6 ways to improve your low-cost flight experience

Oct 31, 2021

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If you’ve managed to avoid flying a low-cost airline then you’ve done very, very well. Not only are airlines such as Spirit Airlines often the cheapest option, but sometimes a low-cost airline can be the best way to get where you want to go. So whether you actually don’t mind flying low-cost because you just need to get from A to B, or you despise them so much that you’d rather pay more to fly a full-service carrier, there are some ways you can improve your flying experience. We outline six of them, below.

In This Post

1. Use an Airport Lounge

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Believe it or not, lounges are for all — not just those passengers flying in business class, first class or passengers with elite status. They’re a great way to get away from the masses in larger airports. However, the quality of lounges depends greatly on the airport you’re flying from and the type of lounge you find yourself in. Before you travel, research the lounges that are available at your airport.

Let’s use Orlando International (MCO) as an example. The Club at MCO has an outlet in Terminal A (Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sunwing and Avelo) and Terminal B (Spirit Airlines, Volaris, WestJet, GOL and  Sun Country). For a $45 day pass, you get complimentary snacks and beverages, including beer, wine and premium spirits, newspapers, free Wi-Fi and space to work.

The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card both come with a Priority Pass membership, so you can use this perk to get into more than 1,300 lounges worldwide. Spending time relaxing in a lounge and having some decent food is a certainly a great alternative to paying for overpriced and often subpar airport food.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2021

2. Pay for Seat Selection

You can pay extra for a Big Front Seat on Spirit Airlines. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Paying for a seat can be an annoying additional extra cost when flying, especially when flying with a family or in a group. Some full-service carriers now even charge for seat selection. It could make sense to pay for a seat on your low-cost flight rather than being allocated a seat at random, as it will most definitely make your journey more comfortable.

The two main factors to consider are the proximity to the front and back of the plane, as low-cost airlines tend to board and deplane via both the front and the back. The closer you are to the doors, the quicker you can leave the plane once you’ve landed. Then there’s the issue of legroom. If you’re tall, then paying for an extra legroom seat will make a huge difference.

For Spirit Airlines, seat prices vary from $1 to $250. When deciding which seat to pay for, consider the amount that you paid for the ticket originally and whether or not the additional seat cost would add sufficient improvement to your journey.

(Screenshot courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

Related: Everything you should know before flying Spirit Airlines

Keep in mind that if you’re traveling as a family, some of the low-cost carriers offer preferred seat selection methods where you’ll be seated together without having to pay extra. Do your research to make sure you’re not overpaying for a benefit you’d otherwise get for free.

3. Use Fast Track Airport Security

TSA PreCheck is currently available in more than 200 U.S. airports. TSA recently announced that renewal fees for the popular program are falling from $85 to $70 — but only if completed online. The fee for new enrollments still remains $85.

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

You don’t have to remove your laptop from your bag, and you can keep your shoes on as well. And you get to walk through a regular metal detector rather than standing still with your hands up as you pose for the body scanner. And having PreCheck can significantly cut the amount of time you’re spending in the security line especially if you’re in crowded airports including Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) or JFK. If you get a Global Entry card, TSA PreCheck is included for free. Check your wallet — the fee could be covered by your credit card.

Related: Best credit cards for free Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

4. Bring your own Snacks

(Photo by pawaritsakolpap/Shuttersrock)

If you decide not to indulge in an airport lounge, then this might be something you should consider. Save yourself some money by popping into your local supermarket and buying snacks for your flight that will fit into your carry-on bag or personal item.

Don’t worry about having issues taking snacks like sandwiches, fruit or anything dry and packaged through with you. Then when you get on board, you won’t have to wait for the cart to arrive at your seat to then be subjected to subpar, overpriced food.

5. Check the Airline’s Baggage Policy

I’ve heard countless stories of people being held at the check-in desk or at the gate about to board a flight and being told that their bag is too big, meaning a last-minute charge for it to be placed in the hold. Unexpected charges like this are not great at either the start or end of your vacation. Luckily, it can be avoided — it just means doing a bit of research about the size and weight of carry-on luggage before you fly. And if you’re stuck with what you should be bringing, check out this guide for packing hacks when you’re flying with a low-cost carrier.

Related: 18 credit cards that get you free checked bags

6. Download Your Own Entertainment

One good thing about this online world we live in is that there is so much entertainment at our fingertips. Use this to your advantage and download the next episode of your favorite series or a couple of films if you know you’re about to take a low-cost flight. Low-cost airlines haven’t taken away tray tables (yet), so maybe get yourself a decent case for your device that will keep it propped up and then you’ll never be bored on a flight again.

Image courtesy of United.
(Photo courtesy of United)

Bottom Line

Flying with a low-cost carrier doesn’t mean you have to have a terrible experience. All it takes is a little bit of forward planning and research about your departure airport, the airline and the airport you will be arriving at. Who knows, you might even consider booking low-cost for your next trip rather than on a full-service carrier.

Additional reporting by Daniel Ross

Feature photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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