Allegiant and Spirit, Head to Head (Trip Report)

With Allegiant deciding to flee Long Beach at the end of this month, I sensed there was a unique experience that I would regret missing out on if I didn’t jump on it. I had the chance to fly Allegiant to Vegas and then Spirit back to LAX. This head-to-head comparison could be had for less than $50 total. Just to make things fun, I was determined to do it without paying a single fee. I almost succeeded.

Buying the Tickets
My first decision was to pick the day to go. I of course looked for the cheap days and the days where the flight times worked. Spirit keeps a fairly consistent schedule but Allegiant is all over the map. The morning flight on Wednesdays looked best, because it would give me 3 hours in Vegas to connect. I knew I needed a buffer in case Allegiant was delayed (and it was).

Spirit Allegiant Compare 1

I first went to AllegiantAir.com to buy my ticket. The website is a bit clunky but I found my flight on November 2 for $10.01. I declined the myriad of seat assignment fees, bag fees, car rentals, hotels, etc before finally getting to the final screen. My ticket had still ballooned from $10 to over $50. Why?

Spirit Allegiant Compare 2

Allegiant slaps on a “convenience” fee of $17 per ticket if you book online. The airline also snuck a transfer in on the website which I would have had to de-select. Knowing that I would be running by Long Beach Airport, I figured I’d just drop in and save the $17.

Tickets can be bought within an hour after every flight departure, but finding out when each flight departs wasn’t easy. I did figure it out, and it took me only 10 minutes to get ticketed so I was able to avoid a parking fee at the airport. Total ticket price was $20.71 with a mere $9.31 going to Allegiant and the rest to the feds.

With Spirit, I wasn’t so lucky. I went on the website and got the same kind of experience as Allegiant though the fees were displayed more clearly and the site looked more professional. On Spirit, there’s an $8.99 passenger usage fee each way, and I wasn’t about to drive up to LAX just to avoid that. I gave in and paid $28.69 for the trip with $8.37 going to Spirit for the fare plus $8.99 for the passenger usage fee. That was the only fee I’d pay on the whole trip.

Checking In
The day before departure, I went to check in for both flights. Allegiant just gave me an error message saying that since I hadn’t paid for an assigned seat, I couldn’t check in online. If I wanted to pay for a seat, I could call Allegiant. I knew that was the case, but this was very poor presentation. Why not let me pay right there? (Not that I was going to . . .)

Check In Error Allegiant

Spirit does things differently. When you check in, they try to upsell you more on bags, seats, etc. If you pass, then they just assign you a random seat, which is, of course, a middle. I ended up in seat 19B, printed my boarding pass, and I was set with them.

When I bought my Allegiant ticket, the people at the counter said it was a madhouse and people usually really did need to arrive 2 hours before departure. But they said that the Wednesday morning flight was lighter so I could get there 1.5 hours early and I’d be fine.

I parked on a side street off the airport and walked the 10 minutes into the terminal. Once there, I found nobody waiting at the Allegiant counter. I checked in and the first thing the agent said was that the flight was delayed “about 30 minutes.” Had Allegiant actually offered flight status on its website, I would have known this when I checked. Unfortunately, it just redirects to you FlightView and has no delay info. Boo. She then said the airplane was only half full so I’d have an easy time picking an open seat. I got my boarding pass, which was Z17 and went to wait at the gate.

The Flights
There is no Allegiant presence in the gate area – they just board from the Delta gate. When the airplane finally arrived, they started boarding and there was some confusion. First they did some pre-boarding for those who paid. Then they board those who paid for assigned seats (about 15 boarded). After that, they boarded families and then open seating in groups of 10.


November 2, 2011
Allegiant 551 Lv Long Beach 1005a Arr Las Vegas 1110a
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 23, Runway 12, Depart 54m Late
Las Vegas (LAS): Gate D1, Runway 1L, Arrive 51m Late
N868GA, McDonnell Douglas DC-9-83, New Darker Sun Allegiant livery, ~50% Full
Seat 9F
Flight Time 46m

I did the long walk to the airplane and saw it in shiny new paint. What a beauty, especially with the iconic Fly DC Jets sign in the background. I figured this might be the last chance I’d have to fly a Douglas aircraft out of its Long Beach home.

Walking to Allegiant MD-83

The interior was clean but the fixtures looked old. I loved it. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry and in the end, we left about an hour late. The Santa Ana winds were kicking up so I had the chance to experience my first departure from runway 12.

As you can see in the video, we took off like a rocket, and circled over Long Beach before heading toward Vegas. Being in the front of the airplane, I could hear nothing but the slipstream. I love that airplane. It’s so funny, because were I stuck sitting in the back next to the engine, I would have a very different opinion.

The flight was quick as we went by Disneyland and Ontario Airport. By the time we had passed over the Cajon Pass, the flight attendants had already done their beverage-only service. Sticking with my no-fee plan, I passed. Soon we were descending over the desert, and we landed straight in to the north.

Allegiant Seats

I got off the airplane and noticed that half of the D concourse we were using was fenced off. I took the train back to the main terminal and went through security at the B gates, where Spirit flew out of. This time, I opted for the Millimeter Wave scan instead of opting out, and they really have sped the process up dramatically. It was quite efficient.

By now, I had about 1.5 hours until my flight back, so I wandered. I strolled down the A concourse where Spirit uses a couple gates and US Airways uses a couple more. One whole part of it is fenced off and it’s really quite empty. (And THIS is an airport that’s building another terminal. Yeah, that’s a good idea.)

Vegas Closed D Gates

I went back to the B gates and found my airplane waiting there in the old black cube colors. I went up to the gate and asked if I could change my seat or if that would cost money. The agent laughed and said that no, he could change my seat at the gate without charge.

He asked if I wanted an exit row, and I stared at him wondering what the catch was. He said that it was again no charge at the gate – first come first served. And since the flight was less than half full, there wasn’t much demand.

Spirit No Carry On Boarding Pass

I parked myself in the empty gate area and waited until it was time to board. Spirit has a much more normal boarding process, using zones. They boarded zone 1 and 2 but apparently, that’s only for exit rows and people sitting in the Big Front Seats. Only three of us boarded.


November 2, 2011
Spirit 411 Lv Las Vegas 2p Arr Los Angeles 310p
Las Vegas (LAS): Gate B2, Runway 7L, Depart 8m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 67A, Runway 25L, Arrive 5m Early
N507NK, Airbus A319-132, Black Cubes Livery, ~30% Full
Seat 11F/9F
Flight Time 42m

The first thing I noticed was the advertising on the bulkhead, on the overhead bins, on the seatbacks…. It didn’t bother me , but the advertisers are certainly getting their money’s worth.

Spirit Advertisements Everywhere

I took my exit row seat and found it to be horribly uncomfortable. The seat lacked padding, as exit rows often do, and it felt like it was reclined forward. I moved up a couple rows to a standard row and found the seat pitch tight but it was for more comfortable. Certainly nothing that would bother me on a short flight like this.

But I couldn’t stay long. The flight attendant said that everyone had to sit in their assigned seats for weight and balance. Really? Ok, so I went back to my generous exit row legroom. I did notice that the seats were very well worn and there was a lot of junk in the seatback pockets, but it was just fine.

Spirit Seatback Ad

Soon, we were pushing back to take off, but then we sat. Other airplanes passed us to depart, so I assumed there was some sort of flow control delay into LA. The pilots never said anything and after about a 10 minute wait, we were on our way.

We had barely made the turn back toward LA after our westbound departure before the flight attendants started pitching the Spirit credit card. That was followed by a pass through the aisles asking if anyone wanted “purchased items.” Then they came back through and handed out credit card apps. Believe it or not, people actually took them.

Unlike on the Allegiant flight up, the Spirit pilots turned the seatbelt sign off quickly. As soon as they did, I headed back up a couple rows to the more comfortable seat.

After the early quick passes, the flight attendants went back to the galley while travelers slept or read. I just stared out the window as we headed toward LA.

It was an uneventful landing and we pulled in to our gate in the war zone known as Terminal 6 a few minutes early. Terminal 6 is under massive construction preparing for the Alaska move next year, and it’s a mess right now. My wife picked me up at the curb and we headed back down to Long Beach.

The Verdict
Both of these airlines gave great value for the money, and that’s no surprise. I mean, if you pay $48 roundtrip, it’s hard to get poor value as long as the flights get you there. Most of the things that bugged me could easily have been resolved by paying for an extra level of service. And that’s great. I’m more than happy to have the choice to pay for what I want. So, who was better?

While I loved the MD-80 ride on Allegiant, I have to give the nod to Spirit for being more polished. Spirit seemed to be more clear about the model throughout the entire process. The website was pretty easy to use and the nature of the product was very clear throughout the process. My biggest complaint about Allegiant is really on the operational side.

Allegiant has no flight status on its website so it’s impossible to know for sure if your flight is delayed unless you just look for an inbound flight on a flight tracking service. There’s no reason they have to be so difficult with those kinds of things. I also found Allegiant’s boarding process to be pretty confusing with some assigned seats and some open seating. The whole process just ran more smoothly on Spirit.

But in the end, both did a good job.

[See more photos from the trip]


32 Responses to Allegiant and Spirit, Head to Head (Trip Report)

  1. interesting comparo, Brett. that D concourse at LAS is rather new, why are gates closed off already? i know that some of the old concourses, where US used to dominate, are already emptying out but will be surprised to hear if that’s the case out in D.

    seems like allegiant should employ a few more web type people to get their online offerings more in line with spirit. i was very surprised to hear that an airline that loves to maximize ancillary fees would not sell you a seat assignment online when you went to “check in.” then again, maybe not many people try to check in online when they don’t have a seat assignment in the first place!

    also, i missed the “fly DC jets” in your pic, am i not looking closely enough? i still love what i assume is a takeoff on this sign, the old “fly DL jets” sign in ATL.

    • CF says:

      I’m sure they could move some airlines over from the old A and B gates into D if they wanted to force a move, but they haven’t. (Might it cost more?) So there is empty space in the D gates and it’s just closed off now.

    • CF says:

      Oh, and the Fly DC Jets sign wasn’t actually in the picture. Sorry.

    • Sanjeev M says:

      Also, Spirit originated as a full service airline with a real reservation system and such, so making the transition to ULCC left behind some legacies of “normal” airlines. I’m just still glad that Spirit is still in OTA’s and easily comparable online. Now what happened to the whole AA/Sabre brouhaha?

      Theoretically did LAS build a new terminal to upgrade the experience for international carriers? Cause the current T2 or whatever is probably fairly old. Even the Southwest C gates seem old to me. You would think in such a leisure focused place they would focus on controlling costs, with US all but gone and WN shifting focus to DEN.

      • CF says:

        Yes, T3 will have 14 gates and 6 for intl flights. Not sure why they couldn’t have just turned a part of A into an international terminal if they needed to ditch Terminal 2. Or they could have taken that mostly-unused concourse in D and relocated Allegiant’s gates to turn that into an international finger.

  2. Flying LAX-LAS is nothing, but both carriers fly multi hour flights using those same planes. Could you have traveled say 3 hours in your original seats?

    For fun did you figure out if you had purchased all the up sale fee items what that short round trip flight would have cost?

    I’ve checked out the Allegiant website and I never found it to be easy to use or to give basic info people would need.

    • CF says:

      Yeah, I could have traveled for longer in those seats without any trouble. Well, I take that back. The exit row would have really been painful but the regular seats were fine.

      I have no idea how much it would have cost had I bought all the ancillary offerings in advance, but if you add in hotels, transfers, activities, etc, it can get big quickly.

  3. Roger says:

    Was the “crying baby” class on Allegiant a free upgrade or did you have to pay :-)

  4. robert says:

    I have to question @ 50% and 30% full how long are these guys going to survive on these routes @ these prices … great review though – many thanks ..

    • Just because the flights were not full on that Wednesday doesn’t mean other flights/days are not full.

      Allegiant/Spirit are not the type of carriers who would stick around a market/day/time if there was no money to be make.

    • CF says:

      This is a VERY off peak time for travel – midday on a Wednesday in early November is about as dead as it gets. So I’m not shocked at the loads. But, Allegiant is pulling out of Long Beach, so that says something. The jury is still out on how this will work for Spirit.

  5. These low cost airlines make me laugh, they start off low cost then they just add on all kinds of different fees and you end up paying the same amount as you would for a non low cost airline….go figure!

    • Hunter says:

      I think that was CF’s point with this trial. Yes, if you add on services and up-sells, your price might come close to the more “mainstream” carriers. But, if all you want is a seat from A to B, these carriers offer you the opportunity to pay for what you want. Nothing more, nothing less.

  6. A says:

    Very interesting since I don’t have a hometown opportunity to fly either of these guys. Clearly it looks like both are going after the European model of cheap seats and then making money on everything else. That’s fine, but with planes that aren’t full?!? I’m just not seeing how this business model will work without packing those planes 100% full. Clearly the only people that made anything off CF’s flights were the feds with their taxes/fees.

    I’m not particularly a fan of cheap air travel. A R/T flight that would cost more in gasoline to drive just sends the wrong message. No wonder all the references to cattle and glorified buses. I highly doubt that 40 years from now there will be a TV drama called “Allegiant.” Ok, maybe, but it’ll be a comedy.

  7. I have to wonder how much future airline revenue will come from ads on aircraft. I would imagine we’ll see more and more of it. Why not? “Free” TV is funded by advertisers. So are many Internet websites. You can’t watch or go to a sporting event without seeing a bunch of advertising (a long tradition; look at pictures of Ebbets Field). Diamondbacks home runs are given the name of a sponsor. Chase Field also has a Circle K sponsored “K” sign to indicate the number of strikeouts by D-backs pitchers. Even Sun Devil Stadium has billboards galore. So why should it be any different for airlines?

    • I don’t think the economics can hold. A TV show can be shown to millions. An A380 can only fit a fraction of that. On the other hand Family Airlines might succeed at this.

  8. JayB says:

    Based on your observations, somebody is actually flying these airlines. But, how did these people actually get to take these flights…why? Would be fascinating to interview each passenger.

    When you look at their websites, you wonder…what business are these companies(?) in? Flying people? Are they really airlines?

    Anyone pay the $59.99 to become a member in the “$9 Fare Club,” providing “access” to Member only fares, SOMETIMES as low as $9?

    To each his or her own, I guess!

    • David M says:

      Allegiant is a travel services company. Note the company name is Allegiant Travel Co. and a while back they changed their Twitter account from @allegiantair to @allegianttravel. When they moved their headquarters from Fresno to Las Vegas, the business model became to focus on packages with things like hotels and shows that they’d get a commission on, rather than air-only tickets.

    • CF says:

      I did listen to people in the gate area to see if I could pick up anything. On the way out, there were definitely a couple girls that looked like strippers. I was sitting in the boarding area next to three elderly people going to Vegas for a couple days. I’m sure they picked this time because they were retired and this was cheap.

      On Spirit, there were a handful of guys behind me who were British – probably on a long American vacation and heading on to LA. There were also a few Asian tourists who didn’t seem to speak English very well. At least, I hope that’s why the guy got up during the safety demo despite the flight attendants politely but forcefully telling him to sit down.

  9. David M says:

    One thing that doesn’t quite hold up is that you were able to avoid baggage fees on Spirit. Since this was just a day trip, you didn’t have any bags at all, but most people are going to end up paying either to check or carry on. The only other traveller I think could avoid the fee would be someone on a weekend trip to Vegas (or similar) that’s smart enough to fit everything in a small bag that fits under the seat, and thus doesn’t have to pay the carry on fee.

    I think what gets me about Spirit is their executives who have been shown to be hostile to their customers (remember the leaked emails from a while back?) Their marketing department also tends to skew towards the tasteless, though they’re likely doing that intentionally because they’ve found it gets them attention.

    I haven’t flown either, but I wonder if I’d be tempted to pay for an advance seat assignment on Allegiant to ensure that I don’t get stuck in the back by the engine. Wouldn’t be an issue on a Spirit Airbus.

  10. Ron says:

    I tried the same trick of buying tickets at the Allegiant counter at LGB, but in the 5 days it took me to get there the fare went up, so it would have been more economical to have paid the convenience fee with the original fare. Ticketing wasn’t quite professional — the agent said she didn’t need the infant’s name, though later I saw there wasn’t an infant on the reservation and I had to call Allegiant to add him. While ticketing itself was quick, I was there with my 5-year-old and we ended up at Legends, so I did pay for parking (plus a food tab).

    Anyway, the trip itself is in a week, if there’s anything interesting I’ll add a comment then.

    • Ron says:

      Unrelated (or loosely related) — yesterday I flew out of the new jetBlue trailer at LGB and found it to be quite pleasant. I actually like how they separated the concessions from the gate area, though I might feel differently about it when it rains…

  11. ptahcha says:

    Interesting that Allegiant charges for using the website but not ticketing in person. Most other airlines, including JetBlue, charges for NOT using the website instead.

    • David M says:

      Allegiant charges the fee for the option most people will use. Very few people will go to the airport to avoid paying the fee, so they get the most fee revenue by charging for online purchases rather than for airport ticketing.

  12. tharanga says:

    Spirit’s webpage looks professional in comparison to something else? I shudder. The spirit webpage looks quite intentionally kitschy, perhaps to reinforce the idea that this is the cheap airline.

  13. Mike says:

    Cranky,

    weight and balance is especially an issue when flying with small loads and no cargo. (sounds like your scenario?).
    obviously the plane will still fly if you change your seat but i am sure you appreciate the crew operating by the book.
    can actually be that on low-load flights certain seats are assigned last to make sure its inside the envelope and the FAA would be happy if they made their checks…

    • CF says:

      I understand that weight and balance can be an issue, but I find it hard to believe that me moving from the exit row forward 2 rows is going to change anything. That’s fine – wasn’t an issue anyway, but still sounded goofy.

  14. I would fly with either. As long as you get to your final destination. They sound no different than any other airline in my opinion.

  15. Ron says:

    Hi Cranky,

    I said I’d add a comment if there was something interesting on my Allegiant flight. Can there be an Allegiant flight without something interesting happening? Here’s the trip report.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011, Allegiant 336. Leave Los Angeles (LAX), gate 65, scheduled 14:15, actual 15:27; arrive Springfield-Branson (SGF), gate 2, scheduled 19:35, actual 20:32. Aircraft N876GA (MD-80), row 16, 99% full. We decided to purchase seats this time because Allegiant no longer assigns seats at the airport but rather has open seating after all the preassigned seats have boarded; we really wanted to sit together at the front of the plane, given our miserable previous MD-80 experience sitting between the engines. We were 2 adults, 2 paid children and a lap child, so we tried for a full row, booking seats A,C,D,F in the hope that nobody would book the middle E seat. Online check-in (available only with pre-purchased seats) was a breeze — a lot easier than with other airlines, since they don’t offer to change seats, add bags, or upsell you in other ways (hey, Allegiant, you’re leaving money on the table!). We got just 4 boarding passes, and not even an indication that there was a lap child. My only recent experience of traveling domestically with a lap child was on jetBlue, who did issue a boarding pass to the lap child, so I wanted to make sure this wasn’t a mistake. I went to the “Contact Us” page on Allegiant’s web site and chose the “Chat Live” option, and the agent assured me that this is fine, TSA will allow a lap child without a boarding pass (which turned out to be correct).

    We arranged with my wife’s brother to pick up our car a couple of hours after we left, so we parked at the very convenient P6 garage, crossed the bridge to the terminal (then waited about 5 minutes for the elevator), and headed straight to security with 3 children, 3 carry-ons, 3 personal items, 3 car seats, and a stroller (all of which would go in the cabin, except for the gate-checked stroller). Terminal 6 is under renovation and the elevator to the TSA checkpoint is not functioning, but by the time we found out we had spent long enough in line that we just took the baby out of the stroller and used the escalator (the alternative would have been to go over to the end of the line in Terminal 7). The Allegiant information board is very old-school — just a plastic sign showing their two gates, with slots that hold cards with the next destination served from each gate. There was no agent at the gate (they only get there after they close the ticket counter), and no plane either. When the agent finally arrived there was no functioning PA system, so everyone had to come up individually and ask about the delay (about 30 minutes due to the inbound coming late). In due time the plane arrived, then everyone rushed to the gate (us included), because Allegiant’s stated policy is that if you miss your designated boarding time, your pre-purchased seat is up for grabs. The absence of a working PA system didn’t make things easier.

    Boarding was in the following order: first people needing assistance, then people who had paid for priority boarding, then people with seat assignments — and we were among the first in that group. We quickly settled into our row, putting the baby into the window seat F in his aircraft-approved car seat (first time we’d ever done this, and it’s much better than the plane’s lap belt for constraining the baby and containing his damage). The plane was pretty full, but nobody claimed our occupied middle seat. They were making some announcements on the PA which were barely audible, and a very stressed flight attendant kept going up and down the aisle until he finally asked us if the baby was a lap child, and then he told us that we should have identified him as such when they were making the announcement (which we couldn’t hear). Apparently they were counting bodies to make sure the number on the plane corresponded with the manifest. Then the pilot came on the PA and said that on top of the inbound delay there was a mechanical delay due to something wrong with the oxygen regulator. We finally pushed back almost 1:15 hours late, taxied quickly to runway 25R and took off making a very tight counterclockwise turn, heading northeast over the Palos Verdes peninsula with the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to our right. The flight itself was uneventful. We had brought food but consumed it all at the gate, so we got some extra snacks at the terminal, but it turned out that Allegiant’s on-board offerings were better priced than at Hudson News (good to know for future reference). We landed at Springfield-Branson on runway 20 about an hour late and quickly made it to the gate, and soon after we were out on the road in our shiny rental car.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011, Allegiant 337. Leave Springfield-Branson (SGF), gate 2, scheduled 20:15, actual 20:31; arrive Los Angeles (LAX), gate 63, scheduled 21:50, actual 23:09 (with a fuel stop). MD-80, row 14, 95-99% full (depending on how you count, see below). We got to the airport about 2 hours before the scheduled departure, returned the car and gave the agent all the bottled water we didn’t drink during our trip (thanks, TSA), and then went to the empty check-in line (no online check-in this time because we didn’t have internet access during the trip). Again we got just 4 boarding passes, none for the baby; the agents commented that we were likely to not have a seat for the baby because they’re almost full — 147 of 150 (ahem, we’d be happy with just one spare seat, thank you). We spent some time outside security rearranging our stuff and drinking our remaining liquids. Springfield-Branson has a brand new terminal, which features a live FlightView monitor that tracks the position of all the flights to and from the airport (also available on the airport’s web site). It was showing just three flights: our inbound plane somewhere over northern Texas, a recently departed Delta flight to Atlanta, and a much delayed United Express flight that was just leaving Chicago (even though according to schedule it should have already been on the way back). We went through a nearly empty security line, and settled down at the opposite gate to our flight, given that our gate was quite packed.

    The inbound plane arrived on time, and just as at LAX, everybody rushed to the gate because people were afraid of losing their assigned seats (now that’s a cattle call). This time they let us in with the priority boarders on account of the baby, though they did make sure we had assigned seats. We took our row as before with the baby in the car seat at F, but shortly after settling in there was a surprise — somebody had actually paid for the middle seat E! We quickly asked that passenger if she would mind switching to seat A to which she duly agreed; I think she got a good deal — due to the 2-3 configuration, seat A is no farther than the aisle than seat E, and it has the advantage of also having a window and being seated next to a fairly small child (that passenger was definitely wider than the seat). We moved our 5-year-old into the car seat (he barely fit in), put the baby on the lap, and asked the flight attendants if they could find a spare seat, anywhere on the plane, to which I could move.

    Meanwhile the pilot came on the PA and announced that despite our expected on-time departure we would be very late coming into LAX because we needed a fuel stop. The long runway at Springfield-Branson (14/32) was being resurfaced (and had been for months), and due to a full passenger load and 150-mph headwinds, the plane needed a lot of fuel which would make it too heavy to take off from the shorter runway (2/20). So we were to take a minimal amount of fuel, fly over to Northwest Arkansas (XNA), and refuel there for the flight to L.A. This was supposed to set us back an hour. Later I talked to a flight attendant who said that this was quite common, there’s about a 50-50 chance of needing a fuel stop, depending on factors such as passenger load, headwinds, and ground temperature. The need for fuel stops would be eliminated with the reopening of the longer runway (which is 1000 feet longer).

    Shortly before pushing back, a flight attendant came and told me I could move to the very first bulkhead row, seat 4A. The whole row was unoccupied, with signs saying “reserved”, but she said it was OK for me to sit there. I couldn’t get a clear explanation of why the seats were left empty, and I don’t see how they can fit 147 passengers on board while keeping a whole row unoccupied. I can’t find a reliable seat map of Allegiant aircraft (SeatGuru maps are wrong, as are the maps on Allegiant’s web site), but the configuration is similar to that of SAS MD-80s. Rows are numbered from 4 to 36, skipping row 13, with a galley in the back that takes out about 5 rows on the port side (10 seats), leaving 2 rows behind the galley. If my calculation is correct, there should be 150 physical seats on the aircraft, so the only explanation is that the 147 passengers include the 5 ghosts in the bulkhead row. At any rate, I was happy to have this seat, though it wasn’t nearly as quiet as I remembered from flying upfront on a Delta MD-88 (perhaps my seat was occupied by a ghost after all).

    We pushed back 16 minutes after schedule, took off from runway 20, and after 20 minutes in the air we landed at Northwest Arkansas, where we parked at gate B10, the same gate Allegiant uses for flights serving the airport (see my comment on Cranky’s post from 2009-06-08). We were parked for just over 40 minutes, during which the empty bulkhead row served as the line for the lavatory (since people are not allowed to congregate near the cockpit even when the plane is on the ground). We left the airport without a safety demo — I gather this is not required after a fuel stop? Being separated from the kids by a good 9 rows, I promptly fell asleep and woke up on approach to LAX. We landed on runway 25L about 1:20 hours late, and within 10 minutes were at gate 63. As everyone was pushing forward to deplane, I was moving backwards to help my family with the bags; then they announced the jet bridge wasn’t operative and we would be deplaning from the aft stairway (cool). We deplaned onto the ramp and got into the terminal from a door next to gate 65, then quickly walked through a rather empty LAX to Terminal 7 and its functioning elevator, and were met by my wife’s brother who brought our car back.

    Overall impressions: Each leg was delayed by over an hour, for different reasons. On my previous trip, one of the legs was delayed by two hours. Still, I would happily fly Allegiant again. The part of Arkansas where my wife’s relatives live is about equidistant from Little Rock (LIT), Northwest Arkansas (XNA), and Springfield-Branson (SGF), and these were the airports we used for our last three trips (previously we had also flown into Memphis when we got a great fare for a non-stop flight on that airline with the compass). Of the three airports, Little Rock is by far the largest but it doesn’t have non-stop service to Los Angeles, and when we flew there we were delayed for 5 hours by a thunderstorm at Houston (IAH); this makes Allegiant’s delays sound quite reasonable. So for my specific needs, Allegiant provides the most convenient flights. Their schedule is somewhat restrictive (twice a week to each of XNA and SGF), but it suited us. And they also have a cost advantage — at $250 round-trip per person including taxes and fees, they were $150 cheaper per person ($600 total) than any other airline flying to any area airport. Given the offering of non-stop flights and low fares, I’m willing to accept their delays, pay their fees (only for what I need), and work with their limited schedule.

    • “We left the airport without a safety demo — I gather this is not required after a fuel stop?” AFAIK, since no one got on or off (did they even open the plane’s doors?) everyone still had the safety info.

      There are bunches of variations allowed, I know you can take off without the part on using an oxygen mask, as long as passengers get this info before 10,000 feet. Yup, that means while the plane is climbing the flight attendants get out in the aisle and demo the masks.

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