No-frills Allegiant Air adds tickets with frills (for a fee)

Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY

Discounter Allegiant Air, trying to make ticket buying less cumbersome and boost fee revenue, has quietly added tickets that come with frills.

The Las Vegas-based airline, known for bargain fares and a lineup of a la carte fees for seat assignments, carry-on bags and other things most travelers consider a necessity, now offers three options to travelers shopping for plane tickets.

The fees haven't gone anywhere, but the airline is packaging them together, at a discount, in two of the new ticket categories.

It's called bundling and is already done by Allegiant competitors Spirit and Frontier.

A firsthand look at Spirit: We flew 7 flights in five days 

Allegiant's new bundles, introduced in mid-October: Allegiant Bonus and Allegiant Total. 

The airline's bare bones fare, which used to be the only option and comes with just one personal item that fits underneath the seat, is now called Allegiant Basic. Travelers selecting this still have the option of adding extras as they always have. Allegiant says about 30% of its passengers buy a ticket and no extras.

Allegiant Air now offers three types of tickets, two of them with a bundle of perks for one price.

Here's what you get when you buy a bundle on Allegiant Air

Allegiant Bonus comes with a seat assignment, notably in the back half of the plane, and a carry-on bag or checked bag depending on the flight and route.

The pricier Allegiant Total comes with a seat anywhere on the plane, a checked bag and a carry-on bag, priority boarding and the airline's TripFlex, which allows a one-time flight change or cancellation without the usual $150 change fee.

Prices, perks and the discount will vary by route and even season, according to Drew Wells, the airline's vice president of planning and revenue.

He said the airline is still tinkering with the new bundles, especially Allegiant Bonus, to gauge customer reaction. 

For a round trip Indianapolis-Las Vegas flight in mid-January, Allegiant was offering these fare options online Tuesday: $180 for Allegiant Basic, $246 for Allegiant Bonus and $337.98 for Allegiant Total. The airline cited savings of 10% and 37%, respectively, for the bundles versus buying those items separately.

For a round-trip ticket between Rockford, Illinois, outside Chicago, and Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, in March, travelers shopping Tuesday found these options: $218 for Allegiant Basic, $347 for Allegiant Bonus and $383.98 for Allegiant Total. Allegiant Bonus included a checked bag rather than a carry-on bag on this flight and, unlike the Indianapolis-Las Vegas example, TripFlex. The bundle savings over a la carte pricing, according to Allegiant: 28% for Allegiant Bonus and 38% for Allegiant Total.

Allegiant now offers three ticket options on its website, two with a bundle of perks sold at a discount.

Wells said Allegiant developed the bundles with two goals: make booking online easier and boost its ancillary revenue per passenger by an additional $1 to $1.25 as travelers are enticed by discounts for extras they didn't previously want to pay for, such as priority boarding. The airline currently collects about $50 per passenger in air-related fees.

"With our customers, there's a price point that they're ready to pay for various products,'' Wells said.

Anyone who has booked a ticket on Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier knows it can be a long, maddening process as you wade through all the a la carte options and pop-ups warning you that if you don't buy them, you won't have as nice a flight as if you did. It's no different when shopping for a basic economy ticket on major airlines, when you have to practically pledge that you understand you're buying a cheap ticket with few, if any, frills.

It's too early to say whether the bundles are working as designed, but Wells said early trends are encouraging.

"When we're able to find the right bundle for the right customer, ... customers are happy to take that and kind of streamline their booking experience,'' he said.

Should you buy Allegiant's new bundle of perks when booking a ticket?

It depends on your travel style and the discounts. If you're already paying for a seat assignment and a bag, as Wells says many passengers do, the savings in the Allegiant Bonus bundle will probably save you a little money over purchasing them separately.

As with Spirit and Frontier, travelers will need to do the math to make sure they are getting a deal and aren't paying for things they don't want, like two bags (one checked, one carry-on) in the case of Allegiant Total.

No matter the discounts, Allegiant knows that a core group of its customers won't buy anything but Allegiant Basic. The airline's CEO, Maury Gallagher, has said about one in three Allegiant passengers buys a ticket and no extras.

"If you weren't interested in ancillaries before, I think it's very unlikely that receiving a discount on multiple products is going to be the right mix for you,'' Wells said.

Want more legroom on Allegiant? Budget airline is testing a premium seat – for a fee

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Allegiant Air: Travelers can now buy a perks bundle with their ticket