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Allegiant Airlines SMX-LAS

Allegiant Airlines SMX-LAS

Old Mar 11, 2012, 3:21 am
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Allegiant Airlines SMX-LAS

I had a few days off, so I decided to go on a combo trip. I drove 200 miles north to Santa Maria, CA (airport code SMX) to visit a friend for a day and then flew to Las Vegas and back the next day.

Allegiant Airlines flies SMX-LAS 4 times a week. The plane goes from LAS to SMX in the late afternoon and turns around and goes back to LAS, and they only fly it Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday.

Even though the major airlines nickel-and-dime you, the amount of nickel-and-diming Allegiant does is far more than that. There is a "convenience fee" of $10 per segment per passenger for buying a ticket on the website!

Fortunately, a recently enacted law requires the total to be displayed on the website. It says $47 even though the "fare" is only $9.

In addition to the mandatory fees, they also have optional fees. You can pay $19.99 on the website to check one bag one way or you can pay $35 at the airport.

You can also buy a seat assignment. The price varies -- for this route, $6.99 behind the exit row, $11.99 for the exit row, and more than that for seats up front. It's all coach, so "up front" means the front of coach.

If you choose not to buy a seat assignment, then you participate in open boarding after people with seat assignments have boarded. I chose to save a few bucks and gamble on open boarding ... after all, I am going to LAS to gamble anyway, so let's start early

On Thursday, I arrived at SMX two hours before departure when the ticket counter opens. I wanted to check in early because they assign open seating groups sequentially (like Southwest). You can do on-line check-in but only if you buy a seat assignment.

Even though I was there two hours early, there was a line. Still, not too bad, as I got #8 (i.e., I was the 8th person to check in who didn't buy a seat assignment), which is in the first group of 1-10. Yeah! ^

I had no checked bags. While waiting to check in, I overheard the gate agent asking people if they want a courtesy check. This means if you are checking a bag and you have a carry-on, if you want, they will check the carry-on for free. Since you are going to the luggage carousel anyway you can pick up both instead of one while dragging the other through the airport. This also frees up overhead bin space, and it works; there was still bin space at the end of boarding.

Another optional fee is priority boarding. If you buy a seat assignment, you can also buy priority boarding. You can also buy 1st class security entrance in LAS. That would probably come in handy on Sunday and Monday after this weekend! (NASCAR) I went back on Friday (so a one night trip) because the hotel rates were astronomical for the weekend.

The airport has a bar frequented by locals which gets more crowded when the Las Vegas flights are departing. I went in and had two drinks, then went through security and sat at the gate and watched the incoming plane from Las Vegas arrive.

Since I didn't buy a seat assignment, I stayed in the gate area and watched them board priority, then all other seat assignments, and then open boarding 1-10 which is me. Roughly half the plane bought seat assignments, and the plane was about 3/4 full.

All of Allegiant's planes are MD-80s. SMX does not have jetways. When the plane arrived, they deplaned through the front door down RJ-type stairs, and out the tailcone on stairs built into the plane. They also did boarding through both doors.

Only a couple of people bought exit row seats, so I still had a pick of exit row seats when I boarded. Allegiant has so many fees, during the safety demo, I was expecting them to say "To start the flow of oxygen, pay the $25 oxygen fee by swiping your credit or debit card in the slot provided with the oxygen mask."

We had a short taxi out and take off. SMX doesn't get many flights (just this and a handful of daily UAX flights to LAX). I checked the UA fare and it was outragous: $735 to go SMX-LAX-LAS and back! I paid just under $100.

I chose not to buy any of the snacks or beverages for sale in flight ($2 for a beverage, $3 for a snack, $5 for a sandwich). About half the people bought something, mostly drinks.

I took a taxi to the MGM Grand and hit the casino floor. I played blackjack and roulette, and I played the slots in between table games (I lose money more slowly that way, 25 cents or a dollar at a time rather than $20). I did okay, walking away with more or less the same amount as I went in with.

I got to sleep around 3 AM, got up at 10, checked out, ate breakfast, walked around outside for a bit, gambled some more, took a taxi to the airport, and I arrived at 3 PM for the return flight that leaves at 5:15 PM.

The check-in line was about 15 minutes long. While waiting, I saw a gate agent telling a passenger that because he was there only 40 minutes before departure (you have to be checked in at least 45 minutes before departure) he may miss his flight. He was going to FAT (Fresno, CA) and if he missed his flight, fortunately for him there is another flight. If you miss the flight to SMX on a Friday, you are stuck there until Sunday!

There was no wait at security and I didn't have to go through the nude-o-scope both ways on the trip ^

On this airline, if you buy a seat assignment but don't board when it's your turn, open seating passengers can take your seat (i.e., legalized seat poaching ). This happened to me on the return flight.

The gate agent made an announcement before starting open seating "if you bought a seat assignment, you must board now, or you will lose your seat assignment that you paid money for"

I again had 1st group open boarding and took an empty exit row seat. A bit later, a man came up and said that he had seat 25A (i.e., he had purchased a seat assignment but didn't board during assigned seating time). I said that they had already switched to open seating. He didn't protest and took another empty exit row seat (i.e., the $11.99 he paid for an exit row seat assignment was a waste as he ended up taking an exit row seat during open boarding).

The return flight was the same, on time with snacks and drinks available for sale (I figured what the heck and got the snack pack). I deplaned out the tailcone and got in my car and left the airport. It's great little airport, free parking, albeit small and far away from where I live.

In summary, I actually like the way they do seating. That way, if you're picky or traveling with someone and must sit together, by paying for a seat assignment, not only do you get a seat assignment (obviously), you have a better selection of seats from the seat map since all the open seating people (like me) are not on the seat map taking up space.

It also means no seat switching for couples (one of my pet peeves ). If you are flying with someone and want to save a buck and do open seating, you risk not getting two seats together. During open boarding you have to take whatever is left. ^
Kevin AA is offline  
Old Mar 12, 2012, 3:27 pm
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Thanks for a fun report about an airline we don't read much about here ^
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Old Mar 12, 2012, 4:23 pm
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Originally Posted by CMK10
Thanks for a fun report about an airline we don't read much about here ^
Really enjoyed the report.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old Mar 12, 2012, 5:38 pm
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Thx for the report,

Did the 3 hr drive from YWG to Grand Forks, ND for a cheap trip to Vegas...

IMO the airline is only worth it if you want to save money.... but not even sure if it's worth flying with Allegiant as there are cheap fares to vegas throughout the year if you book in adv..
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Old Mar 13, 2012, 12:10 am
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Great job of describing the Allegiant experience. Those low fares do come at an extra price, don't they...
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Old Mar 13, 2012, 6:17 pm
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Great report!

Many thanks for sharing!
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Old Mar 14, 2012, 11:05 am
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Originally Posted by Kevin AA
Allegiant has so many fees, during the safety demo, I was expecting them to say "To start the flow of oxygen, pay the $25 oxygen fee by swiping your credit or debit card in the slot provided with the oxygen mask."
Like this?

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