Budget Airfares Aren’t Always What They Seem

budget airlines

These days, budget airlines like Frontier or Spirit can seem like a great solution to pricey air travel – many of them offer flights for rates so low, they seem too good to be true… but are they?

Let’s dive into a budget airline deal:

Right now, Frontier Airlines is offering one-way fares “as low as $39,” which sounds like a great deal. The deal ends May 28th and you need to use your booked ticket between May 30th and July 1st, which can limit your travel plans.


If that’s exactly when you’re planning to travel, then you can move on to the next step: There are 13 destinations included in the offer and of those 11, only four are $39: Cincinnati to Washington D.C., Washington D.C. to Cincinnati, Cleveland to Raleigh, and Raleigh to Cleveland. If your plans happen to include one of these routes, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at $49, $59, or $79 one-way fares to Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Orlando, Philadelphia, Tampa, or Trenton.


Once you’ve chosen your destination (let’s say it’s Cleveland to Raleigh), you’ll have to book your date between May 30th and July 1st. In between those two dates, you have 33 days to choose from, however, not all dates offer the $39 one-way fare; only 15 do. Of those 15 days, nearly all of them are a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday (there are no Sundays or Fridays included).

To narrow it down even further, if you’re planning on turning your trip into a round-trip flight, your return flight choices are even fewer: there are only seven days that offer the $39 deal (again, mostly Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays). That means that if you want to book the cheapest round-trip ticket from Cleveland to Raleigh and back, you’ll have to make it a four-day trip at minimum.

Flight Times

If you work everything out and are able to choose a departing and returning day that are both within the $39 deal, you’ll enjoy a $78 round-trip flight – with only one flight time as your choice: Choose to travel June 1st-June 6th and your flight out of Cleveland will be at 7:35 PM while your flight out of Raleigh will be at 5:30 PM.

Extra Fees

If those times work out for you, then you’re set… unless you’re bringing luggage or want to choose your seats. Choosing your seat will cost you anywhere between $4 and $20, depending on where on the plane you’d like to sit. If you’re bringing only a personal item (like a laptop or purse), you won’t face any extra charges. If you’re bringing a carry-on, however, you’ll pay between $25 and $60, depending on when you check in and if you’re part of Frontier’s “Discount Den” club. If you’re checking a bag, you’ll pay between $15 and $30. (All of these charges are per flight.)

If you choose to check a bag each way before your online check-in ($20) and pay $8 each way for your seat, your $78 round-trip flight has now become $126. After that, you’ll have the option to add travel insurance for $10.95.

When you look at it overall, our PHL Airport parking members know $126 isn’t bad for a round-trip flight from Cleveland to Raleigh, but the restrictions you’re put under are pretty tight – especially if you’re expecting to book a nice trip for the dates and times that you want for only $78. So before you jump on a deal from a budget airline, make sure you know all of the details.