Don’t Get Sucked Into the “Low-Cost Carrier” Trap

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Yes, the majority of our flights are on Spirit Airlines. Yes, they are usually the cheapest (by far) for us, saving us anywhere from $100 for one person to $200 – $300 if the four of us are flying. BUT I still always check all other options first before I commit to purchasing airline tickets. This is especially true in Europe where there are a multitude of low-cost carriers and the main carriers try to compete with them and sometimes are the better option. 

Here’s a guide to avoiding fees when flying Spirit Airlines.

SAM_0913Over the past 18 months we have flown on a low-cost carrier twice for one-way flights in Europe (Vueling and EasyJet), and we have flown the traditional carriers twice, British Airways and Air France. It was one of those things where after checking all the discount airlines first, we then checked the prices on the traditional carriers. Considering we knew we’d be checking luggage, the traditional carriers not only had a better price, they also had the flight times that worked best for our needs.
In Europe, the traditional carriers still try to distinguish themselves from the low-cost carriers. Even though the flights were only 2-3 hours we were still served food on all these flights at no extra charge. That was a shock to us since we had gotten so used to U.S. carriers where you’re lucky to get a soda. I was on a 8+ hour non-stop to Hawaii once that didn’t include ANY free food and here we are getting breakfast on a flight that was less than three hours. The breakfast wasn’t anything spectacular, just a yogurt, orange juice, and chocolate croissant for a morning flight (plus the beverage cart came by). The next trip we had a flight around lunch-time where we were served a sandwich and a cookie. These might not seem like much, but they were definitely nice to have. Especially for those days when you’re running behind on your way to the airport and don’t have time to grab something before the flight. It’s kind of sad that a light meal like that seemed like such a luxury to us to be included on our flight.
Just because it was amusing, here’s the rubbish bag they gave us:
Even if the low-cost carriers are usually your “go-to” airline, always double-check the other airlines as well. You never know when one might be running a special or the low-cost carrier may simply not have the right flight that meets your needs for where and when you want to go. Always make sure to include the cost of things you know you will have like carry-on or checked bags when calculating how much a flight will cost.
Right now the most profitable airline in the U.S. is Spirit Airlines. The traditional carriers in the U.S. are trying to increase their profits and they’re doing so by mimicking the low-cost carriers and charging for “extras” which used to be included in the cost of the flight. If you’re being charged extra no matter what airline you go on, what is the benefit to flying a traditional carrier? Maybe traditional carriers need to take another look at bringing back a few of the “extras” to entice people that flying on their airline is worth the extra cost. We’re not talking about bacon and eggs here; it was a pastry and a yogurt, and for now, it was enough.


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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.

1 Comment

  1. DaninSTL

    May 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Excellent post. I think many flyers would opt to pay slightly more for better service and experience. I also think it would not impact many corporate flyers who are forced to take the cheapest flight.

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