5 Tips for Flying a Budget Airline From a Former Flight Attendant

Going on a trip, but want to keep it budget friendly? Airlines like Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant may get a bad rap for “nickel and diming” customers, but if you know what you are getting into then you will have (relatively) no problems with your trip. Now I can’t promise rainbows and butterflies, but as a former flight attendant I can give you some inside scoop to make your trip a little more pleasant.

Let’s get this one out there to start. ALL. AIRLINES. HAVE. DELAYS. I will say it louder for the people in the back. Every airline goes through the same issues. Weather delays, mechanical issues, and crews timing out are not just issues that “budget” airlines face. The larger legacy airlines also go through this. For instance, I was once delayed on a United Flight because they couldn’t find enough infant life vests. Stuff happens!

I can get into plenty of airline stories, but let me cut to the chase and share my top 5 tips for when you want or need to book your flight on a budget.

Tip One: Book directly through the airline.

When booking through a third party you may save a few bucks, but you could miss out on the fine print. The site may not share that your bags/seat are not included and you don’t want that shock when you get to the airport. If you want to make sure you are getting the best deal possible, sign up for the airline’s email lists to never miss a flash sale/promotion or download the Honey extension to have coupons auto apply at check out. (Not spon, I really just love Honey)

Tip Two: If you care about where you sit, pay for a seat.

If you know you are traveling with a friend you want to chat with, need a window seat to get that perfect instagram shot of the clouds or don’t want to be stuck in a middle seat, pay for a specific seat. When you skip this option it is truly luck of the draw, there is no rhyme or reason to where the computer puts you. I have tried to test this by checking in at different times and I can not find an algorithm worth exploring. The only guaranteed way to get a seat you are happy with is to pay for it.

Tip Three: Bring your own snacks and drinks.

When you are flying a budget airline there is no free biscoff cookie, pretzels, or peanuts. While some budget airlines will give you a cup of ice water, others charge for everything. There is no FAA rule stating that you can’t bring your own snacks or non-alcoholic drinks onto the plane. Many people don’t know that while you can’t bring liquids through TSA, you can bring your own food and snacks. Skip the expensive airport snacks and run to Publix or Target before your trip to stock up on all the munchies for your flight. (I once brought a whole Publix cake through TSA to bring up to a friend in New Jersey)

Tip Four: Don’t expect frills.

When flying budget airlines, you can not expect luxury amenities. There is no first class, there may be some “stretch seating” with some added padding and leg room (for an extra fee, of course) but don’t expect mimosas and a warm towel to be waiting for you. The tray tables may be smaller, the seats may not recline, there’s no power outlets and there probably won’t be WIFI. Prep for this by charging your portable devices and downloading your movie, book or music ahead of time. Make sure you bring everything you need for the flight. You get cold? Pack a blanket or sweater. You like to sleep? Pack a pillow and eye mask. When flying a budget airline you are paying to get from point A to point B, the “extras” will not be included and probably won’t even be on board for purchase.

Tip Five: Pack well or pay the price.

Literally. On a budget airline only a “personal item” is included in your flight without extra fees. A personal item is something that goes under the seat in front of you. (Make sure to check dimensions for each airline as they can vary) If you don’t want to pay for a carry on or checked bag, I encourage you to invest in a spacious, but small roller-bag like this one I got from Amazon. If you don’t pay for a carry on, you get one bag. Not a backpack and a purse, one bag. Don’t let this ruin the price you paid for your ticket when you get to the gate and the gate agent tries to charge you. If you are going to be purchasing additional bags, make sure you do it earlier rather than later. The closer to your flight the more money you will be charged.

Bonus: Be nice to your flight crew!

You would not believe the amount of people that get on a plane and don’t acknowledge the flight attendants, it gets exhausting. Being kind really goes a long way. I would go out of my way to make flights special for people that were pleasant and said hello. You never know where a simple “Good Morning” or Hello” could get you, i’ve met some of the coolest people on my flights.

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