The Allegiant web site is relatively hassle-free. The same cannot be said for terminal set-ups in the two airports we used. Allegiant does not host self-service check-in kiosks. When buying online, the only way to show up at the airport with printed boarding passes and an assigned seat is to pay a $17/passenger fee prior to checkout. For another $10, you can get "priority boarding," which means you'll be among the first to board and choose overhead space without waiting in lines.
Those who don't pay are relegated to "Group Z," or the people who are last to board. To obtain these Group Z boarding passes, one waits in sometimes lengthy lines for a traditional airport check-in. If you elect to join Group Z, be sure to arrive at the airport well in advance of your departure time.
In-flight snacks are not provided with the fare, but may be purchased from flight attendants. At the time of our trip, a soft drink was $2 and a bag of pretzels was $3.
Baggage fees for Allegiant can be discounted from the $35 required at the airport if paid in advance online ($20). But take note: these baggage fees are per flight segment. If you make a stop along the way, a new segment is created.
Itinerary for Review
I took a trip in July 2011 between Chattanooga, Tenn. and Orlando (Sanford) for $130 per person, round-trip. At the time, it was the lowest such fare I could find between the two areas. But remember that the Sanford airport is about 40 miles from MCO. Since affordable shuttle service is scarce in Orlando, it required a car rental.
Not wanting to pay for seat reservations, we took our chances with the open seating. It was not a problem on our trip in either direction.
Although neither Chattanooga nor Sanford were the most convenient airports, I will observe that both facilities are pleasant and uncomplicated. Airports such as these present fewer gates and less confusion, yet offer all the services you'll need.
The 75 markets Allegiant serves are spread across all regions of the U.S. The airline serves large airports such as Detroit, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas, but often goes into smaller airports in large metropolitan areas as well as small- and medium-sized airports.
For example, the large Orlando market is served through Sanford International Airport, not Orlando International. This can create additional ground transportation costs that cut into the savings from low airfares. Allegiant hubs are in six airports, including Bellingham, Wash. (just across the U.S. border from Vancouver), Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix-Mesa, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Florida cities of Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
You'll note that many cities in the Allegiant system are not connected by daily service. This could preclude people with tight, inflexible schedules from booking flights.
Allegiant provides service to smaller cities, connecting them to major cities at low prices. But you'll have to navigate through a series of airline offers for vacation packages, car rentals and the aforementioned seat reservation fees.
Airport check-in is slow and requires patience. Personnel we encountered were helpful and professional, but at times appeared overworked and overwhelmed. For travelers who are comfortable with the budget carrier model of a la carte pricing, Allegiant is an airline well worth shopping for budget airfares.