Anatomy of Allegiant’s Ancillary Revenue

We’ve talked a lot about how much money Allegiant is able to make on ancillary revenue, but for those who haven’t flown the airline, I thought I’d give you some insight into how they pull this off.

My cousin and aunt flew from Oakland to Eugene last week, and my cousin sent me a copy of his itinerary with the fare breakdown. The basic airfare was $156 for two, but by the time they were finished, it came out to $387.40. Here’s the breakdown.

Allegiant Ancillary Revenue

The government taxes and fees are standard, of course, so they should have expected to pay $196.40 on most airlines. But here’s where things start piling up.

  • Prepaid Bags – Each of them brought one bag and they paid for it in advance. That’s $15 per bag each way for a total of $60.
  • Seat Selection Fee – You can just get assigned a seat at the airport, but if you want to reserve one in advance, you’ll pay $13 each way per person.
  • Priority Boarding – You will have your seat assigned by the time you board, so for $5 each way, you simply get to hop on early and claim your bin space.
  • Convenience Fee – You’ll pay $14 per person to book online or via the phone. The only way to avoid this fee is if you buy your ticket at the airport. I’m not sure why it came out to $27 instead of $28 here.
  • Trip Flex – For $15 per person, you can have unlimited name changes until the day before departure. If you don’t purchase this option, it will cost $50 per name change at a later date. This is unique to Allegiant since nobody else will let you change names at all.

As you can see, this adds up quickly. My cousin noted:

I think that a few of the fees we didn’t necessarily have to pay (eg – priority boarding, and checking bags if we had carried on).

I wondered about that and looked at the booking process myself. They do not make it easy to opt out of some of these fees, in particular the priority boarding and seat selection fees. The checkboxes come pre-checked, and if you click the small link to uncheck them, it pops something up suggesting that you really shouldn’t do that. So you really do have to pay close attention when booking on this airline to make sure you’re not paying more than you bargained for.

And this isn’t even all the money they can extract from you. This doesn’t include the cost of food and drink on the plane. They also ran a raffle onboard that I’m sure nets them some cash as well. It also doesn’t include the money they can make from hotel and car rental bookings. Even with all these fees, I think my cousin sums it up quite well.

I think that the price may have still added up to less than a regular United flight out of SFO.

23 Responses to Anatomy of Allegiant’s Ancillary Revenue

  1. Dan says:

    I don’t have any objection to the ala-carte theory of pricing in principle. In fact, as former NW elite, (who doesn’t get priority seating and boarding anymore) the idea of paying a few $$$ for an exit row and early boarding to guarantee my overhead bin space sits well with me. What bugs the @#$@ is when they start unbundling fees that are unavoidable — such as the “convenience fee” for booking your ticket on the web.

  2. Dan says:

    And I recognize that you can avoid that fee by purchasing your ticket at the airport… but come on, who’s going to do that? Does Allegiant have ticketing staff available at the airport 7 days per week, or only at days and times the flights are departing?

  3. KP says:

    Our family has flown on Allegiant twice this year so far. The $5 fee is a complete and total rip off since they never announce *any* priority boarding, simply saying if you need extra assistance you can board early. And, no, Allegiant’s counters are not manned 24/7, only on the days they fly and with limited hours–so that makes them a zoo if you were to go in person to make your reservation, plus you’d have to pay for parking at the airport. The seat selection fee is variable, depending where on the plane you want to sit and what flight you take. And, yes, it all does add up very quickly making their claim of a low fare not so low any more. The only advantages to them for where we live is a direct flight to our destination and the smaller airports that they use (much easier and less time consuming to negotiate than the big ones).

  4. David SFeastbay says:

    Your family still got a gooo deal as just checking now a UA SFO-EUR-SFO with a 21 day advance purchase and a saturday night stay would be $403.20 inc tax/surcharges per person.

    DAN the Allegiant website does show ticket counter operation times for major cities. An example if you are in Los Angeles and it’s a Tuesday you can only ticket at the airport between 5am and 10am. So if the ticket had to be purchased Tuesday you may have to purchase online and pay the fee. Which could be worth it compared to fighting the mess getting to/from LAX, paying for parking, and only being able to do it between 5am-10am assuming you booked in advance to still make that time frame. Smaller outline cities must only have someone at the counter close to flight time on the day of flight. So they pretty much got you by the wallet on this fee.

  5. BAP says:

    Right down to the raffle this is a Ryanair clone in the USA. I will have to go try them one day and do a comparison trip report :-) Do they have any advertising in the cabins of their aircraft?

  6. JK says:

    I’m sure the airline’s response to all this is: “That’s what our customers want.” Oh? Says who? Aren’t there about 122 different “convenience” fees airlines could charge if they really wanted to?

    But, what are these people thinking? Maybe they think they’re a phone company. My land-line phone bill (Verizon), which typically is less than $40 a month, in the “Breakdown of Charges,” has 4 line items for “Voice Services,” and 9 line items under “Taxes, Fees, & Other Charges.” But, the majority, if not all of the latter line items are federal or state required, not service-provided or “convenience” fees. Besides, this is a monopoly.

    I see no end to this fee, add-on, fee, add-on, convenience charge, whatever, until customers somehow demand that the price of a ticket cover the basic things, without which service could not be rendered. This would include a reservation, a ticket, an agreement and means to pay the provider, a boarding, a seat, air to breathe in the cabin, water, a rest room, and a de-boarding. While I may wish the price would include the handling of one or more bags, and food, that might have to be at an additional expense, unless the trip is of more than certain hours’ duration and failure to provide would likely cause physical harm.

  7. D. Capitated says:

    On one hand, I see the complaints about a lot of these things, and man, I sympathize on some level. Does it suck that we don’t get a meal on a plane anymore without paying for it? Sure it does. Do I think its unfortunate that baggage fees have come and stayed with us? Yup.

    However, I honestly no longer see that what Allegiant does is some how independent of the major carriers. They’ll copy what steps here that they haven’t already in due time. In essence, I’ve seen or felt no actual difference flying the LCCs in Europe or here in the states (including Skybus) versus flying the big carriers…unless, of course, you’re a frequent flyer with elite status. Actually, I take that back. Air Berlin had better service than any coach class carrier I’ve flown in the last 15 years. But I digress.

    Simple truth: most Americans aren’t elite with Skyteam or Star Alliances. None of them have any logical vested interest in making sure you get the exit row thanks to the other crappy flights you’ve taken. For the rest of us, its not so bad on occasion to be actually able to spend a couple bucks and get some legroom in the otherwise uncomfortable and bland aluminum tubes floating around North America these days. Trust me. Stuff like “priority boarding” goes either way. I typically don’t bother with it, regardless of the situation. I prefer to save the money and stand over by where the line’s gonna form. Its your call. I mean, would you even actually need it if the plane’s only 76% full?

  8. jbb says:

    “Your family still got a gooo deal as just checking now a UA SFO-EUR-SFO with a 21 day advance purchase and a saturday night stay would be $403.20 inc tax/surcharges per person.”

    But on AS its only $220

  9. ASFLYER says:

    I think your wrong about the name change – Alaska Airlines allows a name change for $100.00 you advised that no other airline allowed a name change.

  10. Andy in NC says:

    That nane change is interesting. Is it like buying the option to resell the ticket? (People don’t plan spelling mistakes and legally change the name at most once in their lifetimes)

  11. Voyager0927 says:

    The use of add-on fees for extra privileges is a business decision to be made by a given carrier. What I find distasteful is the deception that Allegiant resorts to in order to get its customers to make use of these extras.

    Advance seat selection and priority boarding are included as a default setting, so you must manually opt of them. You need to read the fine print carefully to figure out how to opt out of advance seat selection, which involves a counter-intuitive process of clicking the “Change” button twice for each individual passenger on each flight segment. Then, when you try to remove priority boarding, you get a pop-up window that says “Don’t Remove Priority Boarding!” accompanied by a veiled threat that there might not be room for your carry-on bags if you do.

    (In fairness, you can also click on a hyperlink to remove all of these extras at once, though the small size and out-of-the-way location of this link caused me to miss it completely the first time I tried a dummy booking, and you still are faced with the pop-up window threatening that all carry-on space might be filled by the time you board. )

    Charging these fees in the first place is one thing, but tricking your customers into purchasing these extras by forcing them to opt out — if they can even figure out how to opt out — is just despicable.

  12. CF says:

    Dan – As David SF said, they only let you purchase tickets at certain times. You can see the list for their focus cities here:
    http://www.allegiantair.com/AllegiantAirportTicketPurchaseHours.php

    But if you’re in a non-focus city (eg any small town they serve), ticketing can only be done for one hour after each scheduled departure. It’s very restrictive, but having that option does apparently allow them to charge the convenience fee.

    KP – Yeah, the base seat assignment is $13 but for premium/exit row seats, you’ll have to pay more. That, however, is the same as on other airlines.

    BAP – They do have some. From their Blue Man Group sponsorship press release: “The Allegiant Air fleet features Blue Man Group branded cups, napkins, overhead bins, service carts and in-flight crew uniforms.”

    David SF/jbb – It was a good deal. This was over July 4th weekend.

    ASFLYER – Where do they state that? It’s not in the fare rules that I saw, and it specifically says in the Alaska contract of carriage that tickets are non-transferable.

    Andy in NC – Yep, that’s how it works. Allegiant can do this because they fly nearly 100% leisure passengers. Since most of their passengers book way in advance, they aren’t making a bunch of money on last minute walk up fares. They also fill their planes over 90% on average, so this is a way for them to make extra money, even if you give your ticket to someone else.

  13. David SFeastbay says:

    I admire Allegiant for what it is doing route wise and targeting the leisure market, it seems to work for them. That said I wonder how many of these leisure travelers just assume they have to pay all those fees. Since most leisure travelers travel in at least pairs, paying a seat fee in advance gives them peace of mind that they will be sitting together. A single traveler may not care and just want to save the money.

    As with all optional fees it’s up to each person to decide what is important to them. But I agree people shouldn’t be ‘tricked’ into a fee.

  14. KP says:

    Actually, (sorry to correct you about this CF), the cost per seat assignment is highly variable and obviously depends on what airports you fly into and out of. For example, we paid $9 per seat and $11 per seat for different flights earlier this year. Again, it depended on which airports we used. And, yes, you’re right, that it does go up from there (I think the front rows were even higher than the exit rows) and we’re too cheap to pay much more than that ’cause it gets expensive quickly when you pay for an entire family to travel…

  15. CF says:

    KP – No need to apologize. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong! I was just going off the seat map I pulled up, so I didn’t think about it being variable by airport. I suppose that makes a lot more sense. I would be willing to pay more for a 3+ hour flight than I would on a one hour flight. Thanks for correcting me.

  16. atomsareenough says:

    i tried to fly allegiant once, and it was a painful experience all around. since i’m near the airport and i didn’t want to pay the “convenience” fees, i went to the ticket counter, and the guy took my credit card info and told me i’d get an email confirmation… but i didn’t get one, so i had to go back AGAIN the next week to make sure the ticket was actually booked. i don’t think it had been, but after i went the second time, i did eventually get my confirmation email, with a booking that was dated the same as my second visit to the ticket counter.

    when the day of my flight came around, they canceled it at the last minute due to “weather”, without any warning, and i only found out when i showed up for the flight. they said that they would operate a makeup flight 24 hours later (saturday evening), but as it was a short, 3-day weekend trip and i had made hotel and rental car reservations, it would have ruined the trip. allegiant doesn’t interline, so they couldn’t book us on another carrier, and they wouldn’t give me a refund. the station manager said the only thing he could tell me was to call their customer service phone number. i ended up buying tickets on another airline instead and took my trip. and good thing, too, because it turns out that the “saturday” makeup flight they had promised didn’t actually happen until their scheduled sunday evening flight, which would have completely killed the whole point of my weekend trip. thankfully i wasn’t in the middle of my trip when this happened.

    anyway, i ended up shelling out a lot more money paying a walkup fare at another airline, but i made my trip. and after numerous phone calls and emails (on the phone they kept telling me to email their customer service, and they would email me telling me to call the phone number), i did eventually get my refund about a month and a half later. it was like pulling teeth to do so, though.

    so, bottom line, i suppose allegiant can be a good deal assuming everything goes right, but you should really be aware that should something go wrong, their bare-bones operation can end up costing you a lot of money and frustration, because they really won’t do anything to help you out, and they really don’t want to give you your money back.

  17. Ron says:

    Cranky, you should have pointed your cousin to my comment on your post from Feb 20 regarding the booking process (and how difficult it is to get rid of the extras), and to my comment on your post from June 8 regarding the trip experience (and why advance seat assignment and priority boarding make no sense). I just have a little to add on top of those comments.

    Since all seats are assigned (if not pre-purchased, they’re assigned at check-in), there’s little point in buying seats, especially if you’re traveling in a group — they seat groups together on the day of the flight, before check-in opens. And they will change your seat assignment upon request at check-in, all you need to do is arrive at the airport before the crowd. Also because seats are assigned, the only advantage of priority boarding is overhead bin space; but since priority boarding requires a purchased seat, it’s actually cheaper to check a bag than to buy a seat + priority. And at least in one airport (XNA), priority means you’ll spend the longest time in the dreary tunnel, waiting to board. @KP — my experience is that they did board the priorities first when the plane was full (at XNA), but not when it was 1/3 empty (at LAX).

    When I bought my tickets online I was not charged a convenience fee; my guess is that’s because I bought it before they had any flights from LAX and thus weren’t selling tickets there. Personally, since I work near LAX, if I fly them again I’d probably just leave 30 minutes early and buy the tickets on my way to work — better pay $3 or $5 to park at Terminal 6 than pay a convenience fee for 4 people.

    Trip flex — unless you think there’s a good chance you’ll cancel and you have an alternate person lined up to replace you, I think $15 is a fairly large up-front fee to protect a potential loss of $50.

    One more thing: when I flew I rented child car seats from the car rental company because I assumed Allegiant would charge me for checking them or charge me more for gate-checking them (their web site is not clear on this point). A friend of mine later flew LAX-WIC and back on Allegiant, and they checked the child car seats free of charge. I don’t know if it’s official policy or if the agent was just being nice.

    Anyway, the big advantage of Allegiant for me is non-stop service to destinations that otherwise require a connection._

  18. David SFeastbay says:

    I decided to read the Allegiant FAQ section of their website and saw that ever if you paid for a seat in advance they can cancel it if you don’t check in as least 60 minutes before your flight. I might not have thought about that since they say their check in counter closes 45 minutes before flight time. At a small outline city I bet people don’t think they have to arrive 60 minutes before a flight and could lose their paid seat or know the counter closes 45 mins ahead of the flight and not be able to travel. People tend to not read or pay attention to what is sent them or told to them.

  19. Nate says:

    Cranky ->

    The convenience fee is actually $13.50 for booking online, and yes, free at the airport, if and when someone is actually there to sell you a ticket.

    The Trip Flex fee is more than just a name change, its also for changing the flight. Otherwise, the change fee is $50. I’ve used this many times and its saved me a lot.

    Regarding Priority Boarding, this only “helps” people in rows 3 – 20ish. The idea is to get on and snag overhead bin space. If you are EVER in rows 3 – 10, kiss your carry-on goodbye. It just won’t fit.

    What we do is get the exit row for $15 each, and that alleviates the need for priority boarding.

    We fly Allegiant frequently between our two basis and its interesting to note that on our Knoxville/Ft. Lauderdale flights, its a good mix of leisure and business. I’ve sat next to the same guy 3 times now. Its such a joy for us to NOT have to stop in Charlotte or Atlanta on this route.

  20. Its the “convenience fee” that sticks my gullet, they charge us to book online (saving them people costs), book by phone (the cost is our call?), and then they charge you $14 PER person to do so, they have saved costs once then dupe you again..$189 over the top of your so called fare is a bit to rich in fact it is nearly double and it is really in Sheriff of Nottingham territory, but the $5 a toilet trip isn’t on there yet like Ryanair, makes you want to do it in the aisle anyway just to get your money’s worth.

  21. Really? says:

    @ Stephen Dutton:
    So, you actually think you would get your money’s worth by eliminating in the aisle?????

  22. Really? says:

    @ atomsareenough:
    Seems Allegiant’s Magic Weather Wand wasn’t working the day of your flight…….

  23. atomsareenough says:

    @ Really?:

    there wasn’t any weather at either the origin or destination airport, which is why i put “weather” in quotes. that was their stated excuse, but i didn’t see anything which corroborated it. certainly nothing that merited canceling the flight.

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