Out and Back: A quick round trip on Allegiant Airlines
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Let me just preface this post by saying I am an airline snob. An avgeek elitist if you will. I've lived and breathed the airline world since that time in 1985 when I first laid on eyes on a Western Airlines Boeing 727 pull into the gate at Salt Lake City International Airport. As I've grown older, I went from just being happy to be on the plane, to demanding First or Business Class seating, to only flying whatever happened to be my favorite airline at the time, to routing myself to avoid, or to catch, a specific type of plane, or again to avoid, or connect through certain hubs. As I hit my stride in my 30's, and all the good airlines finally merged with someone else or just disappeared, I became loyal to only American Airlines or Delta Air Lines, and upon boarding would patiently wait for my pre-departure beverage while nicely ensconced in my (usually Domestic) First Class seat and watching the riff-raff and hoi polloi make their way to the back of the bus. So, you wouldn't think someone like that would ever require the services of an airline like Allegiant, would you?
I've heard the horror stories, watched the news reports, and all that jazz on Allegiant. Now that the Jurassic and obsolete MD-80's have long since left the fleet, and Allegiant has become an all-Airbus operator, I really haven't heard much from them, or from others flying them. So on my weeklong trip to Las Vegas this past November, I decided to try them out. Plus, I haven't been on a plane since last July, I was jonesing to get airborne again, one way or another. All I had to do was pick a destination, something close by, within an hour or two from Las Vegas, to give me enough time to get out and back the same day. Phoenix/Mesa, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Reno, Stockton, Fresno, and Boise all came up as viable options. After a quick game of playing around with schedules and flight times, Stockton, California came up as the best option for me.
Boarding for flight 92 was scheduled for 11:29AM (with departure set at 12:14PM), but the aircraft was slightly late on arrival from El Paso, Texas. In the past, you'd hear horror stories of Allegiant flights coming and going as they pleased, with delays ranging into the 8+ hours range. Today's operations were a far cry from those dark days, and the scheduling folks look like they have their ducks in a row and pad their ground times for any small discrepancies. The aircraft finally touched down and made a beeline for the gate once off the runway. Luckily, the flight wasn't completely full, and deplaning was quick. Allegiant seems to have the system down pretty good and boarding began at 11:50AM, and I was shocked at how fast we boarded and were ready to go. Sure enough, we pushed back from the gate right on time at 12:14PM, and waited at the end of runway 19L for our turn to fly.
After a wait of a few minutes, and allowing for a couple of private jets to take off ahead of us, we were finally airborne and blasting our way out of Sin City. The aircraft I was on, the appropriately registered N319NV, was the 2,503rd Airbus A319 off the line in Hamburg, Germany and originally delivered to European leisure carrier easyJet in June of 2005. easyJet sold her and a flock of other A319's to Allegiant when they renewed their fleet, and she started flying stateside in March of 2018, with a knee shattering capacity of 156 seats in an all-Economy layout. The flight time was only an hour and 20 minutes, and it went by relatively quickly. The crew did their in-flight service, but with everything at cost, there were few takers on this flight, most folks already stocked up before boarding. Despite the cramped quarters (Allegiant does have seats with more legroom, the emergency exits and the front row, for an additional cost), for the length of the flight, it really wasn't bad. Approach into Stockton took us over some of the biggest nut farms in Central California, and the landing was ultra-smooth. The good thing about these smaller communities is how quick deplaning can be at the usually much smaller terminals (Stockton's terminal is still the original build from 1962). Both the front and rear of the aircraft were opened up to make deplaning that much faster. It reminds me of how it used to be in the old Hellenikon Airport in Athens, Greece, or down in Burbank, California.
After a few hours of perusing around the airport and seeing a long lost friend, it was to board my return flight, back to Sin City. The aircraft for the return was the slightly newer build N311NV, another former easyJet bird. This time I boarded from the rear, as my seat was in the second to last row. Once buttoned up it was a very quick taxi to the end of the runway, and off we went like a bat out of Hell. The flight back to Las Vegas seemed to take a shorter amount of time, or maybe it was just me tuning everything out and jamming to the music on my phone. Ship 311 had the same knee-knocking 156 seat layout as the earlier Ship 319, so nothing new there, except this time there was no service at all from the flight crew, and the lights were dimmed so folks could sleep (it was a late flight after all). The approach into Las Vegas is always awesome, especially at night, with everything all lit up, and the close proximity of the airport to the Strip makes the views out the windows something spectacular to behold. Touchdown and taxi was quick, we were at the gate in under 3 minutes, and the entire load was off quick (it was a half-full flight) and within a half-hour I was at my car, heading back to my hotel.
The Travel Genius Opinion: Allegiant is a fantastic airline that has some of the lowest fares in the industry. All you pay for is a seat on the plane, everything else (including picking WHICH seat is yours, luggage, priority boarding, printing your boarding pass, etc.) costs extra, and gets more expensive as departure day draws near, so to save you have to purchase everything at booking time. The funny thing is, on a lot of flights, the grand total after all the add-ons comes out to equal to, or slightly less than the major airlines, IF they serve your hometown airport. Allegiant's value comes in the fact they do serve those smaller cities like Ogden, Utah; Stockton, California; and Bellingham, Washington. These are cities airlines have long since abandoned but could still support a flight a day or every other day. So if you're in one of those towns, you can take the nonstop on Allegiant, for a heck of a deal usually, or take a major airline and connect through their fortress hubs and pay 3 or 4 times the amount per person. I don't mind taking Allegiant on smaller flights like the Las Vegas to Stockton flights I was on, and besides, with how often I get the bug to fly, Allegiant has quite a few options for out and back flights from it's hub in Las Vegas, and with hard to beat fares.