Today, budget airlines are becoming more and more popular. They are the definition of “you get what you pay for”.
However, if you realize how their processes work, there are ways to flight super cheap without getting stuck all the way in the back and crammed in the middle of a row.
I recently flew on a budget airline from Trenton, New Jersey to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for only $132 round trip. Not bad for a quick extended weekend!
If you want to know the strategies I use to find the cheapest flights possible, check out our Ultimate Guide to Cheap Flights.
I was able to get an exit row seat on the first leg of the trip from Trenton to Myrtle Beach and on the way back, I sat in row 4 with a window seat.
Before we can into how to do this, let’s understand what is a budget airline.
What is a budget airline?
A budget airline is an airline company that offers the cheapest fares possible, but then nickels and dimes (upcharges) you for everything!
Some of the most common up-charges on budget airlines include seat-selection, priority boarding, checked baggage, carry-on baggage, meals/snacks etc.
They often bundle these add-ons together and make it look like you should purchase these add-ons, but you don’t have to purchase anything extra.
In addition to up-charges, budget airlines tend to have customer service sub-par to the major airlines and the overall experience is just ok. This is due to the smaller cabin sizes and reduced pitch widths of their seats.
You absolutely get what you pay for, but these airlines offer great deals on short-haul flights.
If you’re flying a short-haul and traveling light, you should always consider flying a budget airline before wasting hundreds of dollars on a larger airline company or wasting your points and miles on award travel.
Avoiding add on fees and upcharges on Frontier and Spirit Airlines (and other Budget Airlines)
The fees and upcharges on Frontier and Spirit Airlines are avoidable if you follow these few tips.
- Travel light – no excess luggage
- Do not pay for priority boarding
- Check in online or via the mobile app
- Do not pay for a seat
1. Travel light (no carry-on or checked baggage/luggage)
When flying if you can avoid carry-on and checked in baggage or luggage you can save a ton on baggage fees.
You’d be surprised how much clothes you can fit in your backpack or bag that fits underneath the seat in front of you.
2. Do not pay for priority boarding
If you do not have a carry-on bag that fits in the overhead bin, then why do you need priority boarding? You DON’T!
Priority boarding is often advantageous for those who are putting their bags in the overhead bins but since we’re avoiding upcharges with budget airlines we’re only traveling with a personal bag!
3. Check-in online or via the mobile app
Do not check in at the gate as Frontier and Spirit airlines charge for this service. Like I said, they nickel and dime you for everything!!!
4. Do not pay for a seat!
If you’re trying to save as much money as possible, then it’s in your best interest to avoid paying for upcharges. One of the most common up-charges across budget airlines, especially Frontier and Spirit is seat selection.
However, there is a way to get good seats on Frontier and Spirit Airlines for FREE. Yes, that’s right FREE!
As I previously mentioned, on my flight to Myrtle Beach from Trenton, I got exit row with no one next to me. The exit row seat would have cost $45 but I used a simple strategy to avoid paying for my seat.
How to get good seats on Frontier and Spirit Airlines for FREE
It is common practice to check-in as soon as you can for your airline, especially on planes that prioritize boarding zone’s based on check-in times.
Southwest is notorious for this, if you don’t check in immediately after 24 hours prior to check-in, you will not get a good boarding zone and will likely have a bad seat.
With Frontier and Spirit Airlines (as well as other budget airlines), that’s not the case.
So what’s the secret?
- Delay check in as long as possible to get the best seat!
- Monitor how many seats are remaining by using the “Select a Seat” option on the Frontier and Spirit mobile apps or on their websites.
Delay check in to get a good seat for FREE
Yes, that’s right, delay check-in for as long as possible.
On my previous flight with Frontier Airlines, I didn’t check in until an hour before the flight. This allowed me to get an exit row.
Disclaimer – I flew out of Trenton Airport which is a very small airport. If you’re are flying out of a decent size airport I recommend getting their atleast 2 hour before your departure time.
Why and How does this work?
Let’s first discuss Frontier and Spirit airlines (and other budget airlines) boarding process.
24 hours prior to the flight, Frontier and Spirit Airlines sends you an email or push notification (if you have the mobile apps) alerting you that it’s time to check in.
Their immediate hope is that you check in right away. During their check-in process, they take you through their sales funnel trying to get you to purchase their upcharges. One of these upcharges, of course, is seat selection.
If you chose to decline every up-charge and complete check-in, they will assign you a random seat.
Since the most desired seats on a plane are towards the front and either an aisle or window seat. It is very unlikely that someone purchasing a seat all the way in the back of the plane is very unlikely, especially the middle.
That is why Frontier and Spirit Airlines will likely assign you a random seat in the back and in the middle of a row.
The earlier you check in the further back of the airline plane you will be.
Monitor seat availability prior to check-in
Here’s a screenshot of my flight on Frontier Airlines from Myrtle Beach to Trenton Airport a little more than two hours before my flight.
Using Frontier and Spirit Airlines upcharge feature “Select a Seat” feature on their website, I was able to see what seats were still remaining.
Looking at the screenshot above, I noticed that in the second to last row, there were still two seats remaining.
I knew if I checked in while these two seats were available I would 100% get on of those two seats.
Also, since the rule of thumb is to arrive at your airport 2 hours before departure time, I know some of the remaining passengers were soon to check-in. My plan was to delay my check-in (I wasn’t at the airport yet anyway) and hope these two seats would get assigned to the remaining passengers checking in before me.
How to confirm these two seats will get booked?
I was nervous about these two seats since I took this screenshot roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes before departure time. I was wondering if Frontier sold out or still had some capacity remaining for last-minute travelers.
To confirm if the flight was sold out and if those last 2 seats were going to get assigned to someone else, I went to Frontier’s website and tried to book a ticket for the maximum tickets available (9 passengers). My flight didn’t display, then I tried 6 passengers, 4 then, 3, then 2 passengers, neither of which displayed any availability for my flight.
I tried to book a flight for 1 passenger and my flight was finally available. So I knew there was only 1 seat left on the plane.
This told me two things.
- There’s only 1 available seat on this plane.
- Odds of one of the two seats in the 29th row to be left empty are slim to none.
So I needed to wait it out and delay my check-in further.
Again, I waited until I got to Myrtle Beach Airport about one hour and 40 minutes prior to departure and got a window seat in row 4! Much better than row 29 in the middle!
This may seem like a lot of work but it really only takes a few minutes to check on your phone via the website or mobile app. It’s a simple way to avoid the upcharges and get good seats on Frontier and Spirit Airlines.
Although this post mainly focuses on Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, the tips on how to get good seats for free apply to other budget airlines as well.
List of budget airlines
Below is the list of budget airlines that are available in the United States.
- AirTran Airways
- Allegiant Air
- Frontier Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Sun Country Airlines
- Virgin America
Now, some consider JetBlue and Southwest Airlines as budget airlines however, in my opinion, I think they are a step up from the list above. JetBlue and Southwest offer free carry on luggage and free seat selection.
Also with JetBlue and Southwest, you want to check-in as soon as you can especially if you want priority boarding! With southwest, this critical because you can’t pick your seat until you’re actually boarding the plane! So the faster you board the plane the better!
I hope this post helps you save money on future travel adventures when flying budget airlines and gets you good seats!!! If you have any interest in learning how to travel for free, then check out our online course at hhttps://travelsecrets.mathersonthemap.com.
If you have any questions drop a comment below!