Budget Airlines

Are they worth it?

In short, no.

I flew a budget airline once and said never again. Fast forward a year later to me sitting on another budget airline.. I’ve obviously forgotten my promise to myself. From then on I vowed to never go on a budget airline. They are well known for their cheap plane tickets. The price may seem low at first but once you start to add up the fees, are they really cheaper than regular cost carriers?

Budget airlines try to sell you on the “no frills” package. They say that boarding passes, luggage, customer service, etc., are all things that add to the cost of airline tickets. By taking those away, they can reduce the price of the actual ticket. You pay less because you get less.

Because the airlines are el cheap-o, staff is paid el minimum-o. Staff is cut to a minimum as well to save $$. Those remaining are forced to do the work of 2 or 3 people for a small wage.. talk about job satisfaction.

Budget airlines fly into airports that are generally off the beaten path. “Ryanair strives so hard to avoid the main Paris airports that they choose to fly 80 kilometres north into a different region of France.” Airports charge landing fees and this fee can be cheaper at less well known airports. According to an article published by the LA Times, the landing fees at LAX were just increased from $3.35 per 1,000 pounds of landed weight to $3.85. In order to avoid high fees, budget airlines take their landing business elsewhere.

If you choose to fly via budget airline and want service and luggage to be the same as any other airline, you have to pay a fee. One of the areas where the fees start to add up are baggage fees. For this example we will be looking at Spirit Airlines domestic flight fees.


Take the flights from Chicago to Washington D.C. for example. The cheapest roundtrip ticket on a regular cost airline is Delta at $230 while the initial price for 1 round trip ticket is $120 on the budget airline Spirit. When booking a flight, the price you see is the “bare fare”. This fare includes a small purse or laptop bag. If you need any more baggage, be prepared to pay for it.

A carry on bag is $37 if you purchase it when booking on the website. These prices are one way. Chances are you will be flying back with the bag so add another $37 and you have = $74.
It is actually cheaper to check a bag. A checked bag is $30 so round trip is $60.
If you forget to add your luggage when buying the flight, that’ll be an extra $10 (each way). Total for checked: $80. Carry on: $94
If you want to add a bag at the airport, add another $20. Total for checked: $100. Carry on: $114.

Let that sink in. $114 extra to fly round trip with a carry on. Luggage that is already included on regular cost carriers.

Those prices are cheap IF you purchase luggage when buying the ticket. Once you’ve booked, the prices increase all the way up to the gate. If you are really unlucky and don’t realize that the carry on is not included (which is a very easy mistake to make since on most airlines it is), you will be charged $100 at the gate (1 way) to bring that bag on the plane with you.

These are just the baggage fees.

*Savvy Saver Tip* When purchasing our tickets, it was cheaper to pay the checked baggage fee of $30 than it was for the carry-on fee: $37. These prices are one way only. 2 carry-ons would have been $74 (times 2 ways would have been: $148) while one checked bag, which my husband and I can share totaled to $60.

If you want to print your boarding pass off at the airport: $2. If they do it for you: $10. Want to pick your seat? $5-50. Otherwise cross your fingers and hope you get to sit next to who you are flying with.

Thirsty or in the mood for a snack? Snacks and Drinks (And WATER!) range from $3-15.

Cost breakdown for the same service:


Round Trip

Budget Airline Regular Cost Airline
Airfare $120 $230
Carry-On $114 included
Seat Selection $20 included
Print boarding pass at kiosk $4 included
Snacks & Drinks $12 included
Total: $270 $230

If you look at the cost breakdown of fees, budget airlines are not the cheaper option. They are actually MORE EXPENSIVE for the same services received on Regular Cost Airlines.

This is just the money aspect of it. It does not include the things you cannot place a monetary value on, such as friendly customer service and being treated nicely.

Budget airlines, base fares and super basic fares have a great initial* price tag. BUT. Once you go through to checkout, it’s almost never cheaper in the end. If you are saving, it’s not that much. I would rather pay the extra $5 for my “free” beverage and snack on the plane. The only way I can see these airlines being worth it for a consumer is if they really only need transportation from point A to point B, and their stay is short enough that they can pack everything they need into a small backpack. Otherwise, paying more money up front will save you extra in the long run.



  1. Wow good to know all this! I can’t believe they expect people to pay for water 😱. And it looks like the bag fees can get pretty costly.


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