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Low-Cost Carriers Promise Cheaper Flights, But Are Deals Too Good To Be True?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Some airlines promise you can fly to the beach for less money than it would take to drive.

But, is it too good to be true?

More than 3 million summer travelers will depart from Pittsburgh International Airport this year. While some have saved all year to be able to afford a ticket to hot spot destinations like Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, others are flying there for less than it would cost to drive.

"Sometimes you can get flights down for $59, back for $59, $89 very, very cheap," Michelle Miller, of Canonsburg, said.

Miller, along with her sister Melissa Cain and their kids, are headed to St. Petersburg on Allegiant to see their mom.

"I was just looking forward to the quick flight time straight to where we want to go. Not a lot of flights that go straight to St. Pete," Cain said.

They each got a round trip ticket for under $300 total.

"It's the best airline for the price. Very convenient. Very good fees," Miller said.

Allegiant, along with Frontier and Spirit Airlines offer an "A la carte" model for air travel. It gets "leisure" travelers from point A to point B with only airfare and a personal item included for a "Bare Fare."

Out of the 16 air carriers that serve Pittsburgh International, Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit are the Ultra Low Cost Carriers. It makes Pittsburgh one of nine airports in the United States to offer all three.

"Certainly there's demand. We're seeing great load factors on all three carriers. The flights are full, so that's driving them to increase more flights, which we're really happy about," Pittsburgh International Airport's Bob Kerlik said.

The ULCCs, as they're referred to, have brought in an untapped market of first-time flyers.

"It's going to be driving more passengers. We've already seen an increase in passengers in 2015 and 2016. Through 2017, we're up 3 to 4 percent year over year," Kerlik said.

Spirit is the newest ULCC to call Pittsburgh International home, taking off on May 25.

Stephen Schuler from Spirit says the airline is rolling in service.

It'll first offer flights to Dallas and Myrtle Beach for as low as $40 one way.

"We come to the markets where we know people are looking for ultra low fares. Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, places where (for a) family vacation the difference of a price makes the difference of whether a family vacation is worth it or not," Schuler said.

Flying a ULCC is different than traditional air travel.

Anything that goes in the overhead bin does have a cost and depending on when you buy your bag, you can pay anywhere from $30 to $65.

"It is cheapest to buy your bag when you're booking your travel, right online. As you go a little bit longer down the process, it does get more pricy, including at the airport," Schuler said.

If you're able to pack everything into a backpack or bag that fits underneath the seat, it's free.

Instead of printing a boarding pass, which is extra, you can use your phone, which is free.

Drinks, snacks and bigger seats are also extra.

Schuler said everything is spelled out on the air carrier's website and that an informed passenger is a thrifty one.

Passengers traveling on Ultra Low Cost Carriers should also be aware that there are limited flights.

In fact, depending on where you're going, some flights may be offered only a few times a week.

And, in the extreme case of a weather or mechanical delay or cancellation, you could be waiting a few days until the next flight.


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