Calling me an Allegiant Air fanboy would be a stretch … but I'll admit I have a soft spot for the ultra-low-cost carrier that many avoid.
While others typically steer clear of budget airlines like Allegiant, I'm not one of them. Don't get me wrong: I'd prefer to do my domestic travel with the likes of Delta, United, and American. But where I live, that's not always the most convenient (or thrifty) option. And that's where Allegiant comes in.
Allegiant operates point-to-point flights (no connecting itineraries) from many smaller cities to larger, warm-weather destinations. For my home airport of Sioux Falls (FSD) and dozens of cities like it, Allegiant offers the convenience of nonstop flights (to nine destinations from my South Dakota town, at last count) that other carriers can't.
With that comes all the usual tradeoffs of low-cost carriers: low fares but high fees, an inconsistent schedule, and a bare bones in-flight experience. Set your expectations accordingly and you'll find a pleasant and affordable ride from point A to point B … and not much else.
Read on for a glimpse at what it's like flying with Allegiant Air.
Booking Allegiant Flights
Much like any other ultra-low-cost carrier, there's one key thing to keep in mind when booking flights with Allegiant: The cost of your ticket might seem cheap at first, but the fees add up – and they add up fast.
In fact, Allegiant makes far more revenue on things like bags, seats, and vacation packages than it actually does on airfare. That's the ultra-low-cost business model.
By unbundling much of what you get standard with other airlines, Allegiant and its competitors like Spirit and Frontier lure travelers in with cheaper fares, then make their big bucks on all the extras. After all, Allegiant and other ultra-low-cost carriers practically invented basic economy fares. It's no wonder they do it better than anyone else.
In my case, a roundtrip fare from Sioux Falls (FSD) to Nashville (BNA) was priced out at $115 for my travel dates. It's easy to search for Allegiant fares on Google Flights and click through to begin the checkout process directly on the airline's website.
And while that's already a pretty affordable roundtrip, there's a fairly easy way to drop that cost even lower by avoiding the sneakiest of all budget carriers' additional fee. It's built right into that initial rock-bottom price you see when shopping for flights: Allegiant and many other budget carriers like Frontier, Spirit – and, most recently, Sun Country – charge customers extra for the convenience of booking flights online.
In Allegiant's case, it's called an “Electronic Carrier Usage Charge” and it'll cost you an extra $22 for each segment, or $44 for a roundtrip.
Here's what the airline doesn't really want you to know: It's an optional fee. You can avoid it altogether by instead purchasing your tickets in person at the airport – and that's exactly what I did.
Look, going to the airport to save $44 a ticket won't make sense for everyone. It'd hardly be worth the hassle for just a single roundtrip fare – and, depending on the airport, the additional cost of getting to the airport and maybe even parking could outweigh those savings. But I had a couple different trips coming up with Allegiant, including some for my entire family of three. That made the math of buying at the airport easy.
Thrifty Tip: You can check Allegiant's ticket sales hours online before heading to the airport. Most agents will also sell you a ticket outside of normal sale hours so long as they're not busy checking passengers in for a flight.
If you're instead booking online, Allegiant will try to upsell you right off the bat. After selecting your flight, you'll be offered several different bundles that include bags, seat assignment, trip flex, and other perks … for double or nearly triple the price of the starting airfare price.
Next, you'll be given the option to select your seats … for a cost. Allegiant was charging anywhere from $1 for a middle-seat at the back of the plane to as much as $37 for an exit-row seat with some extra legroom.
Speaking of extra legroom, the vast majority of Allegiant only offer extra space in the exit rows and the bulkhead at the front of the plane. But that's changing, as the airline retrofits its fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft and takes delivery of the Boeing 737 MAX, it's adding in more Allegiant Extra seating, with an extra six inches of space, plus a complimentary drink as well as priority boarding.
I felt like a gambling man and decided to skip the seat assignment altogether. In my case, it paid not to pay: Thanks to a relatively light load of passengers, I ended up with a whole row to myself near the front of the plane. In my experience flying with Allegiant, the airline does its best to keep you seated with your travel companions – even though they want you to fear the worst … hence the $1 middle seat in back.
Much like other ultra-low-cost carriers and even United basic economy, the only thing you can bring onboard an Allegiant flight for free is a personal item (like a backpack or purse) that you can stow underneath the seat in front of you. That may suffice for a short weekend getaway, but any longer trips will likely mean adding a checked bag or carry-on to your reservation.
In my case, adding any bag would cost me nearly as much as the ticket itself. Since I was going to be gone several days for work, I needed a bag and ended up paying $66 roundtrip to bring a carry-on with me.
If you need to bring luggage, you'll want to pay for it when you purchase your flight: The longer you wait, the more you'll pay. For example, while Allegiant may charge $35 each way for a carry-on or checked bag at checkout, that doubles to $70 if you go back and add a bag after purchase. And if you make the mistake of waiting until you get to the airport to purchase bags, look out: You'll be hit with a $75 fee for a carry-on or checked bag in each direction.
Once you've added your bags there is yet another attempt to get you to add something extra, like priority access, trip flex for free changes or cancellation, or even a ticket for your pet.
If you're able to get past those offers, there are only a couple more hurdles before actually paying for your flight and getting your ticket. As a last-ditch effort to get you to spend more money, you'll be offered to bundle your airfare and hotel together, or even add a rental car.
I never give these offers much of a thought, but some quick searches confirmed that these bundles can yield some slight savings. If you need any of these extras, it might be worth pausing here to price shop a bit in order to see if you can save. In my case, I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt in order to book my hotel and didn't need a rental car.
After shaving $44 off the cost of my ticket by purchasing at the airport and adding a carry-on bag, I paid a total of $137 roundtrip. That's not bad at all … but make sure to do the math for yourself. If you need to bring more luggage or want to pick a seat with extra legroom, those extra fees flying Allegiant could easily push the cost of your ticket over the likes of flying Delta, American, United, or Southwest.
At Thrifty Traveler, we don't accept freebies. We use our own points, miles, or cash to pay for every single flight or hotel you see reviewed here – including this one!
Checking In & Boarding
Like most airlines, check-in for Allegiant opens 24 hours prior to departure. You can use either the airline's mobile app or website to confirm your travel plans and get your boarding pass.
Fair warning: Using the Allegiant mobile app can be a frustrating experience.
On more than one occasion I've received a notification that I'm ineligible to check-in through the app and will instead need to do so at the airport. After navigating to the mobile-version of the site, putting in my record locator, and last name, I'm able to check in. This yields a .pdf file of my boarding pass, which works … but isn't great on mobile.
Switching back to the app, you may or may not see yourself listed as checked in. If you luck out and do get the app to agree that you're checked in, you'll get a mobile boarding pass with a QR code, much like most other airlines.
Whatever you do, be sure to at least try to check in online and grab a screenshot showing if you can't. If you don't, you'll be hit with – you guessed it! – a $5 fee for checking-in at the airport. Talk about nickel and diming, right?
Allegiant currently operates a fleet of Airbus A319s and A320s, nearly all of them featuring the same white, blue, yellow, and orange sun-chasing paint job.
There's one exception. Allegiant is the official airline of the Las Vegas Raiders football team. So naturally, they have a Raiders-themed plane that you may catch from time to time.
Approximately 45 minutes prior to departure, boarding began with anyone needing special assistance, followed by active-duty military members. Families with young children were invited to board next before moving on to those who paid for priority boarding. After that, they began boarding zone by zone, depending on where you were seated.
Thanks to a relatively light load, the plane was fully boarded within about 20 minutes, allowing our flight to push back from the gate 19 minutes early. Not bad for an airline with a historically poor on-time percentage – a typical pitfall of booking travel with budget airlines like Allegiant.
Allegiant Air Cabin & Seats
Like all budget airlines, Allegiant Air packs a lot of seats on its planes. Maximizing passengers is the name of the game.
All told, there are a whopping 186 seats onboard this Allegiant A320. Compare that to the 157 seats Delta installs on the exact same planes, and you can see why it feels so snug.
The cabin is pretty basic and sterile looking, with blue leather seats, gray seat backs, and … not whole lot else. Low cost carriers like Allegiant specialize in efficiency and I guess that extends to the cabin decor!
If you're lucky enough to catch one of Allegiant's outfitted A320s with the Allegiant Extra seating, you'll find a new look in the cabin with fresh dark-blue leather seats and orange detailing. These planes also include bigger tray tables and more padding in the seats. Even though the bulk of the seats have the same dimensions as non-updated aircraft, the extra padding makes a big difference in overall comfort.
On my flight, the only differentiation between seats was at the front of the plane and in the exit row. In total, there are just three rows of these extra legroom seats that Allegiant calls Legroom+ – booking one of them will typically cost you an extra $30 to $40 each way. That's not a terrible price to pay for an extra four inches of legroom and a whole lot more comfort.
The rest of the 160-some odd seats throughout the plane were largely identical, with plain blue leather, miniature tray tables and a small, mesh pocket in the seatback to store your personal belongings.
The seats themselves are … stiff. What you can expect is a place for your butt, a seat back to lean against, and not much else. Aside from a little extra padding in the headrest – if you can call it that – these seats are about as thin as it gets. If your flight is over two hours, picking an aisle seat so you can get up and move around from time to time isn't a bad idea. Anything more than a couple hours straight in one of these bad boys and you're going to be paying the price for it.
That's really all you can say about these seats, which are about as unforgiving as it gets. Looking at just how ultra-slim they are from the side makes it obvious why they feel so firm.
Look, I know it sounds like I'm being overly critical of the seats but it's not meant to be a complaint! Airlines big and small have been stripping away comfort in the name of efficiency and increased profits for years. It's what I've come to expect from all airlines – it's just even more pronounced on a budget airline like Allegiant.
On paper, Allegiant seats offer 30 inches of pitch – the standard aviation measurement of legroom from the back of one seat to the next. That's comparable to the standard of 31 inches or so on most major carriers (and even more on Southwest or JetBlue economy), but in reality, it felt a lot more like the 28 inches you'll find on competitor Frontier.
At just under six feet tall I didn't have any issues with my knees touching the seat in front of me. But if you're much taller, you're likely to feel quite cramped and have to contort your body a bit to fit without issue.
With how compact each seat is, there's just not much room for storage. You can fit your personal item underneath the seat in front of you but it eats into your valuable foot space. If there's open overhead bin space, it's best to throw even the smallest items up above to give yourself every inch of available room.
While the seat pitch might feel tight, at least there are still just six seats in each row – the same as any other airline flying these narrow-body planes. That means each seat is about as wide as you'd expect, measuring in at 17 inches or so.
What's that on the seatback? A whole lot of nothing. Don't expect an inflight entertainment system to keep you entertained. You'll want to download any shows, music, or podcasts before your flight … if that's your thing. And Allegiant doesn't currently offer inflight Wi-Fi, so there's no way to get connected to work or other entertainment in flight either. There are also no power outlets or USB sockets to keep your devices charged.
Each seat does have a tray that folds down, though it's almost comically small – enough to set down a drink and not much else. There's also that small net pouch for the safety card, Allegiant nonstoplife magazine, and anything else you can squeeze in there.
Fortunately, there are air vents overhead if you need to cool off – and reading lights if you're traveling at night.
There were just three lavatories on the plane: One at the front and two all the way at the back. There weren't any issues with lines forming or needing to wait to use one on my flight. Had the plane been full, I could see this becoming an issue.
When I went to use the restroom mid-flight, it was in pretty good shape. While you shouldn't expect much room to move around, it wasn't noticeably smaller than any other airplane lavatory I've used. It's also worth noting that the lavatory at the front of the plane includes a fold-down changing table if you're traveling with young children.
Service, Food & Drinks Flying Allegiant Air
The moment I stepped onboard I was immediately greeted with a smile and welcomed by a cheerful flight attendant. It's a small touch, but that really did set the tone for the flight as a whole.
Shortly after we leveled off, one of the flight attendants announced that they'd soon be starting the food and beverage service by stating that “everything on board is for purchase.” I think she was only referring to snacks and drinks but given Allegiant's hunger for extra revenue, maybe she was actually referring to parts of the plane as well? I should have asked
Nonetheless, a pair of flight attendants made their way down the aisle a few minutes later with the drink cart, offering passengers an opportunity to purchase everything from a bag of chips to a more substantial tapas box. No big surprise, given the destination, but adult beverages seemed to be a hit on this Monday evening flight to Nash-Vegas.
A bottle of water will set you back $2.99, while a soda or juice run $3.99, and coffee drinks clock in at $4.99. Beer, wine, and liquor ranged from $5.99 to $10.99 for the premium Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine. And if you wanted a mixer to go with it, well, that's an additional cost as well.
For food, you could get a box with multiple pre-selected items or take the a la carte approach and just pay for what you want. Chips and candy start at $3.99 and go up from there. If you've got a big appetite and want the airline's signature “Big Box” snack pack, you'll be on the hook for $13.99.
I skipped the food and beverage service on this short, 1 hour and 35 minute flight. If you're in the air for much longer and don't come prepared with snacks, you'll need to pay up. Fortunately, the prices aren't too terrible.
After the crew wrapped up going through the aisles, it was relatively quiet the rest of the way. A couple different flight attendants passed through the cabin on separate occasions to pick up trash, but that was about it.
Overall the crew was friendly and cheerful which is what I've come to expect (and appreciate) about flying with Allegiant.
A Word of Caution
This advice isn't specific to Allegiant, but rather it applies to flying low-cost carriers in general: When things go wrong with delays or cancellations, things can go really wrong.
Their inconsistent scheduling – sometimes with just one or two flights a week between cities, if that – means that passengers whose flights get canceled can often be stuck waiting days for the next flight to get them where they need to go. And unlike mainline carriers like Delta, United, and American, Allegiant doesn't have interline agreements that allow them to place passengers on another carrier in times of trouble.
This could mean you're left stranded for a day (or more) while the airline works to recover and get passengers where they're going. It doesn't happen often, but when things go wrong – case in point, Southwest's meltdown over the holidays last year – there's greater risk flying with a budget airline than the other major carriers.
A good best practice is to always book your flights with a credit card that offers travel insurance. That way if things go wrong (and if you travel enough, they will) you'll be protected from additional out-of-pocket costs rather than relying on the mercy of the airline.
Life is all about expectations and that certainly applies to flying with Allegiant.
If you're expecting a full-service airline at a budget price, you're going to walk away disappointed. If instead, you're looking for a ride from point A to B with friendly service, you'll find that with Allegiant.
Above all else, the price is usually right. At $137 all-in for a roundtrip flight including a carry-on, Allegiant was substantially cheaper (and more convenient) than all my other options for getting to Nashville. If you can travel light and survive a stiff seat for a few hours, flying Allegiant Air is just fine if you ask me.