Welcome to this dramatically different FR for me. I’ll admit— I have been an ultra low cost carrier avoider for all my life and I was very hesitant to book on Allegiant due to the added costs, safety, stories of how uncomfortable the cabin is, and lack of any loyalty program. But, we decided last minute to travel over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday—possibly the most expensive time to travel in the States. With this flight being, literally, a thousand dollars less than on any legacy carrier or even JetBlue, we decided to have our Ultra Low Cost adventure on a short 2 hour gate-to-gate hop down to Florida.
At every city Allegiant serves, with the exception of their Focus Cities, there are contracted employees to serve the 2x a week flights. Though Allegiant has their own counters at RIC, its right next to the Southwest counter and staff went between the two counters as if they were functioning as one airline. It seemed as if both carriers were using the same contractors? Since there was only one flight out, the check in experience was extremely quick. The only hold up was because of another passenger whose suitcase was slightly over the 40 pound limit (!!) having to make some last minute packing changes. I had paid for two bags up front and the price was comparable to what the US legacy carriers charge. They did not play with their baggage policy… (from the PIE airport…)
There was a $9 upcharge for Priority Access which allowed passengers a dedicated check in line as well as priority sceening. Though I had seriously considered paying this just to make this experience as close to what I expect and normally get as a passenger in F or J, I’m glad I didn’t. Since the aircraft is small and there was only one flight departing, there really wasn’t any wait time at baggage drop. Though at a larger airport the Priority Access could be helpful at security, since Allegiant serves mostly smaller markets and secondary airports, there just aren’t long screening lines. Besides, if you’re flying Allegiant, you’re going on vacation—just relax!
We have TSA Pre-Check so security was, as always, a two to three minute ordeal. We passed the time post security catching up with some friends in the terminal that we ran into and were heading to Chicago for the holiday.
Our inbound aircraft was on time…something I’m finding more and more rare with my legacy airline of choice, AA. Aircraft was also on the newer end for their fleet, which alleviated some of my safety concerns.
As indicated by my pass, boarding was scheduled to start an HOUR before departure. This is one strategy that I think is great, especially for a leisure airline that caters to non-frequent fliers. All passengers were ready to go when boarding started. Boarding was by Zone, with Zone 1 being virtually nobody (Priority Access, Allegiant Credit Card holders, active duty military). There was no pre-boarding. Zones 2 & 3 were for those with no carry on bags. Zones 4 & 5 were for those with carry ons.
Boarding was very quick especially because those without bags were boarded before those without. Also, because the seats are narrower (17 in), the aisle was wide enough for people to pass each other. They were NOT playing with getting people on board and wheels up. Though the process was fast, all FA's were extremely friendly and professional.
The cabin was very fresh and surprisingly clean. Yes, the seats are narrower by an inch and there is 30 inches of pitch. However, the seats were comfortable for a short trip…and I found that I absolutely LOVED the fact that they did not recline. Because I didn't end up having the person in front of me basically in my lap, I found the narrow pitch to be surprisingly adequate.
My bulkhead seat…
View towards the rear…
View towards the front…
The legroom was fine for a short flight… My husband is 6'5 and could cross his legs. I will admit that since my 5 year old daughter had the middle seat instead of another adult that this made things more comfortable…
Tray table up with in flight reading material above…
Very small tray table but this is not a business flight for working nor would a meal be served… Also, to cut back on cleaning there was no seat pocket full of trash! The bare bones seat backs were a bit offputting just because it was very harsh looking. But still, everything was very functional and this cut back on maintenance/cleaning.
Departure was exactly on time. I have not experienced this since I do not know when…
We taxied for about five minutes and were on our way over Richmond…
The in flight service started promptly about 20 minutes into the flight. Yes, you have to pay for the water. However…I found the prices to be very reasonable compared to other carriers.
I kicked off our trip with a round of Tito's Bloody Marys. Though Tito's was not listed on the in flight menu, I was pleasantly surprised to be offered it. Our FA also gave me a double for the price of a single :)
FA's made a second round for refreshments about half way thru the flight…I found this very courteous but I also know the real reason is because Allegiant is generating revenue any way they can.
Going through the in-flight reading materials…
In flight mag was regional and heavily laden with mid price hotel, resort and tourist site ads. It speaks to their core business. After all, a good chunk of their revenue comes from their travel agency.
Add for their credit card…horrible deal. No free bags–but you do get free drinks. It allows you to simply "erase" Allegiant charges like Cap One Venture or Barclay Arrival…but you're stuck with Allegiant.
Ad for their planned resort…though Allegiant has been wildly profitable as a Rust Belt-Sun Belt airline, I'm not certain how they will be as property managers. For it to be successful, they'll have to dramatically expand their Punta Gorda service and make their price point for their vacation units more in alignment with their airfare.
Help wanted!! BTW…seems as if they had some JetBlue inspiration with some of the uniforms.
A quick trip to the lav– nothing special at all but very clean.
Look towards the front of the cabin….
Final approach into PIE…
Bonus shot from the return flight of a pretty decant Merlot that, again, I scored a 2 for 1 on.
Richmond - RIC
St Petersburg-Clearwater - PIE
Overall, I was VERY surprised with Allegiant. Though I didn't make enough photos for a FR of our return flight, it was equally as comfortable and again, ON TIME.
PROS: 1) On time performance (I value this very much) 2) Cost 3) Friendliness of all crew (never encountered a gruff person) 4) "Pay as you go" for what you want 5) Direct service from smaller markets 6) PIE airport only services Allegiant and SunCountry so its pretty much like a private airport. 7) Very efficient procedures
CONS: 1) No Wifi for pay (but, its nice to unplug for a while) 2) Would like to see some sort of loyalty program extended to those without their credit card
We tried Allegiant out this time primarily based on our last minute plans. I will definitely fly again with them not because of their cost, but because it was actually a good experience to a leisure destination. By no means will they ever be my go-to carrier in the way AA or JetBlue is, but if I can get a point to point with them in the future that works with my schedule, I will.
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