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Jeff's Travel Blog

Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:30:02 AM EST   Updated On: Jan 26 2015 01:35:23 PM EST

Allegiant is America's stealth airline. If you live in a city where it flies, you've probably heard of it. Otherwise, no. Allegiant does almost no national marketing.

So we are lucky to have this low fare airline serving Roanoke.

Unlike most other airlines, Allegiant flies only certain days of the week. For most of the year, we have two flights a week to Sanford, outside of Orlando, and two a week to St. Peterburg, across the bay from Tampa. Allegiant saves money by flying into underserved airports like Sanford and St. Pete.

There's no connecting to other cities. There's no first class, but it is a comfortable flight on updated full-size jet aircraft. No free anything on board.

To make the most of your dollar, keep some things in mind:

- You'll pay an extra fee of $10-$15 per flight to book online or on the phone. The only way to avoid that is buy your ticket at the airport. And there's a catch there: Allegiant is open for ticket sales only when there's a flight leaving and its staff is at the counter. That's four hours per week, and that's it. (My theory is that this policy enables Allegiant to advertise the lowest fare but to make it inconvenient to get it. Still, even if you pay the online booking surcharge, Allegiant is almost always the least expensive way to go.)

- There's a surcharge for using a credit card: $4-$8. Save it by using a debit card.

- There's a charge to board first or to reserve seat assignments. If sitting together is essential, you'll want to pay for seat assignments when you buy your ticket. Otherwise, the computer willl choose your seat and there's no negotiating. I never pay for a seat assignment. For an hour-and-a-half flight, it's not a big issue to me.
- You will want to download the Allegiant app onto your mobile device and then remember to retrieve your boarding pass through the app from 24 hours to one hour before flight time. Otherwise, you'll pay $5 for a printed boarding pass at the counter. (If you do pay the extra for seat assignments, you can print your boarding passes early.

- If you plan to take luggage, it will cost less if you pay in advance. And something recent: if your carry-on is not going to fit under the seat in front of you, you'll pay a fee to stow it overhead. And it you get to the gate with a carry-on deemed too big for the under the seat, you'll pay a $50 fee.

- You can buy trip protection. That ensures that, if you cancel, you will be able to use the full value of the ticket later. But trip insurance of $15 or a ticket that costs $89? You decide.

-There are other extras that you will have to work your way through. Don't get caught automatically accepting some. If the price at the end is more than the price quoted at the start, make sure you know what you did to make that happen.

- Be careful of the timing for buying your ticket. My experience is that several months out, fares are as high as $198 one way. Later they can drop as low as $59. I have bought seats to Florida for $29. Keep an eye on the trend.

It can be a little complicated to go Allegiant if you're used to the rules on the "normal" airlines. But the discount can make it all worth it.