I took flight 402 from Las Vegas to Springfield, Missouri, and then flight 403 from Missouri back to Las Vegas. First up are my observations about Flight 402.
This flight departs in the morning from McCarran Airport. When I arrived at the gate, the plane was already there. Boarding began about 30 minutes prior to takeoff, and proceeded with pre-boarding, followed by several boarding zones. They board those without carry-ons first. At first I wasn’t sure why they would do it this way, but then I noticed them stopping people attempting to board with carry-ons. It would appear that this is an easy way for them to make sure that everyone with a carry-on actually paid for one, as no one in the first boarding zones should have a carry-on with them.
The flight departed and landed without delay, and the flight was rather smooth. The flight lasted about two and a half hours.
My return flight back to Las Vegas departed around 3pm. As with the first flight, boarding began about 30 minutes prior to takeoff and went in the order of pre-boarding, no carry-ons, then those with carry-ons. Also as with my first flight, the plane was already at the gate when I arrived at the airport two hours before takeoff.
This flight took about two hours and forty minutes. It also departed and landed on time, although we had to travel through some turbulent weather over Colorado that the pilot warned us about before takeoff.
Allegiant, as of this writing, boasts three types of aircraft in its fleet, including the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 used for these flights. These are older planes, so don’t expect some of the newer features such as personal monitors or even seats which recline. On my return flight, I sat near the back, which was rather loud. If you plan to choose your seat, you may want to get a roomy exit seat, although keep in mind that our attendants said that passengers under the age of 15 could not sit in those seats.
Before the flight, I wasn’t thrilled about dropping $30 per carry-on, but after we arrived home from our vacation, I explained to my wife that I was glad Allegiant charged for carry-on bags. The typical commercial flight with free carry-ons typically finds the overhead compartments jammed full by frugal travelers who hope to smash as much as they can into their free space without having to pay for checked baggage. Allegiant’s ala carte menu means that the most frugal travelers are limited to their “personal items” which must be stored at their feet. That means the overhead compartments were not used to the degree that I’m used to seeing with other airlines. On both of my flights, the overhead compartments had plenty of space for those who paid for carry-ons.
When you purchase your tickets online, you can choose from a variety of options – all for a fee – as part of their ala carte program. I wanted to choose where my wife, kids, and I were going to sit, so this cost me an extra $13 each. I had read somewhere that they boarded those who purchased seat selections first, but this was not the case. If you want to get on the plane first, you can purchase priority boarding for about $8, but I did not choose this. It also didn’t matter because I found a wealth of free overhead space available. For one of the flights, I chose the exit seat with extra leg room. This was a few bucks extra, and well worth it. I could stretch my legs all the way out during the flight.
In-Flight Meal Service
There are no free sodas or peanuts, but Allegiant does offer in-flight food and drinks. I didn’t find the prices to be outrageous, but I’m from Las Vegas and have been desensitized to price gouging on the Strip. But I bought a turkey sandwich for $6, which was satisfactory. It was more filling than the cheese and fruit plate for the same price. The chips and salsa were also a bit light in substance (the bag of chips was about 75% air and contained about 10 chips). Sodas were $2 each, and mixed alcoholic drinks were about $7. Keep in mind that Allegiant does not take cash or American Express for in-flight food – only debit cards. This seemed to surprise a few people who were holding cash in their hands while waiting to order.
Overall I felt the food selection was small but sufficient. I also noticed that they have a few specialty items available for their flights to Hawaii.
One of the most heated areas in negative reviews about Allegiant involve complaints about the staff. Everyone I encountered was at least professional, and quite friendly in some cases. I did not have to deal with customer service over the phone, so I can’t vouch for that aspect of service.
I booked my flight and chose all of my options at allegiantair.com. 24 hours prior to your flight, you can go online to check in and print out boarding passes, which I did for one of my flights. For my return flight, I had to go to the counter to get my boarding passes, and encountered no problems. The man at the desk was friendly and there was only one person in front of me in line.
Prior to my first-hand experience with Allegiant, I was concerned by the number of negative reviews online about the airline. Those negative reviews range from late or canceled flights to an uncaring staff. While I certainly don’t discount any of those reviews, they didn’t reflect my experience with the airline. My flights were on time, and I had no problem with their ala carte structure. Allegiant took me from point A to point B safely and for far less than the competitors, even factoring in the cost of carry-ons and preferred seating.
I will be flying Allegiant again next month, and I will write an additional review at that time.