Browsing Tag: Economy Review

Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with a KLM Boeing 747-400 in the background in Amsterdam.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with a KLM Boeing 747-400 in the background in Amsterdam.

This was my last leg of my RwandAir adventure. I had already flown from Seattle to Rwanda in a 737 and just completed a 10 hour flight from Kigali, Rwanda to Amsterdam on a KLM A330. I was already pretty tired and wasn’t sure how my mind, body and spirit would do on another ten hour ride in a different A330. On the positive side, I was looking forward to comparing two international Airbus A330s back-to-back. Overall, I have to say I like the Northwest Delta Air Lines A330 long haul premium economy a bit better than KLM’s.

When arriving into Amsterdam, I had a three hour layover and I was hoping to check out their observation deck. Before plane spotting, I needed to do some charging of my laptop and cell phone, since my last ten hour flight did not have in-seat power and neither would my next one. The classic hunt for an open outlet was on.

I started down the concourse looking from side to side. I kept going and going and… well, going. Seriously? After 45 minutes looking up and down concourses D, E and F, I found an outlet about seven feet up for vending machines, one in the bathroom, one on a fire hose holder and one on a center pillar in a crowded walkway. I choose to deal with the crowds and sat down on the floor (looking like an idiot by the way) by the pillar, plugged in my phone and then… nothing. Sweet, this outlet did not work. Now the debate was did I want to look like even more of an idiot standing in the bathroom charging my phone, climbing on a vending machine or using an outlet on a fire hose that might cause some alarm to go off. I figured my best bet was with the fire hose and luckily it worked. The bad part was it took so long to juice up, that I wasn’t able to check out the observation deck – save it for next time I guess.

Delta Economy Comfort seat on an Airbus A330.

Delta Economy Comfort seat on an Airbus A330.

I figured I might as well head to the gate, where I received my first body scan. We had to wait in a small waiting area at the gate for our flight, which had little entertainment before being able to board. I was sitting in Delta Economy Comfort, which gave me four additional inches of seat pitch, 50% more recline, priority boarding and free alcohol. You also sit near the front of the plane, which means you are first to customs after arriving in Seattle. .

Even with the extra four inches, I was unable to fully stretch out my legs since there was a huge in-flight entertainment box under my seat, negating the extra leg room. You would think with a large electrical box like that under your seat, they would at least give you an outlet, but there was none. Reading on SeatGuru.com, it looks like only Business Class has outlets. Good thing I did some charging during my layover.

One nice surprise was seeing an air vent in the overhead bin. I absolutely love my air vents, since I am normally hot and that little breeze can make a huge difference. Sure, most domestic aircraft have air vents, but I am finding more and more long haul Boeing 747, 777, Airbus A330/A330 and the A380 are lacking them.

During both legs (KGL to AMS and AMS to SEA), I had window seats. When flying on the KLM A330, I noticed that there was quite a bit of room between the seat and the wall and was wishing the outer arm rest would raise, allowing me access to that extra room. It was too bad that the armrest would not rise on the KLM A330, but it did rise on Delta’s. This gave me an extra three inches or so of seat width and I was starting to get the feeling that this might be a good flight. Unfortunately we ran into some trouble pretty quickly.

Taking off from Amsterdam.

Taking off from Amsterdam.

After boarding we were told there would be a delay. It turns out that the amount of fuel that the truck indicated being pumped into the aircraft, didn’t match the A330’s gauges. Delays can be annoying, but I am willing to wait to make sure we have enough fuel — I am old fashioned like that. It took about an hour to determine that the truck had the failure and after all the paperwork was completed, we took off.

When getting my free headphones given by Delta out of their plastic bag I accidently ripped one of the wires. Not a big deal, I figured I could just ring the call button and quickly get a new one. I decided to try something new; time how long it would take for a flight attendant to assist me after ringing the call button. I decided I would make eye contact with a flight attendant walking by, but I would not say anything like “excuse me,” to put them to the test.

I rang the call button and waited. And waited. And holy crap waited some more. At the 10 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. During those ten minutes I had two different flight attendants walk by, but they did not stop… they did not even make eye contact. At the 15 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. Another flight attendant walked by, but still nothing. I could see that my call light was on and the “ding” noise was definitely making its sound.

At about 18 minutes a flight attendant came by for trash. I was waiting for her to ask me about my light, but she didn’t. I decided I really wanted to start watching a movie, so I asked her for another head phone set, which she got right away. I am not normally one who uses the call button and I have never timed it before, but I am pretty certain that 18 minutes and three flight attendants walking by is not okay. It takes a lot to get me annoyed or frustrated on a flight and this definitely did it.

OH YES! The armrest near the window moves, giving me more room.

OH YES! The armrest near the window moves, giving me more room.

When trying to relax, the recline of the Economy Comfort was great. However, when the person in front of me was enjoying their extra 50% recline, it was not so great – actually pretty annoying. I am normally one that doesn’t recline my seat, since I do not want to disturb the person behind me, but I really had to recline a bit to open my laptop, even with the extra four inches.

During the flight, I was served two different meals. One was your standard airline pasta, but the second was pizza. Both of them were pretty decent and I thought it was pretty slick having pizza on the plane. I really didn’t get to enjoy all the amenities in the flight, since I slept through most of it. Having the ability to raise my outer armrest really gave me one of my best economy sleeps with someone sitting next to me. I landed in Seattle feeling a lot better than I thought I would after 24 hours of economy flight.

A FEW MORE PHOTOS


American Airlines Boeing 767

American Airlines Boeing 767

This adventure and write up was completed by Temo Madrigal, AirlineReporter Correspondent. Enjoy…

The best things in life are free. Well, not always. Sometimes they will cost you anywhere between 0.99¢ to $3.99. I recently had the opportunity to test out American Airlines new in-flight entertainment system (called Entertainment on Demand) on a flight from New York to Los Angeles and this was a good opportunity for me to see if my money would be well spent.

Before boarding the plane I had to make sure that all of my electronics were fully charged, just in case the movie options were not to my liking. I had my mp3 player, my tablet, laptop, and if all of those options became boring on my 6 hour flight, I would simply resort to my good’ole fashioned book. I had not seen any advertisements on the new In-flight Entertainment System in the terminal, so was keeping a lookout for the first glimpse of what was to come.

Before take-off, I sifted through the front seat pocket and found a pamphlet with information highlighting GoGo’s services that include Wi-Fi and the In-Flight Entertainment Service. The information on the pamphlet was simple and clear but still left me wanting to see it in action. As we prepared to take off the emergency instruction video played and shortly after a 2 minute commercial on the GoGo IFE was played as well. It also let the passengers know that it was simple and easy to navigate. It made me think that even my 8 year old could sign-up and choose her movies.

Watching what the airline wants you to watch during the flight is so 1999.

Watching what the airline wants you to watch during the flight is so 1999.

Once we were at the appropriate altitude that allows for electronics use and after about 45 minutes of some technical issues with my personal laptop, I was able to connect to the GoGo website and begin my entertainment adventure. I have to say that navigating the IFE was as easy as 1-2-3 (okay there is a 4th step, but it is sitting back and enjoying your movie). You go to the website, sign-up and add your credit card information, select a movie/tv show, and watch.

Movie selections are currently limited to 18 movies with selections in most genres (i.e. comedy, action, drama, etc.). The cost of a movie is $3.99, which is comparable to what you would get at Block Buster or your local movie rental store. Movies included Due Date, Arthur, Jane Eyre, The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle and the Kingdom. Each movie also provided a short description and the movie rating. Dad mode kicked in and I was interested in knowing the options for kids.

There are currently only two selections, The Green Lantern animated and Nanny McPhee. I asked Jason Cohen, who works for GoGo was on the flight, about this and was told that because this is currently the test phase, the selections are limited and by November 1st, 2012 the selections of movies and TV Shows will be increased to 200. Of which 18 will be in the children’s genre.

The TV show selection was the most limited, only offering 30 Rock and Royal Pains, with only 10 episodes of each. The cost of renting an episode is 99¢, and this is the same as what you would find on iTunes for a TV show rental. Browsing these selections are made easy and my favorite was the browse by length of movie or TV Show option (i.e. 30 minutes, 1 hour, 1-2 hours or over 2 hours). I opted for a 30 minute TV show (30 Rock) to begin with because I assumed that the buffering would be terrible and streaming would be choppy. This was not the case at all. The video quality was crisp and clear and the streaming was flawless with no buffering stops. I was truly surprised.

It only takes a few steps to get yourself watching movies or TV shows.

It only takes a few steps to get yourself watching movies or TV shows.

I thought to myself, I’ll try and navigate the web and watch the movie at the same time and I’m sure it will cause a buffering issue. Did it, and again, was not the case. I was able to watch the TV show, navigate the web, and check my email at the same time. I truly enjoyed having all of the options and not cause an issue with the streaming the tv show.

I was lucky enough to have Jason on board to help me and answer any questions, but if you don’t have a Jason on your flight, no worries, GoGo also has live help via chat. I took the opportunity to chat with Seth just to test out the service option. I asked Seth a few general questions but one of the most important ones that I could think of that other users would ask is, “What if I don’t finish watching the movie on my flight?” Seth let me know that I would be able to go back into the same webpage and continue watching the same movie at a later time (maybe the connecting flight if wi-fi is available) as long as it was from the same laptop I was using the first time and within 24 hours of purchase for movies, and 10 days for tv shows.

American has rolled out this new service on 15 of their Boeing 767-200 aircraft, primarily serving the New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco routes.  American is hoping to roll out this feature on other GoGo equipped aircraft starting later this year. One downside of featuring this on the 767 is they only have power outlets in Business and select economy seats found near the front of the aircraft. I was sitting in the rear and if I would have been watching movies non-stop, my laptop would have ran out of juice before arriving at LAX. American is in process of installing additional powerports across their fleet.

There were no issues with bandwidth. I was able to stream my show and work on my email with no slow down.

There were no issues with bandwidth. I was able to stream my show and work on my email with no slow down.

Although the movie and TV show selection is currently limited, Jason explained that GoGo will be adding up to 200 movies soon and they will be rotated out every month. He also explained that that number would possibly go up depending on the demand from customers. I know some people might also think, “For $3.99, why don’t I just rent a DVD at Redbox and return it at my destination?” Well, that sounds great, but there a few things to consider: What if there are no Redboxes at your destination? And will the time and hassle it takes to find the redbox and return it be worth it? I would not want to go through the hassle and really a few bucks to make my flight go by quicker is always worth it.

American and GoGo are not willing to talk about how many passengers are currently using the new Entertainment on Demand, but they obviously feel this will be a successful venture with looking to add it to other aircraft. I hope to get the opportunity to use this feature again soon. Thanks American and GoGo for letting me and AirlineReporter.com try out your new service. Cheers!

Boeing 767 Image: So Cal Metro
Others: Temo Madrigal

Kigali International Airport (KGL).

Kigali International Airport (KGL).

When flying out of Kigali, Rwanda, it is best if you have a lot of patience — there is a lot of waiting in lines. I got to the airport about five hours early, so I was prepared to wait. I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal, since I read there was free WiFi in the front lobby, which consists of only a coffee stand and a few seats. Unfortunately, the WiFi was not working, so I got myself a cold drink and started going through all my photos from my trip to Rwanda.

Passengers are not allowed to leave the lobby area to go to the ticket counters until it is two hours or less before your flight departs.  Once I reached the two hour mark, I was able to go outside and wait in-line to go through the first set of security. Since three flights were leaving about the same time, a large group gathered outside waiting to get back inside. Before getting back inside we all had to have our documents reviewed and since I did not have access to a computer, I had to show my passport and my confirmation on my smart phone. I was given some looks, but they still let me through where I had to wait in another line to be screened.  The first security screening was much like in the US, where I had to take off my shoes and take out my laptop.

After I went through security, I headed to the ticket counter, but was stopped by a security agent and told I had to go back and wait in a second line to have my passport scanned and my documents reviewed again. Sigh…okay.

After waiting about 15 minutes in that line, my documents were checked and I was finally allowed to wait in the ticket counter line. I was previously given a center seat, not something I wanted to have for a 10 hour flight. Luckily, I was able to get a window seat, so I thought I was set and headed towards the gate.

It is awesome to board a wide-bodied A330 on the tarmac of a small airport.

It is awesome to board a wide-bodied A330 on the tarmac of a small airport.

I followed signs telling me to head upstairs to get to the gate waiting area. On top of the stairs there was another, yet short, line for customs. They checked my forms, asked me a few questions and off I went to another waiting area, but this was still not the gate.

I was now in another waiting area with only 32 seats and a small bar area. Although outside it was cool, the upstairs waiting area was hot. There was a very small, maybe 19″, TV playing something not in English in front of the seats, but there weren’t enough for me to sit down. After a while we were allowed to move through another security check point to wait in a larger waiting area, which would be our departure gate.

Yes! After a six hour wait at the airport, our KLM Airbus A330 had arrived and we were told to start lining up. I knew there were no jet-ways, but I wasn’t sure if we would be bussed out to the plane or able to walk from the door to the plane; I was hoping for the walk. At the terminal door, we had our documents checked again and out onto the tarmac we went — sweet, no bus.

Kigali Airport is small and it was neat walking along the tarmac seeing a Brussels A330 and KLM A330 both in the middle of Rwanda sitting next to RwandAir’s two 737s and two CRJ200s. After having my documents checked one more time at the bottom of the stairs, I was on board the A330 and ready to find my seat.

Normally, I am aware where my flight came from and where it is going. However, I just received my itinerary for my flight home the day prior and with limited internet access, I had no idea. It didn’t seem like there were many folks in the waiting area to fill up an Airbus A330, so I did not know what to expect when getting on to the aircraft or even if we would have a few stops between KGL and AMS. When boarding, it became clear the aircraft had come from somewhere and I was guessing it was a long flight since the plane was full and people looked tired and grumpy.

Map of my flight from KGL to EBB then AMS on a KLM Airbus A330.

Map of my flight from KGL to EBB then AMS on a KLM Airbus A330.

Turns out the flight had some passengers from Amsterdam, but was heading to Entebbe, Uganda (EBB) from KGL. It was pretty lame, since the person who had had my seat obviously had just gotten off. It was still warm and there was trash everywhere. However, I was told it would be a quick 35 minute flight to  EBB where the aircraft would be fully cleaned.

I did not have far to go to find my seat. I was sitting in seat 15A which was in the KLM Economy Comfort section located near the front. This gave me priority boarding, a few inches of additional leg room and more recline. It was nice, but there was an in-flight entertainment computer under the seat in front of me, eliminating half of my leg room. I thought with the big box in the way, I would at least have an outlet, but there was no in-seat power which was very disappointing. Kigali Airport is not known for the abundance of power outlets and by the time I boarded my electronics were needing some juice.

KLM definitely has their official color of blue down. Not only is the outside of the airplane blue, but the carpet is blue, the seats are blue, the bulkheads are blue and the flight attendants are all wearing a bright blue. When the flight attendants have their dress jackets on, the blue seems almost a bit overpowering and almost feels like I am on the official airline of the Smurfs. Good thing I like blue.

Blue is an obvious theme on KLM aircraft.

Blue is an obvious theme on KLM aircraft.

The aircraft loaded up quickly and we were ready to head to EBB. That was the shortest wide-bodied flight I have taken. It was just enough time for the flight attendants to run up and down the aisle to give us orange juice boxes and sit back down.

By the time we landed in EBB, it was obvious that the flight attendants were done with their shift. Along with the passengers, they came across as very tired and grumpy. This was okay, since they got off in Uganda and a new, fresh crew got on board.

During the layover, there were not too many of us left on the plane and a cleaning crew came on and worked around the passengers.  It was interesting to see them in action, but it was obvious they were annoyed that so many passengers were in the way… I do not blame them. We had only been on the plane for about 40 minutes and passengers were out of their seats and walking around, getting in their way like we had just completed a marathon flight.

The seat-back in flight entertainment isn't the best, but surely better than nothing.

The seat-back in flight entertainment isn't the best, but surely better than nothing.

During the down time, it got amazingly hot inside the aircraft. The information screen showed it was only 73F outside, but it had to be over 85F inside the aircraft. The unfortunate part was the gentleman in front of me, apparently had made a life decision not to wear deodorant.

I am not quite sure why they weren’t able to run the APU and A/C while we waited and I heard multiple passengers complain, but the cabin did not seem to cool down until we started boarding again. Maybe it was an oversight with the changing of the crew, but after working up a nice sweat, I wasn’t able to cool down until almost landing in AMS.

Every economy seat has its own in-flight entertainment which is nice. The system seems a bit old and takes a little more time to navigate, but it is all free, which makes it worth the trouble. There is a decent selection of movies and TV shows in a number of different languages. It was entertaining enough for a one-way ten hour flight, but if you had more than that, the entertainment would get stale pretty quickly.

Talking about stale, we were served some hot food during the trip and a choice between beef and pasta — I chose the beef. I guess “stale” might be an unfair way to describe the food, it was not that bad, but not that great either. It is what one would expect from economy food from an airline.

My KLM Airbus A330 (PH-AOL) at Amsterdam after my flight.

My KLM Airbus A330 (PH-AOL) at Amsterdam after my flight.

I was actually quite surprised how quickly the flight went. I watched some movies, got some sleep, ate some food and BAM we were heading into Amsterdam. I think even though part of my legroom was taken by the in-flight entertainment system, the extra room and recline really helped.   It was a little frustrating when the person in front of me decided to recline their seat all the way (remember Economy Comfort has the ability to recline more), but being by the window with only another seat next to me, with a few inches of extra room made the flight enjoyable.

After landing, I had a four hour layover in Amsterdam before flying on a Delta Airbus A330 back home to Seattle. I will be reviewing that flight in the near future.

A FEW OTHER PHOTOS OF THE TRIP

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 (N204FR) at snowy Denver with "Freedom" the Bald Eagle on the tail.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 (N204FR) at snowy Denver with "Freedom" the Bald Eagle on the tail.

I was hoping to do a review of Frontier on an Airbus A320 from Seattle (SEA) to Denver (DIA) and then on a Bombardier Q400 from DIA to Aspen (ASE). However, life doesn’t always work out how we plan it. I was heading to Aspen to fly on a Beechcraft Starship, but snow had other plans and while in Denver, my flight to Aspen was canceled. Instead of taking a low-level flight on a Q400 to beautiful Aspen, I got to hop on another Airbus A320 back to Seattle (Note: I paid out of pocket for my flight on Frontier).

Not being able to fly the Q400 into Aspen and not fly on the Starship was bad, but for reviewing the Frontier Airlines experience, this actually worked out better. For my flight to DIA, I had to get up at 3:45am to catch my 6:15am flight out of Seattle. Before we left the gate I was asleep and woke up during the final 10 minutes. The flight back to Seattle provided me a better opportunity to review the flight and service.

When booking my flights 99% of the time I end up purchasing the tickets on the airline’s website, since it is normally the cheapest. In this case, it turned out to be about $20 cheaper to get my ticket through Orbitz — whatever, it works for me. When buying a ticket you have three choices: Economy, Classic and Classic Plus. The more you pay, the more features you get like free checked bags, free TV, and the ability to sit in seats with more legroom (check out the differences). Check-in and printing off the boarding pass were pretty standard and I was lucky enough to get a window seat, 27A, on the flight to DIA.

Every seat back has a little TV to watch movies and television, for a fee.

Every seat back has a little TV to watch movies and television, for a fee.

One of the fun parts of flying on Frontier is wondering what animal will be on the tail. Every airplane in Frontier’s fleet (well, those with a Frontier livery) have a unique animal. If you don’t catch the animal on the tail or can’t view the animal on the inside of the winglets, there is a nice big image of the animal when you walk into the door and the flight attendants make sure to announce which plane you are on. I got Mustang Sally on the flight down and Freedom the Bald Eagle on the flight back. I think it is pretty neat for each aircraft to have a different overall livery and I would have to imagine it is even cooler for kids.

The airline was extremely helpful and quick with helping me with my canceled Aspen flight. I wasn’t sitting at the gate for my flight, but kept updating my phone with the flight status. The second I saw it said “canceled” I headed to one of the many customer service desks located around the airport. I imagine this was much better than going to the gate, since no other flights were  canceled at the time and there was no line at the customer service desk. The woman confirmed there were no other flights to Aspen from any airline going out that day and started looking for the next day. I asked if I might be able to just fly back to Seattle and she got me on the next flight — which was scheduled to leave in 45minutes for no charge.

Even at 6'1" I had PLENTY of room in Frontier's STRETCH seats which give an extra 5" of room in the first four rows.

Even at 6'1" I had PLENTY of room in Frontier's STRETCH seats which give an extra 5" of room in the first four rows.

With boarding they have an “express boarding” phase. These are for people that have carry-ons that will only be put under the seat in front of them versus taking up overhead space. The concept of this is simple and genius. However, I saw quite a few people lined up that had bags I questioned if they would put under their seat and when checking it out when I boarded, they did not. The idea is great, but I am not sure how well it can be regulated.

Frontier has all economy seats that are leather with fancy headrests and a small TV screen in the seat back. The first four rows give you five more inches of legroom, but the rest of the seats have a decent 31″ seat pitch. Although I was in the back of the (air) bus on the flight down to Denver, I ended up in 3A on the flight back which was a STRECH seat. Although a little extra legroom is nice, even at 6’1″ I don’t think I would be willing to pay anymore for the extra room. I felt super lucky since I could have been trapped in Denver for quite some time, but not only did I get the next flight home and a window seat, but also one with bonus legroom.

Having LiveTV is pretty sweet, but it will set you back money. To watch the TV it will cost you $6 or $8 for a movie. Part of me whats to be like “what the heck?” knowing I can watch TV for free on other airlines like jetBlue and Virgin America and why should I have to pay on Frontier? However, it does cost them more money and on a three hour flight, $6 for entertainment would be greatly worth it. If you are flying Frontier internationally, the TV is free, but movies still cost money.

Before we left the gate at DIA the whole window ended up being blocked with snow. Kind of cool and kind of lame.

Before we left the gate at DIA the whole window ended up being blocked with snow. Kind of cool and kind of lame.

On the plus side, you are able to get ear buds for free. It worked out for our flight, since TV ended up being free since the football playoffs were on (although I think it might have had more to do with being over an hour late due to weather).

When watching the TV, I found the controls on the arm rest quite annoying. On more than one occasion I ended up changing the channel with my elbow and I could imagine if you are in the middle seat, it being worse.  I kind of wished they had the controls on the seat back, but of course that could make people pushing on your seat back a bit too hard. Not a deal breaker by any means.

On the flight south I was sad since I thought I missed my warm cookie because I was sleeping. However, it turned out they don’t give out the cookies for flights that leave before 10am. Oh yes, I did get my cookie on the way back home and it was delicious.

The only real bad part of the flight was leaving about 1.5hrs late, but I can’t hold that against the airline. It was snowing quite a bit at DIA and it took us awhile to get de-icded. I have to say I was quite impressed with how quickly DIA got planes moving. Of course there were passengers who weren’t so understanding and started to get pissy, but I would much rather wait for de-icing than not and deal with the consequences. It also provided a fun experiment in social media. I had been Tweeting about being in Denver and turned out one of my Twitter followers (@CruiseNerd), was in the plane next to me and sent a photo.

They were both a nice and comfortable flights, but since Frontier doesn’t fly to many locations out of Seattle (Denver, Kansas City and Milwaukee) I don’t get to fly them very often. I end up flying through Denver quite a bit, but Frontier doesn’t end up being the cheapest at the time. I hope I get more opportunities to fly on Frontier in the future.

What? You want to see 17 photos of the fun weather at DIA and the flight? Sure!

Allegiant MD-82 (N416NV) at Bellingham with a blue tail.

Allegiant MD-82 (N416NV) at Bellingham with a blue tail.

I recently had the opportunity to fly from Bellingham, WA to Las Vegas, NV on Allegiant Air (note: this was not a free ticket and I paid full fare). It was time for a little vacation, but vacation doesn’t mean I can’t review my flight.

On the blog, I have covered Allegiant quite a bit. I have looked at the possibility of them starting flights from Paine Field, talked about their Boeing 757’s and have explored their recent growth. However, I have never actually flown Allegiant and felt it was about time.

Although I haven’t flown them, I have had a small, odd crush on the airline. They have a very unique business model of flying older MD-80’s out of smaller airports and are geared towards the leisure traveler trying to get somewhere warm. They fly places that other low cost carriers don’t fly offering non-stop service to airports not usually served. They also seem to under cut the competition in fare price.

When booking my ticket I was looking at flights out of Seattle (SEA) and Bellingham (BLI – which is located about 1.5hours north of Seattle). Flying Allegiant out of BLI was $50.00 cheaper than anyone else — even after the fees I ended up paying. Add that parking at BLI is only $9/day vs $28/day at SEA and the 1.5hr drive north sounds like a good idea compared to the 30min drive south for me to SEA (ok, so when I have to drive it from 1am-2:30am when I got back, it didn’t seem so great at the time).

There is no hiding that Allegiant love their fees. If you are just flying with a carry-on. don’t care about where you sit  and you don’t eat anything you can get to your destination for dirt cheap. Allegiant has become quite skilled at trying to sell you things during every step of the travel process from going onto their website to getting off the airplane.

Allegiant's new seats have the seat pocket located on the top of the seat.

Allegiant's new seats have the seat pocket located on the top of the seat.

This is not to say I blame them for this, I have always said I do not mind fees. If I am traveling light why should I have to pay for people who are not? When booking my ticket these were some of the “upgrades” I was offered. Some of these fees you do not see on every airline (note that the priority boarding fee is the same for each flight, but the other seat fees will differ depending on flight length):

* Priority boarding: $9.99 – allows you to get on the plane first making sure you have overhead room.
* Premium seat selection: $9.99 – you get an assigned seat near the front or at the exit rows.
* Standard seat assignment: $6.99 – gives you an assigned seat towards the back of the aircraft.
* Online checked bag fee: $39.98 – might be more than the industry average, but you want to pay it online, since it will cost you $70.00 per bag at the airport.

You can fly without having to pay any of these fees, but many will end up paying. Allegiant recently went to a new boarding process. First the people that pay the $9.99 for the priority boarding  get to board. Then those who need a little extra time (not kids or family) that they need extra time getting seated get to board. Next, passengers with seat assignments get to find their seats. Then those who do not have seat assignments, but have kids that are under 7. Then it goes to open seating and people get to pick what is left as far as seats and overhead bin space. On the flight to LAS, there weren’t many who went with open seating, but it seemed most of the plane was open seating on the way home.

Normally I wouldn’t pay for an assigned seat, but on this trip I was flying with my girlfriend Amy and I wanted to make sure we sat together. I didn’t get the premium seats and even after the $32.00 seating fees (for both of us there and back) our tickets were still $50.00 cheaper than the competition. Since Allegiant flies MD-80 aircraft, paying more to sit up front can be more useful since you are farther away from the jets in the rear of the plane.

Got a nice view of Mount Rainier heading south towards Vegas.

Got a nice view of Mount Rainier heading south towards Vegas.

One annoying aspect of Allegiant’s fees is most are opt-out fees. It automatically signs you up for the $9.99 priority boarding and seat assignment charges and asks if you are really sure you want to opt-out. After I thought I opted out for everything and I was on the payment screen and I had “additional charges” adding up to around $60.00 that I didn’t know what they were. It took me a while to realize Allegiant already added two tickets for a hotel shuttle and for travel insurance. I could see people not realizing what is going on and paying for them, even if they didn’t want or need them. Even though it was a bit more work to get the tickets (it was almost game like and I think I won) I still ended up with super cheap tickets.

Although their aircraft are a bit older, the ones I flew on (N416NV & N419NV) were quite clean. The new Allegiant seats are a bit unique with not having a standard seat pocket. Instead of the seat pocket being down by the knees, it is up above the tray table and is much smaller. This allows them to put the seats closer together and cut down on turnaround time since there really isn’t room to put trash.

The new seats are also “pre-reclined,” which is fancy airline-speak for they do not recline. For me, this is a non-issue. I rarely recline my seat out of respect for the people behind me. Non-recling seats allow more seats to be put in, cuts down on maintenance costs, which allows more revenue and keeps your ticket cost cheaper. For some reason, so many people do not see this connection. There are many other airlines out there that might provide a bit more room, less fees and a reclining seat, but it will cost you more to fly them.

Once you are on board the plane, you have more fees to consider paying as well. Unlike most other airlines, there is no free food or drinks. Not even that small glass of Diet Coke or a miniature bag of peanuts. A 12oz soda will cost you $2 and snacks range from $2-$6. Of course you also have the choice of beer for $5 or mixed drinks for $7. Considering I paid $3 for a soda and $5 for a bagel with cream cheese at the airport before boarding, I should have waited.

Boarding on the tarmac at Bellingham allows one to get views like this, which you can't get on a jetway.

Boarding on the tarmac at Bellingham allows one to get views like this, which you can't get on a jetway.

The flight attendants also sell tickets to events and shuttle tickets while on board (at least on my Vegas flight). My biggest regrets of my flight was not getting an Allegiant MD-80 model – which they also sell. They won’t advertise them, so you have to ask for it. I totally forgot on the flight to LAS and was sleeping the entire way back to BLI.

One reason I slept the entire flight back was it was so late. The plane was scheduled to leave LAS at 8:05pm, but we didn’t take off until about 10:30pm. De-icing and flight plan issues caused the delay. Add to that sitting in the plane for about 1.5hrs of that delay with a loud kid in front of us and a group of college kids behind us, it was not fun. At least they did allow us to use our electronic devices and the restroom during the wait. Although it was annoying, what can you do? There are delays in any form of transportation. How many times am I sitting in Seattle traffic and it takes me an hour to go just ten miles (a lot btw)? As always people seem to get angry at the airline for delays; like someone is sitting in a room somewhere making a plane late for fun. The pilots, flight attendants, ground crews, airport personnel, operations managers and everyone else waiting on the last flight of the day do not want the delay anymore than you. These sorts of things happen in a complex business like this and I always find it is best to roll with the punches (although Amy can attest I was getting grumpy at the time).

Allegiant has a smart model that works and they will continue to grow their route map. They own their planes, fly to smaller airports, concentrate on leisure travelers, provide complete travel options and have fees. It obviously is working for them since they have been able to grow rapidly over the past few years and I have a feeling it will continue to work for them. How have your experiences with Allegiant been?

During my time in Vegas, I was also able to take a visit of Allegiant’s head quarters and will be sharing that with you soon. Stay tuned.