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How to travel on low cost airlines in North America

Since South West Airlines took to the skies, low cost airlines have become extremely popular with North American travellers looking to save on flights.

How to travel on low cost airlines in North AmericaHowever, these airlines often come with complicated fees, expensive penalties and complex regulations.

As all airlines are different it can make travel stressful for even the most frequent flyer.

You’ll find the weight of hand luggage, price of priority boarding and even charges for unaccompanied minors vary depending upon which airline you choose to fly with.

Many low cost airlines enforce hefty charges if you fail to follow their policies. Did you know that you can be charged up to $75 per piece of overweight baggage? Even choosing to book your flight by phone can lead to extra charges, with some low cost airlines charging up to $9 per reservation.

These extra charges mean you could end up spending a lot more on that cut-price flight than you bargained for. So being aware of the fees and charges enforced by low cost operators in the US, Canada and Mexico before you fly is extremely important.

Whether you’re flying to San Francisco, Toronto, or Mexico City, follow this handy guide to avoid these charges and discover more about how to travel low cost on airlines in North America. Then take a look at our guides to travelling low cost in Europe and Asia.

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Upgrade your flights

Travel on low cost airlines in North America doesn’t have to be basic. Take a look at our guide to upgrading the service you receive on low cost flights across the continent and in the rest of the world.

You can also make your travels better and easier with this exclusive special offer for LiveShareTravel readers: 20% off with Meteor Meet and Greet airport parking

Travel rules with North America’s low cost airlines

AirlineBooking, Admin & Card FeesHand LuggageHold LuggageBaggage ExtrasBaggage Fees & PenaltiesExtras on BoardFees & PenaltiesOther Charges
US
AirTran AirwaysCall centre booking fee: $15
Online booking fee: Free of charge
Allowance: 1 personal item plus 1 carry-on bag
Weight: No restrictions
Dimensions (cm):
60 x 40 x 25
Cost: Free of charge
Allowance: up to 2 checked items
Weight: 50lbs (23kg) or less
Dimensions:
62 inches (157cm) or smaller
Cost:
1st checked-in bag - $25
2nd checked-in bag - $35
(Fee is waived for Business Class customers, A+ Rewards Elite members and Active Duty Military personnel)
Check in additional baggage:
(2nd checked bag)
Weight: 50lbs (23kg) or less
Dimensions:
62 inches (157cm) or smaller
Cost: $35
Overweight Baggage:
51-100lbs (23-45kg): $75
(Fee is waived for Active Duty Military Personnel)
Oversized Baggage:
63-80 inches (160-203cm):
$75
(Fee is waived for Active Duty Military Personnel)
Excess Baggage: $75 per item
(Fee is waived for Active Duty Military Personnel)
Priority boarding: $10 per passenger
Business class upgrades: $69-$139 (dependent upon length of flight)
Changes made before 20/08/13 fee: $75 per passenger
Changes made on or after 20/08/13: $150 per passenger
Flight change fee: $75 per passenger plus any increase in airfare
Same-day changes (at airport): $50
Cancellation fee before 20/08/13: $75 per passenger
Cancellation fee on or after 20/08/13: $150 per passenger
Sports Equipment:
Bicycles - $75 each way
Other sports equipment - standard oversize/ overweight fees apply
Unaccompanied minor fee: $50 one-way per child on nonstop and direct flights
Transportation of pets: $75
Allegiant AirCall Centre booking fee: $14.99Allowance: 1 personal item plus 1 carry-on bag
Dimensions (cm):
Personal item –
17.8 x 38.1 x 40.6
Carry-on bag –
22.9 x 35.6 x 40.6
Weight: up to 25lbs (11.34kg)
Cost:
Personal item – Free of charge
Carry-on bag - $10-$75, dependent upon date of purchase
Allowance: up to 5 pieces of baggage
Weight: up to 40lbs (18kg) each
Dimensions: up to 80 (203cm) linear inches
Cost: $14.99-$100
Check-in additional baggage (dependent upon route and method of payment):
1st bag –
$14.99-$50
2nd bag - $14.99-$50
3rd bag –
$50-$100
4th bag –
$50-$100
Overweight Baggage: $5 per kg
Overweight Baggage:
41-70lbs
(18.6kg-31.8kg) - +$50
71-100lbs (32.2kg-45.4kg) -
+$75
Oversized Baggage: $75
(height + width + depth in excess of 80 linear inches (203.2cm))
Bags checked-in at gate: up to $75
Oversized personal baggage, oversized and excess carry-on baggage:
$35-$75
Priority boarding: $5
Seat Selection:
$0 - $75
Flight Change: $50-$75 per person, per segment
Name Change:
$50-$75 per person
Cancellation fee within 24 hours of booking: Free of charge
Cancellation fee up to 24 hours before departure before 30/10/13: $50 per person
Cancellation fee up to 24 hours before departure on or after 30/10/13: $75 per person
Transportation of pets (in-cabin): $100
Electronic Carrier usage charge: $10 per passenger
Unaccompanied minor fee: N/A
Frontier Airlines
JetBlue AirwaysReservation fee (phone/in person): $25
Reservation fee (online): Free of charge
Allowance: 1 personal item plus one carry-on bag
Weight:
Dimensions (cm):
45.72 x 38.1 x 20.32
Cost: Free of charge
Allowance: up to 3 checked-in bags
Weight: up to 22.7kg
Dimensions: must not exceed 157.48cm overall
Cost: 1st checked in bag is free
Check in additional baggage:
2nd bag - $40
3rd bag - $75
Overweight baggage:
51-70lbs (up to 31.82kg) - $50 per bag
71-99lbs (up to 45kg) - $100 kg per bag
Oversized baggage:
63-80 inches (203.2cm) - $75 per bag
Baggage larger than 80 inches will not be accepted.
Even more space seats:
$10-$90
Change/
Cancellation fee for non-refundable fares, per person:
(Fares under $100) - $75
(Fares between $100-$149.99) - $100
(Fares $150 and above) - $150
Getaways cancellation fee: $150 per person.
Same day change fee: $50 per person
Sports equipment:
Bicycle –
(Domestic) $50
(International) $80
Surfboard - $50
Windsurf/Kite surf board - $50

Transportation of pet fee: $100 each way
Unaccompanied minors fee: $100 per passenger, each way
Southwest AirlinesPhone reservation fee: Free of charge

Online reservation fee: Free of charge
Allowance: 1 carry-on bag plus 1 personal item
Weight: No restrictions
Dimensions (cm):
25.4 x 40.64 x 60.96
Cost: Free of charge
Allowance: 2 pieces of checked baggage per passenger
Weight: 50lbs (22.67kg)
Size (length x width x height): up to 62 inches (157.48cm)
Cost: Free of charge
Check-in additional baggage:
$75 per item
Overweight Checked-in baggage: $75 per bag weighing more than 50lbs (22.67kg) up to 100lbs (45.35kg)

Oversized checked-in baggage: $75 per bag larger than 67 inches (170cm) up to 80 inches (203cm).
Upgraded boarding: $40Change fee: $0 (fare difference may apply when making a change)
Cancellation fee: $0
Early bird check-in: $12.50 per person
Large media camera equipment: $75 per item

Unaccompanied minor: $50 per passenger.
Transportation of pet (Carry-on charge): $75 per pet carrier

Sports equipment: $75 per bag
Spirit Airlines Reservation centre booking fee: $10 per customer, per booking

Group booking fee: $10 per customer, per booking

Package booking via reservation centre fee: $10 per customer, per booking

Colombia administrative fee: $15 - $95 per customer, per booking

Passenger usage fee: $8.99 - $16.99 per customer, each way
Allowance: 1 personal item + 1 purchased carry-on bag

Dimensions (cm):
Personal item –
40 x 35 x 30
Carry-on bag –
56 x 46 x 25

Cost:
Online at booking or before check-in - $35
During online check-in - $40
Reservation centre - $40
Airport - $50
At gate - $100
Weight: up to 40lbs (18kg)

Dimensions: must not exceed 62 linear inches (158cm)

Cost: dependent upon purchasing method
Check-in additional baggage:
(Online at booking/ before check in)
1st bag - $30
2nd bag - $40
3rd, 4th, 5th bag - $85 per bag
(At online check-in)
1st bag - $35
2nd bag - $45
3rd, 4th, 5th bag - $95 per bag
(Reservation centre)
1st bag - $35
2nd bag - $45
3rd, 4th, 5th bag - $90 per bag
(Airport)
1st bag - $45
2nd - $55
3rd, 4th, 5th bag - $100 per bag
At gate - $100 per bag
Overweight baggage:
41-50lbs
(18-23 kg) - $25 per bag
51-70lbs
(23-32kg) - $50 per bag
71-99lbs
(32-45kg) - $100 per bag

Oversized baggage:
More than 62 linear inches (158cm) -$100 per bag
More than 80 linear inches (203cm) - $150 per bag
Assigned seating at check-in: Free of charge

Advanced seat selection (including deluxe leather): $1 - $50 per seat

Big Front seats:
Advance - $12 - $199
On-board - $25 - $75
Name change: up to $70 per customer, per booking

Web modification or cancellation: $115 per customer, per booking

Reservations/ Airport modification or cancellation: $125 per customer, per booking

Group booking modification or cancellation: $50 per customer, per booking

Charge for printing boarding pass: $10 per boarding pass
Unaccompanied minors: $100 each way (includes snack and a drink)

Infant charge: Free of charge if seated on lap (taxes may apply)

Pet transportation fee: $100 per pet container, each way

Sports equipment:
Bicycles - $75
Scuba tank - $75
Surfboard - $100
Virgin AmericaCall centre reservation fee: $20

Call centre service fee: $20
Allowance: 1 carry-on bag plus 1 personal item
Weight: No restriction
Dimensions: no larger than 50 linear inches (127cm)
Domestic
Allowance: 1-10 items
Weight: up to 50lbs (23kg)
Cost:
$25 per bag (1st checked-in bag is free)

International
Allowance: 1-10 items
Weight: up to 50lbs (23kg)
Cost:
For tickets booked before 4/12/13 the 1st item of checked baggage is free of charge, tickets booked after this date will incur a charge of $25
Domestic
Check-in additional baggage:
2nd checked bag: $25
3rd – 10th checked-in bag:
$25 per item
(charges vary between Main Cabin, Cabin Select and First Class)

International
Check-in additional baggage:
2nd checked-in bag: $25
3rd – 10th checked-in bag:
$25 per item
(charges vary between Main Cabin, Cabin Select and First Class)
Overweight Baggage:
51-70lbs (23-31kg) - $50 per item
71-100lbs (32-45kg) - $100 per item

Oversized baggage exceeding 62 linear inches (157 cm):
$50
Main cabin express seats: $30
Change of reservation fee: $100

Cancellation fee: $100

Same day travel change: $25-$50, dependent upon destination

Fee for documentation sent by post: $20
Unaccompanied minors: $75-$125, dependent upon destination

Pet travelling in main cabin - $100

Sporting equipment: $50
Canada
Sunwing AirlinesBooking fee (online/sales centre): Free of charge Allowance: 1 carry-on bag
Weight: up to 5kg
Dimensions (cm):
23 x 40 x 51
Cost: Free of charge
Allowance: 2 items per passenger
Weight: up to 20kg
Cost: Free of charge
Dimensions: must not exceed 158cm
Check in additional bag: N/A, (excess baggage/ weight will be charged as standard: $10-$20 per kg) Overweight Baggage: $10-$20 per kg Advanced seat selection: $15 per flight

Elite plus upgrade (includes extra legroom and priority boarding): $40 per flight
Flight changes: $50 per file, up to 45 days before departure + any increase in fare.

Name changes: Name changes are not considered changes and therefore cancellation terms apply.

Cancellation fee: varies between 30%, 60%, 100% of Air Transportation charge and $250 per person (dependent upon departure date)
Unaccompanied minors: $50 per one-way flight

Sports equipment:
Golf clubs, Scuba, Skis and Kiteboard – Free of charge (excess charges apply if weight exceeds allowance)
Bicycles - $30
Oversized sports equipment - $100

Infant accessories – Free, one item per infant
West Jet AirlinesTravel bank credit extension: $20 - $23Allowance: 1 carry-on bag plus 1 personal item
Weight:
Dimensions (cm):
Carry-on bag -
53 x 23 x 38
Personal item - 41 x 15 x 33
Cost: Free of charge
Allowance: up to 4 check-in bags
Weight: up to 23kg
Dimension: up to 157cm (62 inches)
Cost: 1st checked-in bag is free of charge
Check-in additional baggage:
2nd bag –
$20 - $23
3rd bag –
$50 - $57.50
4th bag –
$50 - $57.50
Overweight Baggage:
$50 - $57

Oversized Baggage:
$50 - $57
Advanced seat selection:
1 hour flight or less - $5 - $5.75
1-2.5 hour flight - $10 - $11.50
2.5 hours + flight -
$15 - $17.25

Plus fare seat fee (extra legroom and pre-boarding):
1-2.5 hours - $15 - $17.25
2.5 hours + - $30 - $34.50
Name or itinerary change within 24 hours of booking: $0

Name or itinerary booking 24 hours after booking: $50 - $75

Cancellation Fee: $50 - $86.25 (Cancellations within 24 hours of booking will receive a full refund)
Unaccompanied minor fee: $110 - $115

Early Show:
$50 - $57.50

Late Show:
$50 - $57.50

Pets in cabin:
$50 - $57.50

Pets as checked baggage:
$50 - $57.50
Mexico
InterjetCall centre service fee: $4

Debit cards are not accepted for purchasing flights online.
Allowance: 2 carry-on bags per passenger

Weight: up to 10kg

Dimensions:
Must fit in the overhead cabin or underneath the seat in front of the passenger

Cost: Free of charge
International Flight
Allowance: 2 pieces of baggage
Weight: up to 25kg per bag
Cost: Free of charge
Dimensions: Not exceeding outer linear dimensions 2.73 square metres

Domestic Flight
Allowance: 1 piece of baggage
Weight: up to 25kg
Cost: Free of charge
Dimensions: not exceeding outer linear dimensions 2.73 square metres
Check-in additional baggage: N/A (Excess baggage/ weight will be charged as standard - $5 per kg)
Overweight baggage (applicable to overweight and additional baggage): $5 per kg Seat selection: Free of charge Name Change: $25 plus taxes per person, per flight

Change fee for international travel: $25 plus taxes per person, per flight

Cancellation Fee: All tickets are non-refundable
Enrolment for Club Jet Membership: $20

Annual renewal of Club Jet Membership: $20

Infant Fee: 1 infant can travel for free on parents lap, any additional infants are required to pay the same fare as adults

Unaccompanied minor charge: Free of charge

Sports equipment: Included in baggage allowance, any excess weight will be charged as standard
Viva AerobusDeferred payment fee:
3 months interest free -
$21
6 months interest free - $25

Payment method fee: $8
Allowance: 1 personal item plus one carry-on bag per passenger
Weight: up to 10kg
Dimensions (cm):
55 x 40 x 20
Cost: Free of charge

Weight: up to 25kg
Cost: Free of charge
Dimensions: A combined measurement of 158cm
Check-in additional baggage:
1st bag of 15kg -
Online - $50
Call Centre - $80

Overweight baggage from 15kg to 25kg:
Online - $25
Call Centre - $80
Overweight Baggage: $20 per kg

Oversized baggage:
Online/ Call Centre - $25
Airport - $40
VIP Pass: $150 Mexican Peso ($11.78 US Dollars)

Viva Express:
$75 Mexican Peso ($5.89 US Dollars)
Name Change:
Online - $85
Call centre/Airport - $110

Date change, more than 24 hours before flight:
Online - $60
Call Centre/ Airport - $90

Date change, less than 24 hours before flight:
Online - $110
Call centre/ Airport - $170
E-ticket expedition fee per person, per segment:
Online - $10
Call Centre/ Airport - $18

Reprinting of boarding pass at airport: $30
Instruments and special equipment:
Online/ Call Centre - $40
Airport - $50

Viva Regular Adjustment Fee: $50

Pets on domestic flight fee: $75

Pets on international flight fee: $100

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About

LiveShareTravel's writer Lisa is passionate about travel and nothing excites her more than exploring new countries. She loves reading, warm summer days and eating Marmite (which she always packs in her suitcase). Lisa is currently making plans to travel the world.

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4 Responses to How to travel on low cost airlines in North America

  1. How I wish I could just fly JetBlue everywhere! I’m often on the early a.m. flight between Boston and New York and I love how they give you coffee in a to go cup so you can take it with you when you get off. Also free TV and free snacks and their great customer service.

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