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Transcription of Notes on Flying Allegiant Airlines

This is a condensation of an article written by a brother-in-law.

Allegiant Air provides really low-cost and low-hassle flights.

However, Allegiant Air can be really frustrating and even expensive if you don't learn to play their game.

Allegiant has become the most profitable airline in the country. They do this by flying a single, low-cost model of aircraft, the Boeing MD-80, and completing multiple direct, round-trip flights each day. They only fly into "off-market" cities and airports and they only fly those routes on certain days. They primarily serve families and retirees by serving sunbelt hub cities like Las Vegas, Mesa, and Florida. They have virtually zero business travelers.

Tricks and gimmicks...

All Allegiant fares are prepaid and virtually non changeable. The published fare includes nothing other than the guarantee to get on the plane with the shirt on your back. You pay extra for:

When you add up all these costs, it often approaches or exceeds competing airfare on Southwest and others. But if you learn to play their game, you can really travel for almost nothing, for example, from Phoenix-Mesa to Idaho Falls for under $100 round trip.

Allegiant Air: how it works...

Allegiant does not over-sell flights (because all seats prepaid) so if you have a ticket, you are sure to get a seat on the airplane, but you may get stuck with a middle seat. The MD-80 is a 5-seat wide aircraft so there is only the starboard side rows with center seats while the port side seating is 2 seats wide:

    |            .....                |   etc.
    |  A   C     aisle     D   E   F  |   row 20
    |  A   C     aisle     D   E   F  |   row 19
    |  A   C     aisle     D   E   F  |   row 18
    |  A   C     aisle     D   E   F  |   row 17
    |            .....                |   etc.

(There is no seat column B.)

Allegiant begins checking in passengers precisely 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure. There is often a line already forming at check-in because they assign you a Z bording number based on first-come, first-served check-in order. The Z number is important as it determines when you get to push and shove yourself to the plane during the cattle-call.

How best and cheapest to fly Allegiant...

  1. Book a basic flight with no seat assignment and no pre-boarding privileges.
  2. Prepay for your checked bag and/or carry on as needed.

The boarding experience...

  1. All who paid $10-$15 for pre-boarding privilege AND also purchased assigned seats at $15 are allowed to board first.
  3. Next, those who paid for assigned seats but not pre-boarding privileges are called.

    WARNING: these first two groups begin boarding 45 minutes prior to the flight. If you have not made it through check-in and security by this time, you lose your seat and boarding-order privileges.

  4. All seats are now open regardless of originally established and paid seat assignments.
  6. Families with small children are borded.
  8. Finally, Z passengers are boarded based on their Z number, first Z1 - Z10, then Z11 - Z20, etc.

Note that flight attendants are not allowed and make no attempt to restore anyone's privileges. Once open boarding occurs, all seats are open and this usually means half or more than half the aircraft.

Personal experience

Whenever I have arrived at the airport early enough to get a Z number in the 1 through 20 range, I have always been able to get a good seat including sitting by my wife.

Obviously, ...

With a high Z number, you are likely to get the very last middle seats available as nearly every flight is sold out. Allegiant's seat pricing software keeps adjusting the price upward as the aircraft gets closer to full. If you book a couple months in advance you can get tickets in the $45 base price range each way. For key holidays or with short notice the prices can be triple or quadruple that.

More notes...

Early-bird pricing is typically posted 6 months in advance.

Allegiant flies between Provo and Mesa only on Fridays and Mondays. This makes for a nice weekend get-away. The flight departs Provo at 5:35pm and arrives in Mesa at 7:05pm (1½ hours for taxi, takeoff, flight time and landing—not bad at all). The return flight leaves Mesa at 3:30pm and arrives at Provo at 4:55pm.

The Phoenix/Mesa airport is 5 miles east of the Gilbert LDS Temple on an old military base with commensuratly less traffic as compared to the big Phoenix airport.

Carry-on baggage runs $20 and there is always plenty of baggage space for those with seat assignments.