I just took a flight for a long weekend on Allegiant Air and managed to do it without paying any baggage fees.
Anyone who has flown this bare-bones airline knows that is not an easy task. The only luggage you can bring along without paying luggage fees is a bag measuring a maximum of 15 inches by 14 inches by 7 inches. When I wrote about pulling this off five years ago, the only thing I could find in my luggage-filled house that would work was a schwag bag freebie from a trade show.
This time I found another solution: a convertible bike pannier bag from A company called The Property Of. Usually it’s on the back of my bike, but when I pulled out a tape measure and found it fit, out came the shoulder strap and I was off.
Now granted it’s easier to pack this light if you’re a married man not going out on the town in your place of arrival. A woman who needs 6 outfits for three days and 12 kinds of goop would have a much tougher time. I packed one additional pair of pants, 2 t-shirts, 2 regular shirts, underwear, socks, my laptop, and all the needed cords. Toiletries were all trial sized items. I wore a few layers including another secret weapon: my ExOfficio Storm Logic jacket. Besides being cozy, it’s loaded with pockets on the inside, pockets that held my Kindle, earbuds, sunglasses, and some cords.
There’s another company called Stuffa that makes a warm vest with 12 stuffable pockets, so that would be a good thing to have for flying on Allegiant without baggage. Or there’s the original–ScotteVest. I’ve used their multi-pocketed vest for trips like this as well.
Odd-sized Bags Only on Allegiant Air
The Allegiant carry-on rules make it difficult to travel without paying. The only way to get around Allegiant baggage fees and still bring a piece of luggage on board is to stuff everything in a very small bag. The Allegiant Air personal item. They allow what will fit under the seat, which this airline defines as 15 inches high, 16 inches wide, and 7 inches deep.
So if the Allegiant personal item size is so well defined, how many bags out there are actually 15 inches by 16 inches by 7 inches? Not many it turns out. Your average laptop bag is wider than 16 inches and very few backpacks are only 7 inches deep. On my flight leg, someone in front of me glided on with a Ciao Luggage under-seat bag with wheels. It seemed a little too fat to me so I looked it up and indeed, it’s 8.5 inches wide instead of 7. This Delsey under-seat bag is in the same situation—two inches wider than the very stingy 7. It’s soft though, so if you didn’t pack it tight you could probably make it fit in the sizer. Any of them will easily fit under the seat of course, but you’re taking a risk that a grumpy gate agent could make you check it on the spot if you’re pushing the limit.
People are getting away with these bags that come close because the gate agents rightfully don’t love being bad cops all day. I’d imagine they don’t subject their customers to stuffing things in the sizer very often. (It hasn’t happened on any on my last few flights.)
But that’s if you’re in the ballpark—you can’t bring something on an Allegiant Air flight that really won’t fit under the seat and try to breeze through without getting noticed. Even with these Ciao and Delsey ones though, you need to smile, act like you’ve done this 100 times, and be nice to the gate agents. If they didn’t want to cut you any slack, you could be stuck for more than the cost of the bag in baggage fees.
The best advice for getting something that works is to scout around. The Allegiant bag size is not one you’ll find in a typical luggage array in a store. I’d recommend finding a small gym bag or scouring your local thrift shops with a tape measure in hand—old bowling ball bags are about right.
Waiting to Commit Will Cost You
These Allegiant baggage fees are lowest when you book your ticket, then they really sock it to you if you want until arriving at the airport to decide you actually need luggage for your vacation. The carry-on fee is $15-$20 per flight leg up front depending on how far you’re going, then spikes to an outrageous $50 each way at the airport. Checking a bag runs $20-$30 per segment at the time of booking rises to $45 pre-departure, then $50 at the airport. For just one bag. They say they can charge “up to $75” for a gate-checked bag.
The Allegiant baggage weight is only 40 pounds, so you’ll pay more if your checked bag is more than 40 pounds (most U.S. airlines allow up to 50). You will also pay extra if it has dimensions that are over the ones listed on the Allegiant site. Thankfully, the Allegiant carry on size is the same as the legacy airlines’ is: 45 linear inches of 14 X 22 X 9 inches.
The reason people put up with this restrictive baggage policy—and all the other Allegiant fees—is that the base fares are so low. You could actually pay less for your ticket than you do in fees, even if all you do is check a bag the day of because you bought some things you need to bring home. My flight between Clearwater/St. Pete, FL to Greenville, SC was $125 when paying with my credit card. I flew from Syracuse to Tampa Bay for under $100 one-way.
I bought a ticket on Allegiant Air for my mom to come visit from Virginia and that was $119 round-trip, plus about $80 in fees. Bringing her in on United would cost more than $500, there’s a plane change, and she would still get dinged for baggage if she checked a bag. Ouch! The Allegiant flight came out way ahead, even with all the fees.
The Allegiant baggage fee is just one of many fees on that airline though: you’ll pay to pick a seat, to board first, to get a drink of water, get a boarding pass at the counter, or pay with a credit card (3.2% up to $8). I paid the credit card one, but ducked all the others on my no-baggage flight. With no seat selection (which can be “up to $80”) I got a dreaded middle seat on the way there, but a window seat back. It’s only an hour and a half to where my father lives, so I didn’t mind taking the chance. Here’s the whole fee rundown, which requires some scrolling. But check out the base prices:
I’ve done this before and I’ll do it again. I can fly to 55 cities from Tampa Bay on this airline. Since the big 3 suck so badly anyway and are generally downright unpleasant to fly, there’s not much advantage anymore to being on deceptive legacy airlines American, Delta, or United. Yes, you can earn miles, but not as many anymore since those miles are based on dollars spent rather than miles flown. You’re better off just churning their credit cards.
If the flight is going to suck anyway and the big airlines are all racing to the bottom to be more like Spirit and Allegiant, you might as well take the direct flight with the lower fare—even if you do end up paying luggage fees. Remember though, the Allegiant checked bag weight is only 40 pounds. You still need to pack relatively light.
But if you can manage to fly on Allegiant air without paying for luggage at all, you’ve scored a double win.
Have you tried a way to avoid Allegiant Air baggage fees? Have you found a great bargain despite the Allegiant baggage rules? Tell us your story in the comments!