Budget airlines companies in USA that will help you to save on traveling
Budget airlines have revolutionized air travel in the USA. By offering discounted fares and no-frills service, budget carriers make flying accessible and affordable for the masses. While legacy airlines focus on premier luxury, budget airlines strip away the extras to provide barebones, low-cost transportation.
This guide will explore major budget airlines in the United States and how to save money booking with them. We’ll provide an overview of leading discount carriers, their routes and hubs, baggage policies, and any pitfalls to avoid. Read on to learn how to master budget air travel in the US!
Defining Budget Airlines
First, let’s clarify exactly what constitutes a budget airline. Budget carriers share certain defining traits that differentiate them from full-service legacy airlines like American, Delta and United.
Characteristics of budget airlines typically include:
– Discounted base fares lower than full-service rivals
– Stripped back amenities to necessities only
– No assigned seating unless paid for
– No free checked baggage allowance
– No free in-flight food or drinks
– Often fly out of secondary airports to reduce costs
– Use single aircraft model fleets for efficiency
– Simplified frequent flier programs or none at all
– Bookings only through website or app to cut costs
– Mostly fly short and medium haul routes rather than long haul
While the lack of cushy extras can be uncomfortable, the trade-off is saving significant money. Budget airlines lure travelers through rock-bottom base fares, then charge add-on fees for perks. The key to savings is traveling light and avoiding extras.
Now, let’s explore major budget airline options in the US and how to score deals.
Spirit Airlines launched in 1990 as Clippert Trucking Company before transitioning solely to budget air travel in 1994. It’s now one of the largest ultra-low-cost airlines in America. Spirit primarily connects major cities across the US, plus international service to Mexico, Caribbean, Central America and South America. It boasts one of the youngest all-Airbus fleets flying today.
Routes and Hubs:
Spirit flies to over 75 destinations within the United States, as well as 30 international locations. Its main hubs are located at:
– Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
– Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
– Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
– Atlantic City International Airport (ACY)
– Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)
Many routes, especially along the East Coast, operate as out-and-back style service through Fort Lauderdale. This allows optimal aircraft utilization and strategic network planning based on demand.
Spirit offers stripped-back basic fares called SAVE fares that only include one personal underseat carry-on bag up to 18x14x8 inches. All other amenities or extras must be purchased separately. They also offer THRIFTY and BUNDLE fares that are pricier but include ability to bring one full-sized carry-on bag. BUNDLE fares also provide flexibility to make flight changes.
On SAVE fares, personal items that fit under the seat in front are allowed for free, but no other carry-on baggage is permitted. Carry-on bags, checked bags, oversize bags and overweight bags all incur fees. Reduced rates can be paid in advance online while higher rates apply when paying at the gate.
Spirit charges $35-$65 for carry-ons, $30-$75 for first checked bag, and $45-$110 for second checked bag depending on member status and when paid. They offer discounts for military, students and children. Baggage fees are a major revenue generator for Spirit, so packing light or creatively is key.
Food and Drinks:
No meals or drinks are included in the ticket price except for a small courtesy beverage on longer international flights. However, Spirit does sell affordable snacks, meals and beverages on board their aircraft. Guests can save substantially by bringing food from home in their personal item.
Seating and Extras:
Seats are standard coach seats in a 3-3 configuration on Spirit’s Airbus aircraft. Seat assignments are not included except for THRIFTY and BUNDLE fares. To select a seat in advance, fees apply ranging from $1-$50+. The airline also sells extra legroom seats and exit row seats.
In-flight entertainment and WiFi are not available. However, guests can access free streaming entertainment to personal devices through the Spirit app. Numerous other a la carte services are available for fees including ticket changes, oversized sports equipment, unaccompanied minors, pets in cabin, etc.
Spirit offers two tiers of membership – FREE SPIRIT and $9 Fare Club. Both provide discounts on bag fees and seat selection charges. Perks increase for paid $9 Fare Club members with allowance for free carry-on and checked bag, free seat selection, and more. Joining is recommended for frequent Spirit fliers.
Follow these tricks for saving on Spirit Airlines:
– Book tickets early when fares are cheapest. Last-minute fares can be astronomical.
– Avoid booking Sundays when fares spike. Mid-week travel is best value.
– Purchase seats ahead of time for best selection and prices.
– Join FREE SPIRIT at minimum for slight baggage discounts.
– Pack smartly in a small personal item you can fit underseat to avoid carry-on fees.
– Print your boarding pass early at home to avoid printer fees at airport.
– Sign up for fare alerts on routes you travel frequently.
– Learn the size and weight limits to prevent overweight/oversize baggage fees.
By following these tips and fully understanding Spirit’s extensive fee structure, huge savings await. You must diligently minimize extras and amenities added to the base fare. T
– Crazy low base fares if booked early
– Direct flights connecting major cities and tourist destinations
– Young, fuel-efficient fleet
– Innovative app and tools for travelers
– Affordable onboard snack and beverage options
– Pejorative “nickel and diming” reputation from excessive fees
– No frills, barebones service and seats
– Very restrictive baggage allowances
– High number of passenger complaints
– No loyalty program benefits except paid club
In summary, Spirit offers amazing value on base fares if you fly light and avoid all extras. But inflexible policies, myriad fees and upcharges, and alienating brand image can sour some travelers. The ultra-low-cost model appeals most to bargain hunters who strictly travel with just one personal underseat item. Overall, Spirit opens air travel to the masses through rock bottom fares, but a disciplined flyer is required to maximize savings.
Originally founded in 1994 as a low-cost subsidiary of Continental Airlines, Frontier operates as an independent ultra-low-cost carrier today. It serves over 100 domestic destinations plus a handful of leisure-oriented international routes. Frontier has hubs in Denver, Orlando, Philadelphia and Las Vegas making it convenient for continental US travel.
Routes and Hubs:
Key cities served by Frontier Airlines include:
West Coast: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix
Rocky Mountains/Midwest: Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Southwest: Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Austin, San Antonio
Southeast: Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, Miami
East Coast: Philadelphia, DC, NYC area
Frontier’s largest hub operation is at Denver International Airport with hundreds of flights per day. The airline continues to expand routes aggressively across the country.
Frontier offers basic DISCOUNT Den Fares that include a personal item only. There are also BUNDLE and WORKS fares that provide one standard carry-on, checked bag, refundability for a higher fare. BUNDLE is the best value for amenities. Signing up for Discount Den membership is free and includes reduced bag fees and seat discounts.
Personal items like a backpack, purse or small laptop bag are allowed for free in Frontier’s lowest DISCOUNT fare. Carry-on bags incur fees anywhere from $35-$70 each way depending on route and booking time. 1-2 checked bags cost $30-$60 per segment. Sports equipment, oversize and overweight bags also garner fees. Joining the Discount Den provides slight discounts on baggage charges.
Food and Drinks:
Complimentary beverages like coffee, tea, juice and soda are served on Frontier flights along with ability to purchase snacks and meals. Adult beverages are available for purchase. Guests should take advantage of the free drinks offered since no other food or drinks are included with ticket price.
Seating and Extras:
Regular coach seats in 3-3 configuration are standard. Paid upgrade options include Stretch Seats with extra legroom and Works Seats near the front. Seat selection costs $8-$25 per segment depending on route. In-flight entertainment is not offered, so devices are a must. Discounted seat selection and stretch seats can be purchased through Discount Den membership.
Frontier’s Discount Den is a free membership program that provides access to exclusive fares and discounts on seat selection, bags, checked pets and more. For frequent travelers, the paid $59 Discount Den Plus is worthwhile for unlimited free drinks, stretch seats, and family seating. No traditional frequent flier mile earning exists with Frontier.
Maximize value when flying Frontier by:
– Joining Discount Den for bag discount and cheap seat selection
– Booking THE WORKS fare if you’ll need baggage allowance
– Purchasing seats far in advance for best rates
– Buying drinks on board since they are complimentary
– Avoiding airline seat and baggage fees by packing light
– Signing up for Frontier’s email deals sent out weekly
– Downloading the mobile app for easy access to discounts
– Comparing fares across multiple dates/airports for deals
– Looking for promo codes which Frontier regularly offers
– Discount fares often cheaper than low-cost competitors
– Free live TV and extensive route network
– Friendly service and aircraft interiors
– Frequent fare sales and promo code deals
– Free drinks on board is a nice touch
– Ancillary fees drive up total fare cost quickly
– Can feel like constant upselling pressures
– No loyalty program except paid Discount Den
– Seat comfort and legroom can be lacking
– History of poor on-time performance and delays
In summary, Frontier is a solid choice for budget travelers who join Discount Den, pack light, and avoid paid extras. The airline makes cheap base fares attractive but nickel and dimes for amenities most travelers expect included. As long as you’re comfortable stripped-down no frills flying and strategically avoid fees, major savings await.
Founded in 1999 and based in New York City, JetBlue pioneered the “value carrier” concept occupying a niche between legacy airlines and ultra-low-cost carriers. It’s grown to become the 7th largest airline in North America with a young, fuel-efficient all-Airbus and Embraer fleet. JetBlue boasts robust service from both JFK and Boston with flights to nearly 100 destinations.
Routes and Hubs:
Key cities served by JetBlue include:
Northeast: New York/NYC metro, Boston, Buffalo, Syracuse, Washington DC
Southeast: Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Jacksonville
West: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Portland, Sacramento
Caribbean: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Bahamas
Latin America: Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru
JetBlue’s largest hub is New York JFK, followed by focus cities Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Los Angeles. The airline has been rapidly expanding West Coast service in recent years.
JetBlue offers just two fare types – Blue Basic and Blue Flex. Blue Basic only includes one personal item free while Blue Flex has standard free carry-on and checked bag allowance. Some extras come free on Blue Flex like seat selection and ability to change/cancel flights. There’s also a Mint premium cabin on some routes.
Carry-on and first checked bag are free on Blue Flex fares only. On Basic, personal items like a purse, backpack or laptop bag are allowed for free while carry-ons cost $35-$65 depending on when paid. First checked bags are $30-$40 based on destination. Sports equipment, pets and oversized bags incur separate fees.
Food and Drinks:
Unlimited free snacks and drinks are offered on all fares, including brands like Terra Blue Chips, Kind bars, Pepsi products, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and more. Alcoholic drinks are available for purchase in-flight. This free snack and beverage perk makes JetBlue unique among budget airlines.
Seating and Extras:
Standard seating is 3-3 configuration in leather seats with decent 32-33″ pitch on A320 aircraft. Seat selection costs extra on Blue Basic (or is free for Mosaic elite) while included for Blue Flex passengers. More legroom, Even More Space seats are available for fees too. Free Fly-Fi WiFi is offered on all routes, also making JetBlue stand out from competitors.
TrueBlue Mosaic status is earned after flying 30 segments + 12,000 miles or earning 15,000 Mosaic qualifying points. Perks include free checked bags, expedited security, free alcoholic drinks, bonus points, Even More Space seat access and more. A basic TrueBlue free level still allows point earning.
Maximize value on JetBlue by:
– Booking Blue Flex if you’ll need baggage allowance included
– Bringing your own snacks and drinks to save money
– Downloading their app for easy access to deals and perks
– Joining TrueBlue for basic points earning on flights
– Taking advantage of weekly fare sales sent by email
– Finding promo codes easily online for discounts
– Purchasing Even More Space seats for extra legroom
– Tracking prices for your dates and watching for drops
– Quality service for budget airline with seatback TV
– Free snacks and drinks on all fares
– Generous legroom and leather seats
– Extensive route network across North America
– Easy to earn and redeem TrueBlue points
– Limited fare options and bundles
– Surprise fees more likely on basic economy
– No free changes or cancellations except higher fares
– Can experience major operational meltdowns
– Overall less budget-friendly than ultra-low-cost rivals
In summary, JetBlue pioneered the hybrid value carrier model in the US market. It offers more amenities than barebones airlines but for less fare than full-service legacy rivals. JetBlue appeals to travelers seeking a more premium budget airline experience with extras included. Just be aware of the tradeoff of higher base fares compared to ultra-low-cost competitors.
Southwest Airlines is a mainstay budget airline and the largest low-cost carrier in the US. Formed in 1967 and based in Dallas, Southwest pioneered the discount air travel model. It operates an extensive network of domestic routes across continental USA. Southwest is the rare budget airline that offers perks like free checked bags, no change fees, and free snacks on board.
Routes and Hubs:
As one of the largest domestic airlines, Southwest serves over 100 destinations at airports across the country including:
West Coast – Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, Seattle
Rocky Mountains/Midwest – Denver, Phoenix, Chicago, Nashville, Kansas City
Southwest – Dallas, Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Albuquerque
Southeast – Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Miami
East Coast – Baltimore, Washington DC, New York City
Southwest has major hubs and operations at cities like Chicago Midway, Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas, Houston Hobby, Orlando, Phoenix Sky Harbor. The airline has a vast and growing route network.
Southwest offers several fare types from Wanna Get Away, Anytime, and Business Select, with Wanna Get Away the cheapest option. Unlike other budget airlines, even the cheapest fares include perks like free checked bags, free flight changes, and ability to earn points.
Each passenger receives free allowance for 2 checked bags weighing up to 50 pounds each on Southwest. Carry-on bags and personal items are also free as long as they meet size limits. Excess and oversized/overweight bags incur fees. Southwest is very guest-friendly with baggage policies.
Food and Drinks:
Southwest offers free snacks and non-alcoholic drinks to all passengers. Complimentary options include pretzels, nut mix, cookies, Coke products and coffee. Alcohol like beer and wine is available for purchase. You can also bring your own food onboard if preferred.
Seating And Extras:
Southwest has open seating where passengers pick any available seat upon boarding. Upgraded Business Select seats with early boarding can be purchased starting at $30. No seat assignments are made in advance. Inflight entertainment like free TV and movies is offered through Southwest’s WIFI equipped planes.
Southwest Rapid Rewards program offers perks and bonuses to frequent fliers. The airline also allows qualifying members to earn a Companion Pass which allows bringing one person for free on paid & reward flights. Very generous for a budget airline.
Maximize value when flying Southwest by:
– Booking Wanna Get Away fares for cheapest deals
– Checking in right at 24 hours pre-flight for the best boarding position
– Bringing your own snack if you don’t like Southwest’s free options
– Downloading their easy app to access deals and rapidly earn points
– Tracking cash and points prices to redeem points at lowest rate
– Taking advantage of weekly fare sales and promo codes
– Considering the Companion Pass if you’ll fly frequently
– Checking alternate airports for
- Be flexible on travel dates and times if possible to get lower fares
- Book early as prices will increase closer to departure
- Sign up for fare alerts from Southwest for sales on routes you travel
- Follow Southwest on social media for frequent promo code releases
- Consider purchasing EarlyBird priority boarding for busy flights
- Look out for limited-time offers like bonus points or Companion Pass promotions
- Use points for one-way rewards flights to maximize their value
- Don’t buy extras you don’t need – Southwest fares already include perks
- Take advantage of Earn bonus points through credit cards or partners
- Download the Southwest app for easy mobile boarding passes
- Review Rapid Rewards redemption options like hotels and car rentals
- Utilize low-cost parking deals on airport parking when flying Southwest
- Free checked bags and flight changes
- Rapid Rewards is an easy, generous loyalty program
- Fun brand image and culture
- Free snacks, drinks and live TV included
- Extensive domestic route network across USA
- Open seating can result in poor seat assignments
- Ancillary fees like pets, WiFi, etc add up quickly
- Very limited international routes
- Packed flights with high load factors
- Click bait-style fare sales that spike later
In summary, Southwest sets itself apart from other budget airlines by including more amenities even on the cheapest fares. The extensive domestic route network, free bags and flight changes make it family and budget-friendly. Just be prepared for mediocre seat selections with open boarding and bring your own entertainment. Southwest appeals most to flexible domestic travelers flying with carry-ons only within the United States.
Overview: Founded in 1997 and based in Las Vegas, Allegiant utilizes older MD-80 aircraft to offer ultra-low-cost, barebones service to underserved leisure destinations like Florida, Hawaii, Las Vegas and more. Rather than daily service, most flights operate a few times weekly making Allegiant less than ideal for business travel.
Routes and Hubs: Key cities served by Allegiant Air include:
West Coast – Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix
Southeast – Orlando/Sanford, Tampa/St. Pete, Fort Lauderdale, Miami
Midwest – Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati
Mountain Region – Boise, Grand Junction, Ogden
Allegiant’s focus cities include Las Vegas, Orlando Sanford, and Tampa St. Petersburg. The airline specializes in flying from small cities to warm vacation destinations with hours that maximize aircraft utilization.
Fare Types: Allegiant offers a basic fare option that includes a personal carry-on item up to 18x14x8 inches. To add a full-size carry-on bag, seat selection, priority boarding or other amenities, bundled fare upgrades are required. This a la carte model lets travelers pay only for what they want.
Luggage Policies: On basic fares, one personal item is allowed while carry-ons cost $10-$75 each way depending on route and when paid. First checked bag fees run $20-$85 per segment. Oversized sports equipment and extra bags also incur fees. Allegiant is very strict about bag sizes and charges high checked bag costs.
Food and Drink: No complimentary food or drink is offered by Allegiant Airlines. A full menu of affordable food, snacks, alcoholic drinks and other beverages are available for cash purchase once on board. Bringing your own food and drink is recommended to save.
Seating and Extras: Regular economy seats configured 3-3 are cramped with just 28-30” pitch on its all-Airbus fleet. Upgrades like seats with extra legroom, early boarding, and more can be added to base fare but cost extra. No in-flight entertainment is available so devices are a necessity.
Member Status: Allegiant offers an Allegiant World Mastercard that provides perks like free checked bag, priority boarding, free companion fare annually, and more. The standard free Allegiant account allows booking flights and earning points to redeem rewards but has no special flight benefits.
Pro Tips: Maximize value when flying Allegiant by:
- Booking early as fares are higher last minute
- Avoiding all ancillary bundles and extras not essential
- Packing light and using personal item only to skip bag fees
- Downloading the Allegiant app for easy access to promos
- Bringing food, drinks, entertainment – none are free
- Comparing nearby airports for cheapest fares
- Reviewing resort fee policies when traveling to leisure spots
- Prepaying for bags online to save over airport fees
- Using Allegiant credit card for free bags and other perks
- Some of the lowest base fares available in market
- Direct flights to underserved leisure destinations
- Fruitful promotions and sales if timed right
- Brand new planes joining aging fleet
- Low-stress airports and quick boarding
- Carry-on and checked bag fees very expensive
- Consistently poor on-time performance
- Ultra-cramped seating and cabin configurations
- Very old MD-80 planes still in service
- Limited schedules and frequencies
In summary, Allegiant offers access to unique routes at bargain rates, but almost every aspect of a typical flight experience costs extra. The airline appeals most to extremely budget-conscious vacationers who pack ultra-light. But frustrating policies, delays, crammed cabins and barrage of fees can sour travelers. Flying Allegiant demands flexibility, discipline and thriftiness to find value flying to warm destinations for less.
Sun Country Airlines
Founded in 1982 and based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Sun Country focuses on discount flights within the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It operates a mix of domestic routes plus popular sun and ski vacation spots. Sun Country joined the ultra-low-cost market in 2018 and now offers a stripped-down budget flying experience.
Routes and Hubs: Sun Country serves over 50 destinations including:
Midwest – Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, Detroit
West Coast – Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco
East Coast – New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.
Southeast – Tampa, Fort Myers, Orlando
Mountain Region – Denver, Phoenix
Sun Country is based at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport which remains its largest hub. Sun Country has been expanding East Coast and West Coast routes rapidly, taking on major budget rivals.
Fare Types: Sun Country offers basic “Save Fares” that include a personal underseat bag only. To add extras like a carry-on, checked bag or seat selection, bundled Saver, Classic or Best Fares must be purchased for a higher rate. This lets travelers customize the experience.
Luggage Policies: Only one small personal item is allowed for free on Save fares, while carry-on and checked bags cost $30-$40 paid in advance or up to $80 at airport. Sports equipment, pets, oversize/overweight bags also incur fees. Joining Sun Country’s discount club reduces baggage fees slightly.
Food and Drink: No complimentary food or drinks are offered onboard and must be purchased separately. Options like snacks, meals and alcoholic beverages are available through in-flight purchases. Guests should bring their own food and drink to save money.
Seating and Extras: Standard economy seats in 3-3 configuration make for a cramped ride. Upgrades to exit row, extra legroom seats, or premium coach seats with more legroom and recline are available for fees. No onboard entertainment is offered on Sun Country.
Member Status: Sun Country Rewards loyalty program offers discounts on seat selection, bags and other amenities to paid members. The basic free level allows earning points on flights to redeem for rewards like hotel stays and car rentals.
Pro Tips: Maximize value when flying Sun Country by:
- Enrolling in Sun Country Rewards for ancillary discounts
- Booking the Save fare then adding just essential amenities
- Paying bag fees online in advance for discount over airport prices
- Avoiding seat selection unless you really need a specific seat
- Flying early weekday mornings for cheapest fares
- Bringing food and downloading entertainment to personal devices
- Packing light to avoid carry-on and checked bag fees
- Tracking prices frequently and set fare alerts
- Cheap base fares on certain leisure routes
- Quality Boeing 737-800 aircraft
- Minnesota hub is less congested than major airports
- Fare sales help boost affordability
- Sun Country Rewards provides some ancillary fee discounts
- Barebones, no frills service
- A la carte model drives up total fare cost quickly
- Poor legroom and non-reclining seats
- Frequently delays and cancellations
- Limited onboard food, drink and entertainment
In summary, Sun Country delivers ultra-low-cost flights to warm weather and outdoor recreation hotspots. But the a la carte model results in lots of extra charges that erode value for most travelers. Sun Country is best suited to disciplined vacationers on a strict budget who travel with just a personal underseat item and minimal needs.
Launched in 2018 and owned by WestJet, Swoop is Canada’s leading ultra-low-cost carrier. It is modeled after successful budget airlines like Allegiant and Spirit in the US Swoop offers deeply discounted base fares and charges add-on fees for everything else.
Routes and Hubs: Swoop serves destinations across Canada including:
Western Canada – Kelowna, Edmonton, Abbotsford, Victoria, Winnipeg
Central Canada – Hamilton, London, Toronto
Eastern Canada – Montreal, Halifax, St. John’s
Sun Destinations – Las Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando, Tampa Bay
Its main hub is at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport with additional bases at Abbotsford in British Columbia and Edmonton International in Alberta.
Fare Types: Swoop offers Swoop Seats as the basic fare including only a personal underseat bag free. To add extras like seat selection, carry-on bag , checked bag, priority boarding, etc. Swoop Plus upgrade bundles must be purchased. This unbundled model allows customization.
Luggage Policies: Only a personal underseat item is free with Swoop Seats. Carry-ons cost CAD$50-70 each way while checked bags are CAD$30-45 based on route. Sports equipment, oversize and pets also incur fees. Baggage allowances can be added through Swoop Plus bundles.
Food and Drink:
No complimentary food or drinks are provided on Swoop flights. A Swoop Bites menu of affordable snacks, meals and drinks is available for purchase inflight using debit/credit cards only. Guests should bring their own food and drink to save money.
Seating and Extras: Standard black leather Swoop Seats are cramped with 28-30 inches seat pitch. Upgrades to seats with extra legroom or at the front can be purchased. No onboard entertainment is available so devices are required for the ride.
Member Status: GetSwooped membership costs CAD$49.99 annually and provides perks like discounted baggage, free seat selection, priority boarding, free cancellations, and more. It can save frequent Swoop fliers money on amenities.
Pro Tips: Maximize value on Swoop by:
- Enrolling in free GetSwooped program for access to promos
- Declining all add-ons andextras not absolutely necessary
- Packing just a small personal underseat item to avoid bag fees
- Screenshotting and using promo codes which Swoop offers regularly
- Downloading the Swoop app to easily access deals
- Always paying bag fees online in advance for lowest rates
- Bringing your own food and entertainment as none is free
- Checking alternate airports near your destination for deals
- Ultra-low base fares on Canadian routes
- New Boeing 737-800 planes
- Bases in Eastern and Western Canada
- GetSwooped provides ancillary fee discounts
- Frequent fare sales and promo codes
- Baggage fees expensive when paid at airport
- No frills barebones service
- Cramped seats with limited recline and pitch
- Route network limited within Canada
- Sales strategy feels predatory and misleading
In summary, Swoop offers deep discounts on initial fare but nickel-and-dimes travelers for amenities. Flyers need thriftiness, organizational skills and packlight travel mentality to avoid many extras fees. Swoop delivers major savings to disciplined shoppers booking early. But inflexibility and barrage of add-on costs can frustrate average travelers.
Overview: Norwegian Air is a low-cost transatlantic airline founded in 1993 in Norway. It operates a fleet of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners offering affordable flights between the US and Europe. Norwegian expanded rapidly but has scaled back due to the pandemic. It currently serves just a handful of US and European destinations.
Routes and Hubs: Norwegian Air currently flies just 5 routes between the US and Europe including:
- New York Stewart to Dublin
- New York JFK to Rome
- Boston to London
- Fort Lauderdale to London
- Fort Lauderdale to Oslo
Its transatlantic flights previously served major hubs like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami but these routes are currently suspended. Norwegian hopes to restart more US to Europe routes as demand returns post-pandemic.
Fare Types: Norwegian offers basic LowFare tickets that include only one personal underseat bag. To add extras like seat selection, fast track, or checked bags, LowFare+ bundles must be purchased for a higher fare. This lets flyers customize amenities.
Only one small personal item is included on LowFare basic tickets. Carry-on bags cost approx $55 while checked bag fees run $70 and up per piece. Sports equipment, overweight and pets also incur fees. Bundling amenities in advance with LowFare+ is recommended to save on bags.
Food and Drink: No free food or drinks are offered onboard Norwegian Air. The airline sells an extensive Buy On Board menu of meals, snacks and drinks at affordable prices using credit/debit card only. Guests should bring food.
Seating and Extras: Standard economy is configured 3-3-3 with seats having 31-32” pitch, average for low-cost flights. Seat selection costs extra unless you purchase a LowFare+ bundle. No in-flight entertainment is available so devices are essential.
Norwegian Reward is the airline’s free frequent flyer program allowing members to earn CashPoints on flights to redeem for rewards like flights and upgrades. It offers some benefits like bonus points but no baggage fee waiver.
Pro Tips: Maximize value on Norwegian Air by:
- Booking early – last-minute fares are very expensive
- Opting for the LowFare+ bundle if you’ll need baggage and other amenities
- Packing light to avoid a la carte fees for bags and extras
- Downloading entertainment and food to bring onboard
- Paying for bags, seats, etc. in advance online for lowest rates
- Providing your own headphones – none are supplied
- Using Mobile Boarding Passes to avoid airport paper fees
- Enrolling in Norwegian Reward program for access to deals
- Affordable transatlantic flights on modern 787s
- Streamlined online booking experience
- New aircraft with good legroom and seat pitch
- Route network across the US and Europe
- Carry-on bag allowed on all fares
- Current limited route network due to pandemic
- Baggage fees expensive when paid at airport
- No complimentary food or drinks provided
- No inflight entertainment so devices required
- Reports of numerous delays and cancellations
In summary, Norwegian offers an affordable option for crossing the pond with better service than ultra-low-cost rivals. However, the carrier’s financial struggles have resulted in a temporarily reduced route network. Once expanded, Norwegian provides an affordable option for transatlantic travel if you don’t mind paying more for amenities and bringing your own entertainment.
Final Thoughts on Budget Airlines
We’ve now explored options with the major budget airlines across North America. While stripped-back amenities and extras fees are par for the course, each carrier has unique route networks, policies, pros and cons.
The key when flying budget airlines is to understand how the fare rules and add-on costs work so they don’t catch you by surprise. Be willing to travel with just a personal underseat item, bring your own food and entertainment, and decline extras not essential to you. Pack light, plan ahead, and be prepared.
While budget airlines demand more traveler discipline, the cheap base fares enable flying at a fraction of the cost of full-fare competitors. For travelers focused purely on reaching destinations for less or with very minimal needs inflight, budget carriers remove the barriers of high airfare.
Just be sure to carefully evaluate total costs including extras you may need to purchase before booking only based on the initial low fare shown. The cheapest base fare is rarely the final price you may pay. Read all policies thoroughly and fly informed.
With the tips provided in this guide, you can now master budget air travel in the US, Canada and Europe. Happy travels and fly frugally! Please let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions on getting the best deals with low-cost airlines.