I find the low cost carrier business model fascinating. These airlines, which include Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, and soon to be Sun Country, offer rock bottom fares and then make their money with piles of fees. You can pretty much expect to pay for almost everything from a seat assignment to a drink, and everything in between.
One of the more interesting fees that Spirit has is what amounts to a convenience fee for using their website. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were buying a ticket to a show from Ticketmaster! Except in this case, the flight is the show. They call it the passenger usage charge and it can be as much as $18.99 per ticket.
Interestingly, there is some amount of logic behind this fee. Airlines have to pay a 7.5% federal excise tax on the ticket price. But they don’t pay the tax on fees. So it saves them 7.5% on about $19, which basically allows them to keep an extra $1.40 on every ticket. Multiply that by thousands and thousands of tickets every single day, and well, you get the idea.
But to get away with calling it a fee, not just part of the fare, there has to be way of not paying it. And the way to not pay it is to book the ticket at the airport, in person, with an agent. Sneaky, eh?
I actually booked a ticket on Spirit for my mother-in-law at the Denver airport recently just to test out how this worked in practice. It turned out to be really easy, mostly because I got lucky and got there during a Sunday morning lull. I was in and out in less than five minutes. Had I wanted to buy a ticket on the morning of my first ever Spirit flight in June, however….
Anyway, it turns out that Spirit isn’t the only low cost carrier with a website convenience fee.
Allegiant Air optional services and fees
Allegiant Air has their own version of the Ticketmaster charge. They call it the Electronic Carrier Usage Charge and it amounts to $13.00 per passenger, per segment, to all airline reservations booked through the website or call center.
The sort of hilarious thing to me is that right below the Electronic Carrier Usage Charge is the Call Center Booking Fee, which of course is also per passenger and per segment.
Allegiant Air “optional” booking fees
I don’t know about you, but that’s not my idea of extreme stacking.
Save money by buying Allegiant Air tickets at the airport
To get away with calling the Electronic Carrier Usage Charge an optional fee, it has to be optional. So like Spirit, they let you avoid that fee by buying your tickets at the airport. Of course, they don’t explicitly tell you that because they don’t really want you to buy your tickets at the airport. That not only increases their staffing costs but it also cuts into their revenue. Even if they avoid the 7.5% federal excise tax on the $13, they still pocket the rest.
The Allegiant Air FAQs encourages you to book your tickets through the website (where you’ll pay the $13 fee) or through the call center ($13 fee, plus $14.99 call center charge). Then they say that tickets for same day travel may be purchased at the airport ticket counter based on availability. And that the hours vary by location.
Allegiant Air frequently asked questions
But then where they list the airport ticket counter locations and hours, it says that:
In most cities, airport ticket purchase will be available for one hour following each scheduled departure.
So Allegiant will sell you a ticket for same day travel at the airport, but only for one hour following departure. 😉
Then there is a link to the booking page where you can ostensibly find the departure time for your local airport.
The somewhat confusing thing, at least to me, is that there is also a table of times for select airports. My best guess is that these airports have multiple flights per day, so rather than just saying “an hour after scheduled departure,” it makes more sense to define the hours during which you can buy a ticket. Again, just my guess.
Allegiant Air ticket counter hours at select airports
Allegiant also lists stations where service has not yet started, but where tickets can apparently still be purchased. And also a list of addresses for those having trouble finding the airport. You might laugh, but these are mostly tiny airports, so it might actually make sense.
Allegiant Air ticketing hours and airport locations
Much like with Spirit, you can save money on Allegiant Air tickets by purchasing them at the airport. In the case of Allegiant, you should save $13 per person per segment.
The challenge is that Allegiant flies a really sparse schedule so their airport counters are only open for a very limited number of hours each week. But if that works for your schedule, it could be worthwhile. And if you’re flying as a family, those savings could add up fast.
Have you ever purchased Allegiant Air tickets at the airport?