up in the spam filter. (I manually check it periodically. Yours was the only legit comment out of 107 in the filter.)

Allegiant has brought huge savings and nonstop flights to smaller markets. Those are its great marketing strengths.

I still prefer to pay for priority seating, as that means room for two carry ons (regular and laptop backpack) that I don’t want to end up checking.

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C G
September 21, 2011

I was trying to buy tickets online today for an Allegiant flight. The website asked for my email and password – I hadn’t bought tickets in over a year, so couldn’t remember the password. They don’t offer to email your password, so I got on the phone. Since the recording said that the wait was over 7 minutes, and mentioned that buying tickets at the airport was less, I decided to drive down since I’m just a few minutes from the airport, picturing some face-to-face friendly explanation of the ticketing, seat assignments, etc, since I rarely fly. I wound up waiting in line and when it was my turn, I was turned aside and told to wait until the passenger line went down a bit. So I finally get waited on and was handed the receipt. I asked the hurried staff person about seat assignment. He said that I check back in at the counter the day of the flight. Now I have no idea whether I’ll be seated with my husband, and don’t see a way on the website to add the seating assignment. What a runaround…. I suppose now I’ll have to call and spend more time on the phone to find out if I can add on the seating assignment. It sure wasn’t very helpful to drive to the airport to get the reservation.

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Don Nadeau
September 21, 2011

Thanks CG for sharing your experiences.

Sadly, I more and more believe that having just three marketing attributes, 1) low basic prices that increase rapidly if you want anything extra, such a checking bags or having some chance of sitting together, 2) nonstop flights where none previously existed, and 3) generally very friendly on-board employees are not sufficient as a long-term business model.

I may be wrong though. Ryanair in the European Union has gotten away with an Allegiant-type experience for years.

Thank you again. Have a smooth trip, once you get going!

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MH
September 21, 2011

This is the worst airline I have ever flown and it is too bad because they offer a regional service to a smaller community that I live in which could be convenient. I arrived at the Mesa, AZ airport 45 minutes prior to my flight. I stood in line to get my boarding pass and twenty minutes had passed with little movement. They announced boarding and I get to the front of the line to be informed that it is TOO LATE – very rudely I might add. They said it was a busy weekend. SO? I can get into Sky Harbor through security, to the gate and on to a Southwest flight in twenty minutes without any problems and greeted with smiling faces on the airline personnel. This airline needs to learn a thing or two from the big guys. I took a taxi from this small airport to Sky Harbor and the taxi driver told me he gets business off of every Allegiant flight because they either oversell or make the customer wait too long to get their tickets. We called Allegiant and their response several weeks later was, SORRY, you have to be at the airport a minimum of two hours before departure. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? for a 1.5 hour flight? Maybe if going to Europe. I hope they get competition in the smaller regional spaces because they will lose all of their business.

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kent
September 21, 2011

Just got screwed out of my $300 unused airfare – even though I purchased the “flex-trip” insurance. These guys don’t have a clue nor care about customer service -just filling planes – too bad since they were fairly convenient – never again

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robert boyd
September 21, 2011

Here in Columbus ohio airtran just got folded into Southwest airline. Skybus was making good money flying into Florida from here. It went under because of fuel costs. I see a opening here and I bet your people do to.The gates are still here and unused. I just handed you a lot of money. I hope you can take advantage of it.

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Xee
September 21, 2011

At security for Allegiant airlines, will they make you take off your socks? I have a phobia of showing my feet in public. I really don’t want to do it. Please let me know for those who’ve flown this airline before.

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Karen L Small
September 21, 2011

Allegiant does not care as stated above about customer service or satisfaction. I booked and the website went down rebooked-charged a 2nd time. Called to have one of the same flight fixed & then discovered that they booked me for a week earlier. Called to have this fixed & was charged $230.00 per person! Excuse me but they are ripping the consumer. They are saying that I made the mistake but in reality both of the orginal bookings were on the same day. In explaining this situation their personel just said I had to pay the extra & they were sorry. This is a major rip off. I will never ever travel again with this incompetent airline.

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Bill
September 21, 2011

Nickel and dime you.

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Don Nadeau
September 21, 2011

Thank you everyone for your comments.

@ Xee I’ve never had to take off my socks at any TSA security point, including AllegiantAir ones.

@ MH Sorry about that. You have to think of Allegiant as a charter airline with only a few flights each week to most of its smaller airports, without a substantial staff to handle check in. Obviously, it should do more to warm people that they need to arrive early. Nevertheless, hiring a large staff is probably not economical if Allegiant wants to continue to serve very small airports.

@ Karen L Small I believe Allegiant forgets about the impact that negative customer experiences can have. Very sad.

In the future when booking anything (an air reservation, hotel, car rental, or whatever), I suggest that you either do so online and PRINT your reservation as proof in disputes and to take with you or you use a travel counselor who will give you a copy of your reservation to take with you.

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Don Nadeau
September 21, 2011

@ robert boyd Thank you, but I don’t think you could pay me enough to go into the airline business.

As Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines once told USA Today:

” . . . if the Wright brothers were alive today Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs.”

Or, Warren Buffet in 2008:

“The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money. Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers. Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”

I could go on!

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Ajj242
September 21, 2011

Hi does allegiant have snacks and televisions? I doubt it on the televisions but I’m just asking?

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Don Nadeau
September 21, 2011

@Ajj242,

Not a television in sight, but haven’t been on Allegiant for a year or so. Once it thinks of a way to make money with them, I am sure they’ll be there.

Last time flight, a bottle of water cost $2.00. Here are the snacks that may be available on your flight:
http://www.allegiantair.com/aaInFlightServices.php

Thank you for your comment.

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