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After adding up the extras, are budget airlines the lowest-cost option?: Travel Weekly

The big three U.S. ultralow-cost carriers (ULCCs) have improved their per-passenger revenue during the pandemic for add-on items such as checked and carry-on bags as well as seat selections.

But with fees for those items varying by the flight on Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant, travelers and travel advisors have to shop carefully to determine if they are truly getting a deal.

“You want to have a full picture of the overall price you are going to pay, rather than just the airfare,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights travel site. 

“I think, unfortunately, you have to shop,” added Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks, which consults airlines on how to boost ancillary revenue. “It may be that the fare on Spirit is low enough and adding two bags may still be less than what you’d pay on one of the majors.”

In earnings reports this spring, each of the three primary U.S.-based ULCCs reported that while fares for the first quarter had been down compared with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019, non-fare passenger revenue, which largely comes from add-on products such as baggage, seat selection and bundled fares, was up on a per-passenger basis. 

Base fares have climbed everywhere since early this year — figures that will be reflected by the ULCCs when they report on second-quarter earnings over the coming weeks. But in the first quarter, Frontier reported one-way ancillary revenue per passenger of $69, up 21% from 2019. By comparison, fares over the first quarter were just $42, down 23% from three years earlier

At Spirit, first-quarter non-ticket revenue per passenger flight segment was $65, up 14.8% from the same period of 2019, while the average fare per passenger segment was $49, down 7.6%.

Allegiant’s reported average one-way fare in the first quarter

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