Discount Airlines: Watch the Fine Print Closely

I always look for the chance to try out a discount airline to see if the savings are real. Based on where we live and the destinations we’ve chosen to visit, this just hasn’t been feasible for our family excursions yet. However, my wife and I recently planned a quick getaway to attend a friend’s wedding in Arizona. Airfare out of our Midwestern hometown isn’t the lowest so I usually extend my search to other major metropolitan cities within driving distance.

But lo and behold we found a ticket for Frontier Airlines from our home city that was $191 per person…roundtrip! Better still, the flight times didn’t require us to get up before the rooster crows and had us arriving to Phoenix before dinner. What more could a penny pinching, non-early riser like myself ask for?!?! I jumped on the opportunity thinking we won the discount travel lottery…until clicking onto the second page.

The Low Price Isn’t the Final Price

I was aware of the extra fees these carriers charge, but didn’t realize how quickly they add up. Here is a breakdown on final cost added up:

  • $112 base fare
  • $38 for 1 checked bag
  • $35 for 1 carry-on bag
  • $20 for seat selection
  • $79 in taxes/carrier-imposed fees
  • $12 for travel insurance

That equals a total of $296 per person. I opted for what Frontier Airlines calls their Perks bundle which cost about $40 extra, but included 1 checked bag, 1 carry-on, guaranteed seat selection and priority boarding. The total cost of airfare still beat the price of the major airline carriers as well as our go-to option of the major metropolitan hubs. So we still won the budget game in the end, but learned a new lesson that the sticker price has more lurking in shadows.

Make Sure the Fees are Worth It

When considering a discount travel provider for your next family trip, do the following:

  • Research what other major carriers like Delta, American and United are offering for the same route. Use the resulting price ranges to set your budget.
  • Find the lowest fare on the discount carrier and start adding up the fees.
  • Pay particular attention to the baggage fee rules. While a standard checked bag may be $35 per person, a heavier bag can cost up to $60.
  • Consider any bundle packages that include bags, seat selection and other options as this can help smooth out the add-on fees.

Discount airline carriers can be a great cost-saving tool in your family travel tool chest. Just make sure place close attention to the fine print on fees.

Check out these sites for the latest info on discount airline fees:

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