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6 ways to improve your low-cost flight experience

July 09, 2022
7 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

If you’ve managed to avoid flying a low-cost airline then you might be an outlier. Not only are airlines such as Frontier and Spirit often the cheapest option, but sometimes a low-cost airline can be the best way to get where you want to go.

Related: Why I (sometimes) choose to fly a budget airline over a full-service carrier

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If you do end up flying low-cost, there are some great ways to improve your otherwise bare-bones flying experience. We've outlined six of them below.

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Use an airport lounge

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Believe it or not, lounges are not just for 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. Of course, 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 Airport (MCO) as an example. The Club at MCO has outlets in Terminal A (home to Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sunwing and Avelo) and Terminal B (home to 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, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card all 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 certainly a great alternative to paying for overpriced and often subpar airport food.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2022

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 specific seat can be an annoying extra cost when flying, especially with a family or in a group, and it's one not limited to low-cost carriers these days. However, it could make sense to pay for a seat on your low-cost flight rather than being allocated a seat randomly, as it will most definitely make your journey more comfortable.

The two main factors to consider are the proximity of the seat 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 a seat with extra legroom 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 the additional seat cost would add sufficient improvement to your journey.

(Screenshot from 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.

Use fast-track airport security

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

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)(Photo by pawaritsakolpap/Shuttersrock)(Photo courtesy of United)
Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases