Friday, September 20, 2013

A Review: Allegiant Airlines

Tonight we confirmed our flight back to the Mainland from Hawaii.  We will take off October 31, 2013 at 3pm...if the flight leaves on time.  This time we will fly Hawaiian Airlines, a traditional commercial airline.  I've been sitting here this evening reviewing the airline's site.  I am practically giddy.  The amenities range from an in flight meal to in seat entertainment.  It almost feels luxurious when compared to our flight over.  Is "no frills" worth it?  You be the judge.

After perusing "the usual suspects" (ie. Expedia and Travelocity) it appeared we may never leave Arizona.  The cost to fly was not within our budget.  Just when we were about to give up, we found out about Allegiant Airlines via a friend on Facebook.  This airline was by far the cheapest way to fly even with the extra fees...or so we thought.
Allegiant Airlines is considered a "no frills" airline.  What exactly does this mean?  For us, it meant an initial financial savings.  Our tickets were $118.50 per person (two tickets $237.00, since Truman flies free until age 2).  Sounds  Once you select the tickets you are asked to select your seats.  The seats vary in price depending on their location within the cabin.  Our seats cost $15.00 per person (two seats $30.00).  Purchasing seats is optional, but reviews of the airlines strongly advised buying seats in advance in order to sit together.  Sitting separately while traveling with a toddler was not an option, so seats were selected in advance.  Next you are asked to identify luggage in advance.  Each passanger is permitted one personal item.  This is defined as a purse, briefcase, or laptop bag.  All other luggage is able to be transported at an additional cost.  Since we knew we would be staying in Hawaii the minimum of one month we had decided we would have both a carry on and checked luggage.  Our carryons were $25.00 each (two carryons $50.00) and our checked baggage was $35.00 each piece (two suitcases $70.00).  Paying in advance for luggage was an easy decision since paying at the airport actually doubles the cost.  This is clearly stated on the website at the time of booking.  In the same section there is an option for priority boarding.  I personally recommend this option.  It is a mere $5.00 per ticket (two priority boarding statuses $10.00).  Lastly, each ticket is entitled to insurance at $11.50 per ticket  (two tickets covered by insurance $23.00).  A bad experience with American Airlines while pregnant made us realize flight insurance is not optional, but necessary.  $23.00 for peace of mind...priceless.  Of course there were taxes and fees totaling $9.00.  Cost billed to credit card $429.00.  Once the flight was booked I was able to call Allegiant to add Truman (as a lap child) to the itinerary.  Aside from the hold time of nearly an hour the process was fairly simple.  The representative was courteous and knowledgable.  It was at this time that I was informed the airline allows for the diaper bag, stroller, and car seat to fly for free.  We were booked!  Our flight was scheduled for August 4, 2013 with a departure time of 12:35pm.
Finally on the plane.  Truman's not quite sure about this.
 The day of the flight arrives.  We get to the airport with the recommended 2 hours to spare until scheduled take off.  Allegiant flies out of Mesa Gateway Airport.  The airport is very small and there are no carts available for our luggage.  There were also no electronic kiosks for check in.  We were used to both amenities with previous travels.  Two points against Allegiant.  The line for check in wrapped through what seemed like miles of ropes.  We had two laptop bags, two back packs, a diaper bag, two suitcases, a stroller, a car seat, and a very unhappy toddler.  Luckily our priority boarding status enabled us to skip the long check in line.  We found ourselves in a line with just one other set of travelers.  Point for Allegiant. Once at the counter we were greeted and then quickly told our flight had been delayed until 3pm.  Point against Allegiant.  Then our bags were weighed and apparently one of our suit cases was over weight.  A payment of $50.00 and our luggage was checked.  This charge is non-negotiable (no matter how nice you are or how cute your baby is...believe me, I tried).  Total cost to fly adjusted to...$479.00.  Point against Allegiant.  Allegiant has an iPhone application which is supposed to offer flight check in as well as boarding passes at your finger tips.  Though we were able to check in for our flight in advance, we were not able to get through security without a trip back to the ticket counter (because the ticketing feature of the application never worked).  Point against Allegiant.  I will say it was the easiest airport security experience we've had in the past 10 years.  Maybe it's because Truman is so cute.  The only hold up in security was that I had packed Capri Sun pouches for Truman for the plane.  Because they are over 3oz we could only take what would fit in his bottle...and the liquid had to be tested.  Can't really blame that on Allegiant.  Five hours in an airport terminal not much bigger than a football field with a toddler that needs a nap...a billion points against Allegiant (especially after finding out this particular flight is consistently on a 3 hour delay).  While waiting for the flight we order lunch and few cocktails from the only airport restaurant...just to pass the time.  Our bill with tip totaled over $80.
Brian and Truman watching Rango for the millionth time
Boarding was actually a breeze.  As patrons of priority boarding, we were able to enter the plane with just three other families.  It was nice to settle in to our seats without the pushing and shoving that tends to occur during most airline boarding.  I also feel priority boarding was the reason the size of our carryons were not questioned and the third seat in our row was never booked.  This allowed Truman a seat of his own, eventhough he was originally booked as a lap child.  Two points for Allegiant.  All food and drink on these flights is fee based.  Nothing is complimentary.  I knew this in advance and had tried to prepare, but due to the extended delay, the turkey sandwiches I packed were questionable.  We decided not to chance food poinsoning with a 6 hour flight ahead.  We ended up spending way to much on in flight refreshments.  Point against Allegiant.  Once the plane was full of passengers an annoucement informed us there was a problem with the plane's bathroom.  One hour sitting on the plane while they fixed the problem...come on Allegiant!  This could not have been addressed during the 3 hour delay?!?  The plane was clean, the flight was smooth and take off and landing were flawless.  Three points for Allegiant.
Checking out the clouds
Needless to say, it was a long day.  Will we fly Allegiant Air again should the opportunity arise?  The answer is...maybe?  The day we landed I would have said yes, but on October 31, 2013 we will be flying Hawaiian for just $513.00.  This flight will include complimentary drinks, a meal, and in flight movie.  Sometimes cheaper is not always better...and not actually "cheaper".
Finally asleep!

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