Stickers are cheap…

We’ll be the first to admit it – we’re guilty. There’s nothing better than advertising $235 round trip fares to other continents, and sometimes they’re true, but often, there’s a greater price. Discount carriers are the new media kings and queens, creating fares instantly destined for headlines. But much like (many) Hollywood romances – things aren’t always what they seem. Here are a few things to consider before purchasing that “cheap” deal.

a plane with seats and a televisionSeat Assignment

Virtually no discount airline includes the cost of a seat assignment with the cost of your ticket. That’s not to say it still cannot be a great deal, but it’s important to remember. Discount airlines generally have less legroom and less recline, so assigning a great seat (or a whole row) can be crucial to your in flight happiness. Compare discounter prices here.

Weight Restrictions

We’re not saying you need to go on a diet – but your luggage might. Discount airlines strictly weigh your carry on – and they virtually all charge for checked luggage. If you have some heavy baggage (no judgement here) you need to figure out just how much you may pay for the privilege of bringing it, since it could invalidate any savings versus mainstream, legacy airlines.

Points, Miles

Some discount carriers are rolling out loyalty programs, and occasionally they can be beneficial. But in general, you won’t earn anything for flying a discount carrier. What we’re trying to say is – if you are saving towards a wonderful use of points, saving $25 versus earning 3,000 miles just may not be worth it. The more you fly, the more this matters.

a seat in an airplaneWacky Airports

This is definitely the first time we’ve ever used “wacky”, but it’s accurate. Many discount airlines save on costs by flying in and out of obscure, out of the way airports. Of course – this is not always the case, but it’s an important consideration before booking a “discount ticket”. Saving $50 bucks on airfare, but then paying an extra $100 to get to the airport just doesn’t make sense, at least to us.

The Seats

For a certain price, we’ll take a bit of pain, but on longer flights – there’s a greater cost. Getting jabbed in the back by someones knees for 7+ hours can really put a damper on the whole “vacation” idea, so before you go in for a cheap ticket, compare the amenities, legroom, meals and entertainment you’ll get it. if it’s on par, go for it, if not – consider finding a few more bucks for a standard airline ticket.

What’s your experience with discount carriers been?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I’ve flown Volaris from LAX to Mexico City and that was the last time I will fly with them. I could feel the guy’s knee behind me and I felt it even more every time he shifted. I had to spread my legs wide to prevent from doing the same the person in front of me. I’ve flown Cebu Pacific from Manila to Bangkok and that wasn’t all that bad, a bit tight but doable. The longest LCC I’ve flown is on Norwegian from LAX to Stockholm and recently from London Gatwick to LAX and both experiences were pretty good. Good entertainment options. I did have to pay about $100 extra to choose my seat, food and check in luggage. Granted that’s on their 787 and I know they fly 737 from the East Coast to Europe.

  2. the wacky airport part isn’t overly concerning. There are lots of Norwegian and WOW flights into mainstream airports like JFK EWR SFO LAX.

    only a very tiny portion involve really niche airports like SWF.

  3. Also, the big one is cancellations and irregular operations planning. Low cost carriers leave you high and dry with less contingencies and backup plans and routes.

  4. I am loyal to the Legacy airlines that I fly: QR, MH in Asia/Transatlantic, JL transpacific. I have never flown SWA, Frontier or Spirit. The only LCC I have flown is Air Asia for short haul in Asia.
    I see that AA for example as well as DL and UA are all rolling out planes to compete with Norwegian and Wow..
    Very sad state of affairs for the frequent traveller.
    tomorrow I am flying JL first to Tokyo then Business to Sin and then MH business to KUL and then QR business to BRU and then back track on QR to fly from Doha to Miami on Business.
    I look forward to these flights rather than the dread of flying cramped flights, bad service and terrible food.
    I am no longer interested in the question: Which is the cheapest way to get to such and such.. but still interested in Business Class Flight deals such as the one from OSL to MEL for under 2000 dollars! on business

  5. WTH? You are posting an article about discount airlines and you use a photo of Singapore Airlines business class seat??? Are there no discount airline seat photos that you can use or do you just pick photos at random with no consideration of its appropriateness to your article?

    1. It’s there to illustrate the point that better seats exist and you are forgoing points and miles which unlock them. It’s a point made in the article. It’s perfectly appropriate for it’s sub heading. The main photo is a WOW air plane. How appropriate is that?

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