Buy Budget Airline Tickets at the Airport

Save Even More Money on Budget Airlines

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Budget airlines like Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant already corner the market of cheap flights, but there is a way to score them even cheaper. This hack is only offered by budget airlines and cannot be used with any other carriers. In full disclosure, Liann and I have only used this hack with Frontier Airlines and not yet with Spirit or Allegiant.

The Hack

Fly even cheaper when you purchase your airfare at the airport! When purchasing budget airline tickets at the airport, you bypass a convenience charge that is applied only when purchasing tickets online or over the phone.

How It Works

Budget airlines’ business model is based on providing rock-bottom prices on flights. This means they are essentially covering the cost of the flight through ticket sales, which leads them to find different ways to make their profits. Profits are made through fees for optional services, such as allowing customers to purchase tickets online or over the phone.  Purchasing a ticket this way adds a “convenience fee” to the ticket price. Each airline has a different term for this fee such as “Carrier Interface Charge” (Frontier), “Passenger Usage Charge” (Spirit), and “Carrier Usage Charge” (Allegiant).

This “convenience fee” is not charged when purchasing the ticket at the airport. This is because the airlines must have a physical presence at the airport at which they service.

Check Terms & Conditions

Budget airlines are pretty transparent about this fee by defining it as a charge or fee when purchasing a ticket through a website or call center. Here are the references for each of the airlines as stated on their websites:

Frontier Travel Policies reference:
Carrier Interface Charge: The standard fare price we display online includes a charge per passenger, per direction, that is assessed on tickets purchased through the website or our call center. The Discount Den fares we display online include a charge per passenger, per direction, that is assessed on tickets purchased through the website.

Spirit General Terms and Conditions reference:
Passenger Usage Fee: Passenger Usage Fee of $19.99 per one way travel per traveling customer applies to most reservations. A lower fee of $8.99 may apply to certain discount fares. No fee applies to bookings completed at Spirit Airlines’ airport locations.

Allegiant Terms and Conditions reference:
Electronic Carrier Usage Charge: Fares displayed are inclusive of an electronic usage charge of $13 per passenger, per segment, applicable to all airline reservations booked through the Web site or call center.

Please refer to the carrier’s Terms and Conditions or Policies for any updates on this “convenience fee”.

Example of Savings

Below is an example of how to identify the “convenience fee” and how much would be saved by purchasing the ticket at the airport instead of online. Let’s purchase a ticket from Denver, CO (DEN) to New York, NY (LGA) on Frontier.

Purchasing the Ticket Online

Once the Departure and Return flights are selected, select the “Cart” button in the top right corner.

Frontier Cart Button
Next, scroll to the bottom of the page and select the “Taxes and Carrier Imposed Fees” link. You will then notice the “CIC – Carrier Interface Charge”.

Frontier CIC Fee

Now, let’s bypass that fee by purchasing the ticket at the airport.

Purchasing the Ticket at the Airport

Go to the Frontier ticket counter and ask to purchase tickets for a future date.

Give them the flight and passenger information. If they don’t ask for an email address, then prompt them for an email confirmation.

Purchase the ticket and they will give you a receipt and email confirmation.

The receipt will not have the Taxes and Fees breakdown but you will notice that your cost will be less than the online ticket price. You will be charged for all taxes and fees, with the exception of the “Carrier Interface Charge”. In this case, you would save $38 on this flight.


Here are some tips on how to best utilize this budget airline hack:

  • Buying tickets at the airport is not always the most cost-efficient way. Airport purchases do not honor any discount club or online deals.
  • Watch out for online deals that may be cheaper than avoiding the “convenience fee”.
  • Don’t forget to add your Frequent Flyer number online after purchasing the ticket at the airport to get the mileage credit for the flight.
  • Fly frequently? Purchase tickets at the airport when you are departing or returning from another trip. It saves on random trips to the airport to purchase tickets.

Liann and I have loved being able to save extra money on budget airlines with this hack and we hope you do to. Don’t forget to check out Fly Budget Like a Pro for some more tips on budget airline travel.

Have you used this hack before or have any questions about it? Share your thoughts below.


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6 Responses

  1. Per buying an airline ticket, wouldn’t it help to have the selected ticket in the cart? I thought airlines held a ticket reservation for 24 hours…

    1. As far as I know, Domestic Airlines offer a 24 hour cancellation policy for ticket purchases no matter how the ticket is purchased. When purchasing airline tickets at the airport, they have no knowledge of online accounts or activity so there is no benefit to keeping selected tickets in an online cart.

      To keep things simple, if you want to avoid the “convenience fee” on budget airline ticket purchases, then make the purchase at the airport. If you are concerned about flight availability, then it would be best to purchase the tickets online as soon as possible and pay the “convenience fee”. Liann and I typically keep an eye on the fare and have even waited up to a month to visit the airport to finalize our ticket purchase.

      Hope this information helps!

  2. Savings were made when I bought tickets at the airport from Spirit Airlines. The passenger fee was 19.99 each way but I see the price has been raised to 20.99.

    1. Thank you for the update on the passenger fee pricing! So now it is even more of a savings to purchase the ticket at the airport for Spirit Airlines.

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