For better or for worse, Allegiant Air, the ninth largest airline in the United States, has had its share of publicity in 2018. It is known as a leisure class of airline, meaning it is not the type of airline you expect there to be a First Class or Business Class section. Their fleet of airplanes, though in the process of being upgraded, holds an average of 160 passengers each. Combined with their ultra-low cost fares, they are a number one choice for many flyers who are looking to get to that once a year vacation spot safely and economically.
Some of the item on this list of 20 things you didn’t know about Allegiant Air honestly are up for debate. Part of the reason is that some of the facts have been gathered from actual passengers, and as we all know there are usually two sides to a story. There is an inherent bias in any article, and with Allegiant being somewhat controversial during 2018 we thought it was fair to give you a heads up.
1. It recently recorded its 62nd consecutive quarter of showing a profit.
This is a numbers fact, and bias or no bias numbers don’t lie. (But statistics can.) That’s 15 and a half years of being in the black. While any company can be criticized for its operations and performance, showing a profit since 2003 through the Great Recession and a volatile stock market says a lot about the management of the company. As for the employee and passenger view of this profit record, continue reading.
2. Allegiant pilots threatened to go on strike in 2018.
The main issue was pilot and passenger safety, as the pilots maintained that the scheduling by the airlines was simply overly stressful on the pilots. There is something to be said for the logic of this position since small planes plus low fares plus high demand adds up to a lot of flights in order to post the kind of profit record the company has. The safety of the passengers is regarded as the primary focus of any airline.
3. The company landed on 60 Minutes.
Earlier this year the CBS investigative team chose Allegiant Air as a target, presumably due to their questionable safety record. We won’t discuss the program here, but there appears to be a close connection between the threatened strike by the pilots and the timing of the 60 Minutes program. As a general rule, government agencies and big businesses that appear on the investigative journal program are not selected to be presented in a positive light.
4. Loyal long time flyers have started to abandon that loyalty and are looking elsewhere.
This is trend that has started in 2017, so there must be something that has drastically changed to influence so many regular flyers. The general complaints vary, but it seems to be a problem that permeates the entire company, from unprofessional pilots to horrible customer service. Note that not every loyal flyer has jumped ship, but the numbers appear to be growing.
5. Website deals are not always deals.
There have been reports of passengers booking flights based on the state price on a website, then having those prices changed during the confirmation process. Many of its flyers use the Internet and discount travel sites to book their flights, so it is possible this is more of a problem with the terms and conditions of the website than the airline. However, the vast majority of complaints do not place the fault at the feet of the travel site or even at Allegiant’s own website. This seems to indicate there is something else going on, though all that can be said is there are a number of unhappy flyers who find the advertised rates unreliable.
6. They don’t accept death certificates without a lot of hassle.
There are two views to this, the fairest being that a check of the airline’s website has very clear yet detailed terms and conditions on the use of death certificates for refunds or cancellations due to a death in the family. It can be said that the passenger is solely responsible for understanding those terms and conditions before booking the ticket, yet it is equally understandable that the emotional trauma caused by an expected death of a parent or child moves the price of an airline ticket down on the list of priorities to take care of.
7. They have way too many mechanical problems.
There are two dimensions to this problem. The first is the long delays faced by passengers due to aircraft maintenance. Some of the reasons are the older fleet of aircraft, while other times it is the shortage of available mechanics. The second part is that there have been passenger reports that the aircraft has had mechanical issues in-flight, constituting a major passenger safety problem. This was part of the focus of the 60 Minutes investigation.
8. They pad their profits by charging more if you want to change your seat after booking.
Loyal customers have reported that Allegiant has recently changed its policies regarding seat selection and changes to increase its revenues at the expense of passengers. It used to be where you could change your seat for free based on the availability of seating before departure. No more. Whether they are padding their profits by the new policy is debatable.
9. “Customer Service feels like the Gestapo.”
This is a harsh assessment of the customer service department but it is reflective of the many changes that the company has instituted over the last couple of years. Long wait times, sometimes to the point of having to hang up out of frustration, have become the norm rather than the exception. This characterization may also have something to do with the tighter application of the existing policies, as was noted above.
10. Damaged baggage claims have become a nightmare.
This is another problem of recent vintage, as both the process and resolution have become more of a source of frustration than satisfaction. Some passengers have been reporting their claims for damaged baggage have been outright rejected, while others have had baggage damaged and have decided not to bother with the claims process since the outcome of rejection has been predetermined. With any airlines this is clearly unacceptable, and Allegiant has not substantively responded to the consistent complaints to the satisfaction of the passengers.
11. They have some less than upfront carry-on baggage policies.
The FAQ section of the company’s website clearly states its policies and procedures for checking baggage and what is allowed on board. But some passengers maintain that liquids that have made it through the TSA checkpoint have been rejected by the airline for their own reasons. Other passengers have claimed that they were charged $50 for a carry-on item that barely exceeded the stated size requirements (say, by one-tenth of an inch). Now $50 is a lot of money for a carry-on item, but the airline industry in general has been raising the fee for carry-ons, so singling out Allegiant is unfair. As for the strict adherence to the guidelines, that is a matter of opinion.
12. You have to pay for snacks and drinks – a lot.
There are no freebies on an Allegiant flight, and that includes the generally expected drink and a snack. Exactly when they removed this simple passenger goody is not clear, but the recent price for a single can of soda or beer has reached $6. This is comparable to the cost of a beer at many professional sports games, but without the entertainment factor. It is not clear if the aircraft has been equipped with enough drinks and snacks to satisfy all 160 passengers, should they be willing to pony up the $6 price.
13. Their app can’t be trusted.
Almost every airline has their own mobile app from which you can check the status of your flight, confirm your arrival at the airport, and several other basic functions so you spend less time at the counter and more time relaxing before you board. But the app can be especially important when trying to makes changes to your reservation, and having an app that crashes without recovery is a huge problem. It’s easy to blame the device or the passenger in such instances, but this is not among the most common complaints, which opens the possibility that the app has more problems than complained about.
14. Prepaid credit cards are not accepted for making reservations or payments.
Whether this is solely an Allegiant Air policy or a general airline industry issue has not yet been fully resolved. In many cases the uneasy answer is – it depends. A credit card is usually required to make reservations but so are debit cards. The issue of fund availability exists with both prepaid cards and debit cards, so unless there is a technical difference to Allegiant this seems like an awkward problem. Of course, very few flyers will try to use a prepaid card, so if it is your only choice you will have to look elsewhere.
15. On average, passengers spend an additional $45 per ticket for a variety of fees.
These fees include bags, seating assignments (without changes), travel insurance, and priority boarding, to name a few. Based on the average air fare of $67 per passenger, that raises the total price of a ticket to a more common carrier total of $112. There are a host of other fees the airline charges, some not so obvious, and then there is the aforementioned $6 a pop for a pop. So it is fair to ask how much of a deal is Allegiant for vacationers, even if they do only fly once a year?
16. Allegiant Air’s motto may be parallel to the idea that you can squeeze water from a rock.
If you think Allegiant is only about cheap air fares, think again. They also assist passengers with everything from car rentals to hotels, which may be one reason for the agonizing long customer service hold times. But these extra services result in an additional bottom line profit of $4 per passenger. There is still something to be said for there being 100 pennies in a dollar.
17. They have now moved into the hotel industry.
It was announced this year that Allegiant is building a hotel for its passengers that will go for the un-cheap price of $200 a night. That is the starting price for a single room, with other rooms priced higher. They are betting that making a connection with the hotel industry will boost profits and passengers will take advantage of the opportunity. At an initial investment of $420 million, it is worth watching to see if they can continue their streak of 62 consecutive quarters with a profit.
18. The hotel decision is purely profit motivated.
The president of Allegiant simply said that the idea of their first hotel being built near the Disneyland area of Florida has everything to do with getting a bigger slice of the vacationer’s discretional spending pie. As a matter of numbers, Disneyland gets 90 percent of the vacationer dollar spent in Florida, while airline companies manage only 10 percent of the total. The goal is to decrease Disney’s take and increase Allegiant’s. Some things are simple.
19. The Florida market is one of Allegiant’s most sought after destinations.
The airline has 7 airports in Florida, each strategically located and results in the departure and arrival of more than 8 million passengers a year to those airports. Choosing the first hotel to be near Disneyland is actually a no-brainer. But with all this recent talk of expanding into the hotel industry, it should be asked whether the regular flyers will be paying for the experiment.
20. Allegiant Air passengers are surprisingly affluent.
The strangest set of statistics are saved for last, as the reason that Allegiant seems to be insensitive to the complaints is there are a large number of people who use Allegiant that are either affluent or have large credit lines available to them. For example, their research showed that passengers spend an average of $221 a night for a single hotel room. Suite spending showed a willingness to shell out almost $50 a room per night extra. The estimates are that for a one week vacation stay for a family of four the money spent will reach the $4500 level. This is a low ball estimate, which is why Allegiant believes many of its customers are reasonably affluent.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker