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I Have Flown On Every Major Budget Airline In The U.S. And Mexico And These Are My 3 Favorite

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Do you smell the controversy brewing? Or maybe that's just another watered-down coffee on one of North America's no-frills airlines.

Each traveler has their own quirks, sometimes to a fault. In my opinion, one of those faults can be staying too loyal to an airline.

If we're being honest, they all operate the same fleet of Boeing and Airbus. They all herd us around like cattle, except Southwest, where we're fooled into herding ourselves.

plane window at sunrise

And at the end of the day, they're just metal tubes in the sky where we hope and pray a door doesn't fly off.

I want to see as much of the world as possible. While I love a comfortable seat, headrest TV, and free snacks, I try to stretch my travel budget by taking cheap flights.

So much so, I used to be a proud Spirit credit card holder up until they caused me to miss my flight over a cheeseburger. Yes, that's a true story.

Spoiler alert: Spirit is not in my top 3. And if Myspace were still around, they probably wouldn't make my top 8. Tom is still my guy, though.

plane flying over palm trees

Point being I like to save a buck rather than waste it on airfare and am fiercely un-loyal to airlines.

I have flown on every major budget airline in the U.S. and Mexico and these are my 3 favorite:

3) Volaris

And the controversy begins…

Volaris gets a bad rap. I have flown them countless times at this point, and I'll be honest – a key reason is simply based on where I live.

I live 15 minutes from the border where Tijuana's airport is home to the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) making flights out of Mexico super easy for an American.

volaris plane in the desert

That being said, I would still fly Volaris based on their seemingly endless flight sales throughout the year, including from major U.S. cities as the FAA designated Mexican airlines with Category 1 status.

Volaris also has the V.Club, where already insanely cheap flights become even cheaper, and they enrolled me into this subscription at no charge.

My last flight I paid under $40 in airfare plus Mexico's unavoidable TUA charge. While food options are ‘bleh' and there are no entertainment amenities, the airline is safe and often on time in my experience.

volaris plane in las vegas

I have flown with them all across Mexico and multiple other Central American countries without issue.

2) Allegiant

I would never pledge my allegiance to Allegiant if it weren't for the friendly staff, bigger bag allowance, and only providing direct routes in their network – a common headache with competitors Frontier and Spirit.

Allegiant may not have the largest route map, but I have found the flights to be enjoyable with one flight to Bellingham, Washington being the smoothest landing I've ever had in all my travels.

allegiant planes

Some airlines have flight attendants who seem like they actually do hope the door flies off, but I have found Allegiant's staff to always be welcoming and friendly and genuinely seem to like their jobs.

Fellow bag stuffers can take advantage of some extra inches as one of the most flexible Personal Item policies for budget airlines because who wants to score cheap airfare only to pay it back in bag fees?

The Las Vegas-based airline has some of the cheapest airfare in the States, but the strikes against them are flying to secondary airports and lacking international destinations.

1) Southwest

grounded southwest plane

Southwest survived its well-documented meltdown and has remained one of the travelers' favorite airlines, including me.

While on certain days I would be reluctant to call them a low-cost airline, their frequent Wanna Get Away deals are often too good to pass up.

For example, I recently needed to fly from San Diego to El Paso, which would have cost me over $600 round-trip.

Spending that much money just to fly 90 minutes would have been more than any European trip I've taken.

southwest plane taking off

However, given the always-friendly staff, freedom to pick your seat, free bag policy, inflight entertainment and flexible flight change policy, it doesn't get much better than Southwest.

Plus, they have an impressive network of flights across the U.S. and many popular vacation spots that I am looking forward to continue taking advantage of.

Even though I can't always justify overpaying for their very random expensive airfare, when the price is right, they are amazing all-around and I would fly with them any chance I get.

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This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Tony N

Thursday 7th of March 2024

It's a mad dash to get a window seat with Southwest since you don't get assigned seating. Do not like that.