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TravelWays to improve your low-cost flight experience

Ways to improve your low-cost flight experience

If you’ve never flown with a low-cost airline, then take it from us: You’re probably an outlier. Budget carriers like Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines (or EasyJet and Ryanair in the U.K.) can often be the most budget-friendly ways to travel.

Sure, you might not get all the perks of flying with a premium airline, but sometimes, the cheapest option can be the best option — especially if you’re only flying short-haul or on a domestic route.

Related: Budget airline survival guide: Avoid fees and enjoy your flight

Just because you’re flying with a low-cost airline doesn’t mean you can’t have a great experience. In fact, there are some great ways to improve your otherwise bare-bones flying experience that won’t necessarily mean shelling out lots more cash.

We’ve outlined six of them below.

Use an airport lounge

Vienna Lounge. PRIORITY PASS

Contrary to popular belief, lounges are not reserved for passengers flying in business class or first class, or for those who have elite status. With a little planning and research before you travel, you will likely find a lounge you can enter without flying in a premium cabin.

Though the quality of lounges can vary, a lounge experience is almost always a cut above waiting in the standard departure areas.

The first step in getting lounge entry is researching the airport you’re traveling from to understand your options.

It’s entirely possible you’ll be able to enter a lounge based on your credit card. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card all come with lounge access perks.

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Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Alongside premium airline lounges, you may also find a few options that allow you to pay to enter or access via lounge programs such as Priority Pass.

Let’s use Orlando International Airport (MCO) as an example. The Club at MCO has outlets in Terminal A (home to Frontier, Southwest Airlines and Avelo Airlines) and Terminal B (home to Breeze Airways, Volaris, WestJet and Sun Country Airlines).

For a $50 day pass, you get complimentary snacks and beverages (including beer, wine and premium spirits), newspapers, free Wi-Fi and space to work. Alternatively, you can access this lounge with a Priority Pass membership.

Priority Pass annual fees start at $99 and break down as follows:

  • Standard membership: $99 per year; includes visits for $35 each for the member and any guests
  • Standard Plus membership: $329 per year; includes 10 free visits, with subsequent visits for $35 each (the same price as all guest visits)
  • Prestige membership: $469 per year; all visits are included for the member, though guests are charged $35 per visit

You can sign up for a Priority Pass membership at prioritypass.com.

Pay for seat selection

You can pay extra for a Big Front Seat on a Spirit Airlines A321neo. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Paying for a specific seat can be an annoying expense, especially if you’re traveling with a family or in a group. However, when flying with a budget airline, paying for a specific seat could make your journey much more comfortable than it would be in a random seat.

When choosing a seat, consider how close it is to the front and back of the plane. Low-cost airlines tend to board and deplane via both the front and the back.

The closer you are to the doors, the quicker you can disembark when you land. You should also take legroom into account. If you’re tall, paying for a seat with extra legroom (or in an exit row) will make a huge difference.

Seat prices vary between airlines and can often change depending on route and availability. Spirit, for example, offers seat selection from as low as $1 to $250 on some flights.

Related: Spirit Airlines elite status: What it is and how to earn it

Before buying, consider the amount you paid for your original ticket, the duration of your flight and whether the additional seat cost would sufficiently improve your journey.

Note: If you’re traveling as a family, some low-cost carriers offer preferred seat selection methods where you’ll be seated together without having to pay extra.

Do your research to ensure you’re not overpaying for a benefit you’d otherwise get for free.

Use fast-track airport security

TSA PreCheck is currently available in more than 200 U.S. airports; it costs $78 for five years and $70 to renew.

If you have PreCheck, you don’t have to remove your laptop from your bag, and you can keep your shoes on. You get to walk through a regular metal detector instead of going through the body scanner.

Having PreCheck can significantly reduce how long you wait in the security line, especially in busy airports like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York.


If you have a Global Entry card, TSA PreCheck is included for free. The Global Entry application fee is currently $100 for five years but will increase to $120 in October 2024. The application renewal fee may be covered as a perk if you’re a credit card holder.

Low-annual-fee and premium credit cards that offer a Global Entry credit include:

Most cards that offer a Global Entry fee credit also allow you to cover a Global Entry membership for someone else. For example, if you have an unused Global Entry credit on your Amex Platinum, you could charge another person’s Global Entry fee to your card to reimburse the purchase.

Related: Best credit cards for free Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

Bring your own snacks

If you’re not indulging in an airport lounge, bringing your own food is a good idea — especially if you want to save money at expensive airport shops and restaurants.

Buying snacks at your local grocery store before you travel or even making sandwiches at home to store in your carry-on bag is a simple task, and you’ll be thankful later. You won’t have issues taking snacks like sandwiches, fruit or anything dry and packaged through security with you.

Upon boarding, you won’t have to wait for the food cart to arrive and pay for more expensive and, let’s face it, less tasty snacks.

Check the airline’s baggage policy


Being told your bag is too big just as you’re about to board a flight is every traveler’s nightmare. The outcome usually means you’ll be charged to place your luggage in the hold last minute.

Luckily, this scenario is avoidable, and sometimes you can even avoid checked and carry-on baggage fees altogether. Do some research before you fly on the size and weight of your carry-on luggage versus what the airline allows.

We’ve compiled several comprehensive guides below that could help you save money on baggage fees:

Check out our guide for more information on baggage fees.

Related: Credit cards that get you free checked bags

Download your own entertainment


If you own a smartphone, tablet or laptop, there’s an abundance of entertainment at your fingertips. Use this to your advantage and download a few episodes of your favorite series or a couple of films if you know you’re about to take a low-cost flight.

Additionally, make sure you have a decent case for your device that will keep it propped up on your tray table and a portable charger, just in case you can’t plug it in during the flight. It’s an especially good idea to bring a tablet or laptop if you’re traveling with kids and want to keep them entertained for the duration of the flight.

Bottom line

Flying with a low-cost carrier doesn’t mean you need to have a terrible experience. All it takes is a bit of research and planning about your departure airport, the airline and your arrival airport. Who knows — you might even consider booking a low-cost flight rather than a full-service carrier for your next trip.


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