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Budget Airlines Vs. Major Airlines: Which Is The Better Option?

Travel

Whether you're a jetsetter or an occasional traveler looking for a getaway, everybody wants to find the best deal on a flight.


As airlines work to make fares more cost effective for travelers, many people are finding themselves willing to trade in a few extra perks if it means saving a few dollars. But is a budget airline really worth it, or are you better off booking with a major airline? All that glitters isn't gold. And if that $50 ticket seems too good to be true, that's because it probably is. You could end up paying hundreds more on the backend.

Being clear on what you're getting before you book that cheap flight could make the difference between a smooth trip or one filled with frustration. Let's explore about why giving yourself a little extra "cushion" and skipping the low-cost airline might be a better decision.

You Get What You Pay For, Literally.

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Budget airlines like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant were created for the sole purpose of getting passengers from point A to point B at the lowest cost possible. This means that you get what you pay for. A cheap flight with NO frills. And I do mean NONE!

There are charges for EVERYTHING, including but not limited to:

  • Carry-ons
  • Choosing your seat (an uncomfortable, NON-RECLINING seat)!
  • Extra legroom
  • Food and drinks (prepare to fill that water bottle up before you leave home).
  • Pillows and blankets
  • Printing your boarding pass at the airport
  • Speaking with a representative when you book
  • Breathing (OK, this is a joke. But you get my point.)

But wait! There's more. There is no wifi or onboard entertainment. So, if you're traveling for longer than three hours, be sure to bring a good book.

Delays And Cancellations Are A Headache When You Book On A Budget

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Many times luggage is lost and flights are moved to a completely different day or cancelled altogether with little to NO help from customer service, (causing passengers to pay hundreds of dollars extra for another airline to get them to their destinations promptly). I've even heard stories about how ticket vouchers were not honored for their full value when customers tried to use them after being inconvenienced on a flight. There are also strict "use it or lose it" ticket policies.

I would only suggest flying a budget airline if there is a last minute emergency. And if that's the case, pack light, show up early, bring snacks, put a couple hundred dollars to the side for an unforeseen circumstance, and PRAY!

Major Airlines Provide More On Board Comfort And Ticket Flexibility

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Major airlines are better prepared to deal with last minute issues such as delays, cancellations, and lost luggage because of the policies that are in place. You're less likely to have a flight abruptly cancelled on you and left to figure out another option ON YOUR OWN when flying with a major airline. They also provide better flight times due to larger budgets that afford them the ability to pay steeper airport taxes. Frequent flyers also get to take advantage of corporate deals, loyalty programs and special discounts.

Book Basic If You’re Booking On A Budget

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If you're looking for a slightly more accommodating low-cost option, the "Big Three" airlines (American, Delta, and United) have adopted a similar approach to budget airlines called Basic Economy. This option gives the same in-flight cabin experience as the other passengers, only with fewer amenities. Basic Economy allows passengers to reap the benefits of at least some perks WITHOUT paying extra.

Basic Economy provides:

  • Snacks, drinks, and in-flight entertainment
  • A free carry-on bag (American Airlines will allow free carry-ons beginning September 5th, 2018 and Mileage Plus members who fly United are allowed to bring one free carry-on on board).
  • More comfortable seats (they actually recline)!
  • Free pillows and blankets
  • Speaking with a representative at no extra charge
  • Printing your boarding pass at no extra charge

Booking Economy does not allow upgrades, cancellations, or priority boarding, and assigned seating is an extra fee. But your experience isn't nearly as uncomfortable as it would be on a budget airline (even with the stipulations). Passengers who care about comfort and cost might want to consider this option over a budget airline.

Ultimately, nothing beats FLEXIBILITY. Even if you don't anticipate any emergencies or last minute changes, it is always best to plan for the worst. If you have the means to pay extra to book a ticket on a major airline that allows you a comfortable flight with the option to make last minute changes, by all means DO IT!

By the time you're done calculating all of the extra fees, you'll end up paying for bags, last minute changes, and other extra perks, and it probably adds up to the cost of a regular ticket anyway. Paying a little more for a flight that gives you a some extra "cushion" is always worth the extra bucks if it makes for a smoother trip and saves your sanity in the long run.

What's your preference? Budget or major airlines? Why or why not?

Featured image by Shutterstock

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