This post is an extension of my P.A.A.M.A. post about flying budget airlines. My first trip on Allegiant just concluded, so here are my thoughts on Allegiant specifically. If you’re in a tl;dr mood, you can skip to the conclusion and find out whether or not I personally recommend flying Allegiant.
When Allegiant announced in January that they were going to offer nonstop service between Jacksonville and Memphis, my Memphian friends and I rejoiced! Previously there was no such thing as a direct flight between JAX and MEM, and there was also no such thing as getting between the two for under $400.
Friends started throwing Allegiant horror stories at us immediately. They were mostly internet hearsay (“One time, my friend’s mom…!”, etc.) or people who didn’t read things before booking, so I disregarded them. But since our booking, Allegiant has been in the news a lot – and not for good things. No one has died or been hurt because of Allegiant, but I’m pretty sure they’re basically next to Chipotle as the exceptions to the old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
My Allegiant Experience
After booking I received emails that my flights’ departures were to be altered by twenty minutes. A few days before departure I went to my Allegiant upcoming travel page and found out that my departing flight had been changed to five hours later! I had not received any notification of that. I contacted Allegiant and three days later they responded and said their records indicated that I had been sent an email about it. I figured the internet ate it, since I’d gotten the other emails, until I read the following review:
Flight to Memphis was changed with no notice (same day, five hours later). Called customer service and was told an email was sent day after booking regarding the change in flight times. No email was sent and another customer verified he received the same story when he called.
– K. Miller, May 2016 www.airlinequality.com/airline-reviews/allegiant-air/
I realized they just didn’t bother telling anyone about a five-hour schedule change. Well. OK, then.
The check-in process was simple. If you don’t print your own boarding pass or use the mobile app, you will have to pay $5 at the airport, but this is written out for you several times before you get to the airport so there’s really no excuse. (And who doesn’t print their own boarding passes out or use an app these days anyway?!) As I only had my under-seat personal item (a regular-sized backpack, which they didn’t bat an eye at, let alone measure), I proceeded directly to security and to the gate, where I found out that we were delayed another fifteen minutes. A while later I got a text: delayed for four hours. After that, we were delayed yet another hour. I got very familiar with the Jacksonville airport, and tried not to think about how from the original time of departure at booking to when I would actually get in, I could’ve driven to Memphis and gotten there earlier.
Expected travel time including time spent in the airport: 3 hours.
Actual travel time including time spent in the airport: 7.5 hours.
Thankfully, I did indeed make it there the day I was supposed to, and only missed a dinner with my friends. This is not always the case with Allegiant and Frontier. (Nor is it always the case with legacy airlines, although it’s more likely.) I had a marvelous time in Memphis before beginning the trip home to Jacksonville a few days later.
Again: check-in online, security, everything was a breeze. The line to drop bags and/or have them print boarding passes was VERY LONG – not that it ended up mattering.
When I got to the gate, we were delayed for I think it was about an hour. Not really a big deal. Then we got on the plane and sat for what felt like a bit longer than the usual amount of time – and then we all heard a loud THUNK. I could see the “oh, crap” looks on the faces of the people around me, matching my own. A few minutes later the captain came on and said that the plane tug driver forgot to unlatch something before pulling back so he broke the tow bar and we had to wait for a maintenance guy to inspect and sign off on it.
To be fair, I don’t actually know that this is Allegiant’s fault. Google has conflicting answers about who the tug drivers belong to: the airlines or the airports. But, let’s be real: it was probably Allegiant’s fault.
After sitting in the plane for about twenty minutes, they deboarded us (never a good sign) and told us not to go far from the gate area. It took an hour before the guy showed up to inspect it and about thirty minutes to inspect it. During the time we were back in the airport, the gate agent brought out sodas and bottled waters for us, for free. Considering their reputation and the lack of any peace offering with five hours of delays in JAX, I was pleasantly surprised.
Eventually the plane was given a clean bill of health and we re-boarded and went on our way. The flight itself was uneventful, like the first one, although this plane was nicer. Shout out to my fellow passengers, all of whom communicated their frustration via sarcasm, sighs, and eye-rolling rather than screaming at people. You are good humans.
Expected travel time including time spent in the airport: 3 hours.
Actual travel time including time spent in the airport: 5.5 hours.
Would I fly Allegiant again?
Actually? Yes. Here’s why: this trip only happened because of Allegiant. I would not have even gone if I couldn’t have gotten my flight for $125 roundtrip. $400+ for a weekend somewhere is just not a reasonable proposition. And even with the doubling of my expected travel times both ways, 6 and 8 hours are not that far outside the travel times I’ve had to Memphis in the past (via flying into Nashville and driving to Memphis), or that far outside the typical fly to a hub, sit around for an hour or two layover, then fly to your destination model. You just have to be diligent to read everything, pack light, mentally prepare yourself for frustrations and shenanigans, and your schedule must be flexible. These are all easy things for me.
Would I recommend Allegiant to others?
Is it a trip you wouldn’t otherwise be able to go on?
Will it be a big problem if you arrive at your destination or back home several hours or maybe even a day late?
If your answers are yes and no, in that order, then I recommend Allegiant.
Is it a trip you can afford on a regular airline?
Do you have a very tight schedule or get easily upset?
If you answered yes or no, in that order, then I do not recommend Allegiant.
It may be a good idea to ask yourselves these questions when booking any budget airlines in order to save yourself some time and frustration.
What about you? Have you ever had a bad experience with Allegiant, or were you just fine with it? Would you ever fly them again? What about other budget airlines? Was it worth it to you? Let me know!