I work for a very large corporate travel agency and discovered that Allegiant Airlines offers a $35 each way fare to travel agents. Even though my agency is strictly corporate bookings, Allegiant still extended the offer to me. I live in metro Phoenix and usually fly either US or WN nonstop to MKE. I decided to give Allegiant a try as they fly nonstop from Phoenix/Mesa to Appleton, WI which is only about 20 minutes from my Mom's house versus about 1.5 hours from MKE. I knew there would be other fees added to the $70 roundtrip base price but wasn't quite prepared for just how many fees. Allegiant thrives on the extra fees and I was subjected to them. First of all I had to pay a $20 fee by simply booking over the phone. I had NO choice as I couldn't book my industry discounted ticket online. Next up was my preassigned seat fee. I elected to check in online for the outbound flight and let the computer select my seat. For the return flight however, which was on a Sunday, and would probably be a pretty full flight, I wanted to make sure I had a window seat. Allegiant charges $20 for any seat up front. A window in the back on the two seat side is $17 and a window in the back on the three seat side costs $14. I elected the three seat side for $14. I also prepaid my checked bag fee as that is lower if paid before flight departure. That was another $50. I had to ensure that my carry on bag would fit under the seat in front of me to avoid yet another fee! When all was said and done my ticket cost was $175.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Phoenix/Mesa - Appleton
Allegiant flight 166
Scheduled departure time 745am
Scheduled arrival time 100pm
Aircraft - MD80
Seat - 33F
After getting up at 4am, and making a roughly 50 minute drive, I arrived at the small Mesa Gateway airport just as some light was appearing in the sky. I parked my car in a parking area that juts out into the ramp area. As I started to walk to the terminal, I snapped a couple of pics.
There were 7 Allegiant planes on the ground awaiting the days work.
The Gateway airport is small. They are starting to do some renovations to expand the terminal, but it's still small. This image pretty much shows the extent of the terminal.
The lines to check in weren't too bad but Allegiant has seperate lines for each departure city. I got into the "Appleton" line only to discover that that line was also for a flight leaving for Ogden, Utah. Each agent at the checkin counter was working a specific flight only. As I waited in line the agent working Ogden kept on calling out "anyone else for Ogden" and proceeded to check in those passengers since their flight was leaving first. My immediate impression of Allegiant was that they operate an EXTREMELY bare bones operation. There were no electronic FIDS anywhere in sight. Instead, they had a board behind the ticket counter with the flight numbers and destinations hand written on it in marker. Each agent was checking in passengers on a lap top computer. I later discovered when I boarded my flight that one flight attendant was also checking in passengers at the checkin counter for the flight they were about to work! When it was finally my turn to drop off my bag, as I had checked in online, the whole process took about 15 minutes which was ridiculous as I only needed to drop off my checked bag. This image shows the small checkin area. Allegiant to the left and Spirit to the right.
Once checked in, you have to literally walk back outside to go through security! I'm not sure if that is due to the construction work or just how the terminal is set up.
There were only 2 lines for TSA security. Considering the majority of passengers on Allegiant are leisure, and hardly ever travel, the lines for TSA moved extremely slowly. By the time I was finally screened the whole check in process and TSA took close to an hour. Ridiculous. When I travel from Phoenix Sky Harbor, a MUCH larger and busier airport, I can usually get from the curb to through security in about 20 minutes. Once through security this is what I saw. A very basic terminal. It was newer but still very plain.
This was the "concourse" leading down to my departure gate.
As I followed the signs to gate 2, I noticed that it was leading me right back outside again!
This "terminal" is where my gate was. It looks more like a trailer.
My bird getting ready to fly to Wisconsin.
The screen behind one of the gates listed the destinations currently available from Mesa.
A look to the East at the Superstition Mountains in the far east valley of metro Phoenix.
There are no jet bridges at Gateway. Once you walk out the terminal and towards the plane you have to walk up this ramp thing.
Once boarding was called, the person in front of me was stopped by the agent at the door and told "you didn't pay for that carryon bag online so we have to charge you for it now here at the gate". The daughter of the traveler said to him "Mom told you you'd have to pay for that carryon". lol. Welcome to Allegiant. Another fee. Boarding the plane was slow as again, leisure travellers that hardly ever travel stood in the aisle trying to figure out where their seats were and were trying to fit their bags into the overhead bin. All the seats onboard were in a dark blue leather. I finally made my way to 33F, a window on the three seat side in the back. Unfortunately 32D and E were already occupied. Thankfully the woman in 32E moved to another seat right before departure so we all had a bit more room. My first impressions were one of a cramped space. I'm only 5'10" but the legroom was pretty tight for me as can be seen.
The seats would not recline at all. I heard a flight attendant mention that we had 149 people on board. I'm not sure how many passengers Allegiant's mad dogs hold, but it looked like about an 85% or so load factor. We pushed back pretty much ontime and did a rolling take off. My window seat gave me a good view of the engine. Being so close to the engine made for a very noisy trip however.
Hmmmm. A blast from the past. =)
After takeoff the four flight attendants came through the cabin with their BOB service. EVERYTHING on Allegiant has to be paid for, even water. I brought my own snacks and bought a milk in the terminal so I declined their service. I decided to see what they had on offer in the seat back pocket, which is on top of the seat, not in the middle of the seat beneath the tray table. This is Allegiant's cheap inflight magazine. It was laminated, small, and basically only had limited information on Las Vegas and Phoenix.The rest of it was filled with advertising.
As mentioned the seat back information is on top of the seat.
After dozing for a bit I woke up to see these ominous clouds over central Kansas (per an announcement from "upfront").
This was my inflight entertainment.
After a two hour 47 minute flight, it was time to land. Final approach to Appleton. It was nice leaving the desert behind and the heat and seeing Fall start to take over Wisconsin with the pretty leaves on the trees changing.
As we arrived at the terminal there was only one other plane there, a UA Express ERJ getting ready to depart to ORD.
Yes, we're in Appleton.
Another view of my plane and the UA Express while waiting for my bag to arrive.
A view of the 1 concourse at ATW from the baggage claim area. Even though it's a small airport with about 8 gates it is a very modern airport.
The arrival of the largest pasenger aircraft to serve ATW creates quite a crowd at baggage reclaim.
After a wonderful 3 plus days visit home visiting family and friends, and having some good food and fun, it was time to head back to Arizona. After parking my rental car I snapped this picture of the Outagamie County Airport in ATW.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Appleton - Phoenix/Mesa
Allegiant flight 167
Scheduled departure time 140pm
Scheduled arrival time 320pm
Aircraft - MD80
Seat - 32F
Since I had checked in online, I thankfully was able to use the "drop bags" only line as the other line of those waiting to checkin was quite long. Again, checkin was accomplished on a laptop by an employee of WSF just like in Mesa. After clearing security, I remembered that I didn't turn in the keys and paperwork for my rental car. Oh no! So I had to leave the secure area, turn in the keys, and go through security once again. I was bringing some fresh Wisconsin cheese back with me in my carryon bag, and the first time through TSA they let me pass.The second time through they had to pull me aside and check the cheese for explosives and rescreen it. This is a picture of the modern concourse at ATW.
I had a feeling the Sunday flight back to IWA was going to be full and I could tell that was to be the case as the gate area was pretty full. Our flight arrived from IWA and I discovered it was a plane with "the blue man group" decal on the side.
The departure FIDS at ATW.
The arrival FIDS at ATW.
It seemed to take the arriving passengers forever to deboard. They finally finished as we approached our departure time.
As we boarded, I snapped a pic of my bird from the jetbridge window.
It took what seemed like forever to finally board my flight. When all was said and done it looked like about a 95% load factor and a 20 minute departure delay. No apology or announcement on the delay was announced. Shortly after takeoff it was time to say bye to Wisconsin until next year. I NEVER visit in winter. I stay in beautiful Arizona. Lake Poygan shortly after takeoff heading SW.
I noticed on both of my flights that the end of the wings were still painted red. I believe the majority of Allegiant's mad dogs are from SK. Maybe that's why it's still painted red? Anyone know?
The service on the return flight was just like the outbound. A BOB service was conducted twice. The flight attendant on this flight even announced "nothing is free on Allegiant. If it's on our cart you have to pay for it". Classy huh? The same bad legroom and nonreclining seats were on this bird too. As we progressed towards AZ I looked out my window to notice we were now over southeastern Colorado. I could see Pikes Peak off in the distance. I snapped a few pics of the scenery.
We also caught up to this guy over CO too.
Finally, on final approach to Mesa over beautiful AZ.
After landing and stopping, I noticed that no one drove the baggage belt to the plane to remove the checked bags. My window seat was right above the door that swings up to unload the bags. Again, it took forever for the passengers to deplane. Since I was in the back, it took me 15 minutes to deplane. As I was walking to the terminal, I asked one of the WSF workers "why are they not unloading the checked bags?". He lied to me and said "they're already unloaded". I proceeded to the small baggage area, which only has 2 belts to see "Grand Forks" on the sign for arriving bags. No "Appleton" anywhere. After waiting for literally 50 minutes the bags finally arrived. UNACCEPTABLE!! I swear that Mesa airport has only 1 baggage cart for the entire airport. My Mom told me that last year when they picked up 2 of my aunts at Mesa who had flown in they also waited for about an hour for the baggage. Considering how small the Mesa airport is, the wait was ridiculous.
In conclusion, the roughly $70 I saved by flying Allegiant from Mesa instead of US or WN from Sky Harbor to MKE just isn't worth it. The added 30 minutes of driving time to get to Mesa, the extremely long wait and ridiculous way Allegiant checks in each flight, the long wait at TSA, the trailer like terminal, the lack of reclining seats, the lack of anything free on the aircraft, the lack of any frequent flyer mileage, and the ridiculous 1 hour wait for baggage and other "hassle factor" from other things just isn't worth it to me. My impression is that Allegiant is extremely bare bones with every aspect of their operation and it makes the customer service suffer. Thanks for reading my report.