Episode 29

What You Need to Know BEFORE Booking with a Budget Airline

Published on: 11th April, 2024

Did you see a $30 flight that is super tempting? Low budget airlines can be great for your travel budget. However, there are some details that you need to look into before you book with a low cost carrier. On today's episode of the Time To Talk Travel Podcast Desiree Miller and Nasreen Stump share what to expect so there are no surprises!

We cover differences in airports used, additional fees, contracts of carriage, operating schedules, carry-ons and more.


Spirit Airlines

Avelo Air

Breeze Airways


Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, British Airways

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Low Budget Airlines- Quick Tips & Tricks


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Hi, we're here with another episode of Time to Talk Travel. Today we are going to be talking about budget airlines and that could be a 12 hour long recording and probably an entire series. But instead, what we're focusing on is a couple of things that are different about them that you might need to know before you book. I know that I've flown budget airlines quite a bit. Des have you had experience with it?


Oh yeah, tons. To me, budget airlines, it is the nitty gritty. If you know that and understand that going into it then it can be a great experience. If it's a quick flight and you're not going far, for instance, I'm based in Atlanta. I go to Orlando often. It's an hour and a half in the air, typically. I will say I can tolerate pretty much anything for an hour and a half.

I've gotten flight deals for under 30. I could not drive there for under 30. I might not know what seat I'm going to sit in. I can only bring an overnight backpack. You know what, I'm not going to bring two weeks worth of clothes. But I am okay with that because I love to save money.


Definitely. And I think I can sum up that whole idea in what people told me when I asked for the first time, ‘Hey, Spirit is flying somewhere that I need to go for a business trip. How bad is it really?’ And somebody told me if you go in with no expectations, you'll be pleasantly surprised.


Yes. I will say, again, people that talk about the budget airlines get frustrated because ‘Oh, I didn't know I was going to have to pay for a suitcase. That's another 50.’ You're paying more for the suitcase than you are for the seat. If again, to read the fine print, I think it's pretty obvious.

I think it's very transparent that you're getting a seat and a seat only. It may not even be a padded seat. I've sat on some Frontier flights where the seats do not recline. It felt like almost the kind of curved plastic molded seat you get in, a cafeteria somewhere.

Okay. Again, not a long flight. You don't have to deal with somebody reclining in front of you and putting their seat back in your face if you're on a seat that doesn't recline. So that's a good thing there. To me, the disadvantage is if things get delayed or canceled, buckle up. That can be a real nightmare. And that part's frustrating because as a Delta person, quite often, if Delta gets delayed or there's an issue with the flight you can hop on the next one in an hour or 2 hours. With Spirit there might not be one for another 2 days.



is a huge issue. Spirit tends to have a couple of flights from destinations but there are definitely some budget airlines out there, Avelo has started going into some locations, Breeze Airlines, some of the ones that fly down near Disney to Sanford airport like Allegiant . My quick and dirty on budget airlines is don't use them for major trips that cost a ton of money. Number one. If you're going to Disney, really consider that budget airline. Look at the schedule or pad it by a couple of days because it's a big expensive trip. And like you just said, the schedules on these budget airlines, sometimes we're not talking about oh, there's only 2 flights a day. We're talking there are 2 departures a week. If something goes wrong on Tuesday with weather, you might get out on Thursday if you're lucky. Maybe they will send the plane later that day on Tuesday. But if there are a lot of issues. That was the option.

They don't have another flight the next hour, the next day. And also a lot of times these budget airlines are flying between smaller airports and they may be regional. So for example, flying into Sanford in Orlando instead of MCO. The other options you have may not be there, because you are at a different, smaller airport to begin with.

All of your plans are made from that different, smaller airport. And now in order to switch anything, you've got to switch everything. It's going to cost premium dollars. So not maybe your giant family reunion, Disney trip, unless you're padding the time.


True. And to that point. If you have a connection, say you're going from Orlando to Barcelona, especially because it's going to be on a different airline. You really have to be careful with that because the next airline doesn't care that you couldn't get there because whatever the airline is couldn't get you there.

They only care that you have a seat at this time. Sorry about it if the airline before us didn't meet their end of the bargain. That's important. I don't want to discount the budget airlines because I have taken Frontier repeatedly. I will say this, all six of us went from Atlanta to Denver on Frontier for a ski trip, 99 round trip each. It was a steal of a deal. We did end up on our way back, our luggage didn't show up when we landed.

We didn't even need this luggage to be honest. It was all the ski clothes in Denver. But because the airline has a deal where if your luggage doesn't arrive within X amount of hours of you landing, you get, I think it was a hundred dollars, 300 a day, I can't even remember, to buy clothing or garb to get you through while you're gone.

We had checked, I think three suitcases for six people. I made bank. It was like five days later when that suitcase finally showed up, I didn't need it. We weren't going to go skiing in Atlanta, Georgia.

You have to buy clothing. I went and bought everybody new jeans, new socks, new underwear. Their Christmas presents were a new wardrobe. I got more back than I had paid for the original flights. There are advantages.

And again, if you are going direct to one spot and it's a quick, easy flight, great.


It's a spontaneous last minute travel thing for me. That's what the budget airlines are good for. I will look at them if I am looking for trips and then really weigh out the actual cost once I add in paying for a seat, paying for a bag. Sometimes you can't even bring a carry on except for a tiny purse onto those flights.

So it adds up very quickly and it's worth looking at all of the fine print. Avelo is a new one for us and they fly to Greenville and Fort Myers. My son goes to Fort Myers a lot, so he's excited. I love Greenville, South Carolina. If I have a free weekend, I'd love to plan a last minute weekend trip there and have it be, under a hundred dollars round trip.

That's amazing. For me, it's the freedom to just be able to get away on a whim with the budget airlines. The other thing is that some things don't operate the same. While a budget airline has the same safety standards as a regular airline, the planes still get checked.

They have to fly them correctly. They can't disobey rules there. They don't always do everything the same. When you have a major delay cancellation on one of the bigger airlines, their contract of carriage dictates what you get. Sometimes they will place you on another airline. Budget airlines don't do this. Southwest doesn't do this. All of those budget airlines. They don't have negotiated agreements and it says in that contract of carriage, we're not putting you on another airline. And without fail, I will see people in airports during delays and cancellations yelling about how you have to put me on another airline.

They don't. Not with a budget airline at all. It's literally written into the contract of carriage for when you buy the ticket. Other things, fares that you see advertised may not be a publicly available fare. Spirit has a club that you have to join in order to get those super cheap fares. Do the math. My son had one flight on Spirit. It was cheaper to buy the club thing because it came with the luggage and the fare was so much cheaper. Always look at the math on that for sure.


I'm going to Puerto Rico for a travel writer conference. Delta was like a 550 round trip fare. Okay. But when I did a Google flight search, it was 120 on the way down for Frontier and 80 on the way back for Spirit. I booked it. I might be sitting in the airport overnight because it's a 10 PM flight on Spirit but I booked it because that was a significant enough difference for me. No connections, nonstop flights. I'm going to take the gamble on this one.

That said, I did not do things like pick my seat. I'm not checking a bag. I know from going to Europe for two months with one little carry-on, I can survive with a pair of dress pants, leggings, jeans, one dress, I can make it with a little backpack. I'm not the girly girl who needs six pairs of shoes.

I'm just not. So I'm alright with that. I didn't do the paid seat. And I also did not opt into travel insurance, which they automatically select and you have to deselect or else you'll be paying for it. Keep that in mind. In general, the budget airlines opt-in insurance is crap.

It's not worth doing. Do your own good quality travel insurance if you feel the need, for something cause it'll cover more than just your flight ticket and your luggage. It'll cover the hotel that you didn't make it to. It'll cover several other things that in my opinion are helpful.

That's a big one for me. There are promo codes. I did look to join the club, but the club membership was $50 more and I was only saving 20. Odds are I'm not going to be flying those airlines again this year. I'm a Delta girl. I really am, but not Delta at almost triple the cost.

I'm not making a connection. It's okay if I get there a couple hours later or if I just stay the night. But I will invest in the extra travel insurance for those.


And I think Spirit , they're not great on time, but if you're on, like you said, a direct flight, especially if it's going out late at night, they're usually motivated to get their people to where they need to be as well. I don't necessarily worry about the on timeness of their flights as much because I'm not going to buy a connecting flight. It's not going to happen, but my concern is there isn't a customer service line, like with other airlines. That was one of the big things when people got stranded in Fort Lauderdale, maybe one year is that you could not call a customer service number.

You had to stand in line at the airport to talk to the representatives, or I think you could go on Twitter and send a message.



I will say this when I was in Europe. One of the perks of being in Europe is once you're there, it's. It's pretty affordable. It's a country hop and every weekend I flew to different countries and I flew Ryanair quite a bit. I'm trying to remember the names of the other budget airlines in Europe.

I will tell you it was pretty seamless with all of them. There was one I ended up on. I'll have to pull up my Google drive to look up my old itinerary, but I had no issues. And over there, I will tell you, the Americans always think they need the bigger suitcase and that, and they're pushing their luck to get a carry on in the overhead containers or overhead bins.

Sometimes in Europe, your carry-on is even smaller than the carry ons we have here. And it said, and you will not get on with an American size carry on because so many of the planes are smaller and. They only fit the little ones in. People there, they're not in a big rush to board.

It's all chill. You get assigned your seat the day of when you're checking in. It's not like you're at the gate and they're just throwing people in wherever they feel like. They've handled that. I will say I had great experiences with the European ones.

And I would fly those all day and night. Every day, if I was back over there for two months, again. I'm getting over there. British Airways was sweet. The policy is if the flight can't land for some reason, in our situation, we were flying into Santorini, couldn't land too windy, and had to go back to Athens.

They took the entire flight. And put us on a flight the next day. They literally had a special plane come back. Everybody had their same seats. They put us in a hotel. They bussed us from the airport to a hotel, gave us dinner, gave us breakfast, got us back, bussed us back to the airport, put us on a plane.

British Airways did that. Delta, the night before we'd gotten over there, I flew from Boston to London, and there was an issue where we couldn't leave Boston that night. There was no taking care of us. It was, you might get a voucher. I just happened to have booked a hotel wrong.

So I already had a night anyway, that I was just going to lose. So in my case it was fine, I think we got a dinner voucher for 30 bucks. It wasn't, Oh, we're putting all of you on another plane tomorrow. It was, Find a seat on any plane you can. I was traveling with my boyfriend and because I was a Delta gold medallion, they put me on the very next flight.

They put him on one 24 hours later. I called and changed, and he ended up Delta one of all things go figure. The point is, different airlines have different policies on how they're going to handle things and reading the fine print for sure matters.

As far as budget again, though take it with a grain of salt. You are getting the nitty gritty in my opinion. And that was okay with a lot of people because they do save. Even me I like going Delta and getting the upgrades and being bumped up to comfort plus or whatever.

But, if it's a difference of a 550 flight or 200 total, I'm leaning this way for today.


And man. You said something and I was sitting there going, Oh, that is one thing I would pay for. I don't normally pay to select my seat if there is an upcharge for it on a standard airline. If I am flying on a low budget airline, one where they charge for almost everything and don't even allow carry-on bags, I will pay for my seat if I can find one that's reasonably priced because my paranoia leve. Of not being on the plane or put on the plane of a route that only runs a couple times a week is a little too high for me to think to myself if everyone selected their seat and they oversold the flight and I didn't, I'm the easiest person to get rid of.


That is true. I've talked to pilots and I've asked who gets bumped. And this was a European pilot. He's out of England. So the case may be different here, although I don't think so. The least likely to be bumped is the medallion. They are going to take care of their loyalty members.

The most likely to be bumped, he said, was the last person to check in.


That's exactly what it was. So on JetBlue, they used to do sequence numbers. It showed what order people got their boarding pass in. I was on a flight once where a gentleman came up and said, that's my seat. And I said, no, this is my seat.

We both had the same number printed on our tickets and they had to go and look at our sequence number to see who had checked in first.

I got to stay in my seat because I had checked in first. If you are flying one of those low budget airlines, you set that reminder on your calendar, you set the timer. tip as someone who has had to check in for way too many flights at a specific time, put the confirmation code on the calendar reminder or on the alarm on your phone so that it is right in front of you when you need to go do it. Check in as soon as you are able to just so that you at least have that little bit of extra



That is a great tip for any airline. But yes for low budget checking in ahead of time, printing the boarding pass 'cause if you go to the airport to do any of this, you will pay more. It just is what it is.

It's funny 'cause I don't think of JetBlue as low budget.


I don't either. I know they use sequence numbers and to be honest, I didn't used to think of JetBlue as low budget. But they added that blue basic level where when you buy a ticket under that, you don't get a bag on the plane. You can't bring a carry on. And I've done it a couple of times for business where I've only traveled with my very large purse and been fine. It makes me a little salty that I don't get a bag on there because I don't consider them a low budget carrier. They were the ones trying to buy Spirit and it got broken up and their owner is the one who founded Breeze Airlines, which I haven't flown yet, but they're adding a lot more cities. So I almost wonder if they're going a little low budget because at the same time they added Mint, they also went, Oh, you don't get to bring a bag on. It's a little.


I remember doing an interview for a TV segment 12 years ago, probably. And they said the airlines are going a la carte. At the time they weren't, it was, oh my, they're going to charge me a bag fee. Oh my, they're going to charge me to pick my seat for a while.

Remember when they were charging based on when you wanted to board the plane. They started doing this. I want on first or I want off first. You had to pay more for that. They backed away from that. But I remember the president of the airline association said, we're going a la carte.

You do it at a baseball game. You pay more to sit close to the front. You pay for popcorn and Coke. Why not do it on an airplane? And it caught on.

Another tip. My son would fly Frontier back and forth when he was going to college in Baton Rouge. He'd fly to New Orleans and it was Frontier and I'm like, dude, you cannot take that big old backpack.

He goes, I've been on before. And I'm like, you're playing roulette there. When it says not a big backpack, a large purse. I'm going to bring my tote bag.


Measure it. I have a miniature measuring tape in my change purse that I bring with me. If you are a visual person and you have any doubts, use painter's tape on the floor for the dimensions and stick your suitcase in it. We did that when we were moving and we had to pack certain things. But I like to consider myself a budget airline, early adopter, and I have to give a quick shout out. There used to be this airline called Sky Bus and they were as low budget as it goes. Okay. Their hub was Columbus, Ohio. They only flew to or from Columbus.

So you were either going to Columbus or coming from Columbus. You paid for everything. If you wanted water on the plane, if you wanted a snack on the plane, if you wanted a coffee on the plane, but they had 10 seats on every flight that were 10.


Oh wow.


And I used to cover the Cincinnati airport for work, and I had other things in the area.

Our bonus was somewhat based off of expenditure and P& Ls. Cincinnati was one of the most expensive airports to fly into, and we had family living near Columbus. I used to fly from Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, free parking at that airport, by the way an even bigger savings. Used to fly the early morning flight out, drive from Columbus to Cincinnati, do all my visits, drive back to Columbus and fly back on the late night out. Cause they only had one in the morning and one in the evening. And then I'd take a comp day because work would give me a comp day because it was such a long day of travel. It was so productive and I loved it. My favorite thing about them that they need to bring back, they boarded from the front and the back of the plane and emptied out the same way. And it was amazing. Why can we not have that everywhere?


They do that in Europe, too, and I loved it as well. That is genius. I agree. It's ridiculous not to. I guess here so often they bring the gateway out. Another tip I have, because you can only bring a carry-on unless you're paying the $50 more than your seat to check a bag.

Carry on. It's not even a carry on. It's a personal item. I recommend you wear your baggage. When I took my Europe trip, I had a black Columbia, kind of puffer jacket, but it had inside pockets like for men and I had packing cubes. I had, I packing cubes in the pockets. There were a day’s worth of clothes in both packing cubes. You put a scarf, I brought a large scarf just to help hide it.


I used to do this when I was traveling with just the purse, I had a green cargo type jacket that I wore that's real cute. Has a lot of pockets on the outside, a couple on the inside. All the odds and ends in my purse that take up room chargers, cords. I would have them all in those pockets and then I had the packing cube in my purse because it's a handled big purse that takes up the perfect amount with my laptop next to it, but then all the other additional weird items aren't poking into things.


Yeah, that's great. We've talked about this in previous podcasts, it's great to have an extra outfit in there that you can just, if you do end up having to check a carry on, you just grab it and you've got what you need for the night.

I think that, again, I've seen people wear hideous vests. Do you remember the old vest that had 20 pockets and you put everything? You look like a snowman boarding the plane. But I will say I did do this for Europe where I put everything in my big coat. Wore it on.

I had one of those little collapsible bags. I'd get on the plane. I'd get up to my seat. I'd unfold that extra tote bag, throw everything from my pockets in that tote bag, and put it under my feet. I wasn't paying for an extra bag, but I essentially had an extra bag.

Maybe that's wrong, unethical, whatever. Yeah.


It’s under your seat. It’s ok. My stuff isn't giant. So I think it's fair game.


Again, to me if you are a prima donna, if you're a princess and you need a bazillion things, this budget airline is not going to be your thing, you are going to be miserable entire


If you have ever uttered the phrase, don't you know who I am? Budget airlines are not for you.


A hundred percent. But if you are a go with the flow, I want to spend my money on the excursions once I get there, not on the flight, I'm okay not paying for a seat, I don't need the big suitcase . Know who you are. If you are a roll with it, kind of person who, less is more than yeah, there's a right time, place and person for the budget airlines. Just again, not if it's connecting flight, not,


Not a giant once in a lifetime trip.


If it's your child's high school graduation, which I had booked for my mom and sister last year, when my child was graduating, I had booked a flight for them on Frontier to land that morning.

And I kept getting, Oh, flights have been changed, I just said, forget it. I'm putting them on Delta. We ate the difference in the cost. I knew if it got delayed, they could take the next one. The next, they weren't going to miss graduation.


The quick and dirty summary of budget airlines. Be aware that days and schedules are sometimes far apart, and you should look at their entire schedule for the route before you book. See what days they actually fly. Airports might be different or smaller, double check the airport code and make sure you know where you're flying in and out of. Contract of carriage, you're not going to get put on any other airline to finish out your trip if something goes wrong. Extra costs, what else are you paying for? Luggage, seats, drinks, snacks, whatever the crap it is there's extra costs associated. Don't do it on big vacations. They might not have a phone number you can call and fares that you see might be as part of a club or promotion that you have to be a member of to get.


That's all of it. And that's all of it. And enjoy your flight.


Until next time happy travels


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