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Most of us want to get the best deal possible for airfare, but are you really booking the lowest price out there, or are you discounting lots of very cheap tickets because they aren’t on your carrier(s) of choice? If you are only looking on your preferred airline’s website for fares I can guarantee you are sometimes over paying, and if there is a hefty list of airlines that you won’t fly on, then I can also guarantee that you are probably not getting anywhere near the “cheapest” ticket for some flights.
I’m not here to judge because I’m pretty loyal to United Airlines. I’m not loyal because I think they are amazing (they’re not), but because they operate the most nonstop flights out of my airport (by far), have a good frequent flyer program, and being loyal to them means I get to earn and utilize some elite perks that are currently valuable for my frequently flying family. I’ll pay a little bit more for that convenience for my family when we fly.
However, I’m not a blind loyalist, and you shouldn’t be either. In fact most of us shouldn’t be loyal to anything other than our wallets. There’s a certain price threshold where I’m fine skipping out on flying one of the big legacy carriers and will fly on one of the discount carriers like Spirit Airlines. However, you are only going to know the price for some of those airlines if you take the time to look. As you will see, sometimes the savings is significant. Here are just a few examples where the low cost carrier was the winner – sometimes by a big margin.
Houston – Atlanta RT October 14 -October 15
Spirit Airlines (nonstop) $116.48 And this doesn’t even count missing the $30 each way sale
American Airlines (connection at DFW) $281
United (nonstop) $533+
Houston – Denver RT May 20 – May 21
Spirit Airlines (nonstop) $117
Frontier (nonstop) $183
Delta (connection at MEM) $272
United (connection at AUS) $365
United (nonstop) $719
Austin – Las Vegas RT June 2 – June 6
Allegiant (nonstop) $130
United (connection at SFO) $283
Delta (connection at SLC) $322
Dallas (Love Field) – San Francisco RT November 6 – November 9
Virgin America (nonstop) $158 Go here to learn about this sale celebrating the launch of this and other routes
Delta (connection at ATL) $202
United (connection at IAH) $283
Austin – New York RT November 25 – November 28
JetBlue (nonstop) $280
Delta (nonstop) $309
American (nonstop) $348
In these limited examples, the low cost carrier was not just the price winner, but was often the winner over the legacy carriers in terms of routing. Naturally that won’t always be the case, but it pays to check and be familiar with the carriers in/out of your home airport. Of course you also need to factor in the potential costs of things like checked bags or seat assignments with some (but not all) of these low cost carriers. Some such as Southwest and Allegiant Air you have to check pricing information directly on their websites as their tickets aren’t available via other online sites like Hipmunk. Since many of the low cost carriers tie their frequent flyer programs to a fixed value type of point, when the price is low the points/miles price, will also be low.
Do you consider low cost carriers in your airfare searches? How much does the savings have to be for you to leave “your airline”? Which carriers will you not fly no matter how much you save?