Bare Fare Flights- What You Need to Know!

You want to travel, see the world, visit family far from home without the road trip, and all without breaking the bank- -who blames you?! Bare Fare flights are making that possible and are the hottest new way to travel! 

This is what I have recently experienced zipping around, both within and outside of the U.S.

First of all, what does “bare fare” mean? Well, every airline has their own version of a bare fare flight and some use different terms to describe this more economical flight, such as “basic economy”. These flights are more affordable than your typical coach ticket without any luxuries or frills. The ticket is meant to merely transport you (not your belongings) from point A to point B.

United Airlines Basic Economy

Of my 3 most recent experiences, I must say, flying the “friendly skies” with United Airlines offered passengers the most for the least amount of money with their basic economy flights. 

I flew United Airlines internationally to Mexico- twice- and both times I was allowed a free personal item. (This is not to be confused with a carry-on. For clarification, a personal item would be something like a purse, briefcase or back pack that can be stowed under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead compartments.) Be sure to check the dimensions carefully for personal items, in my experience, the airlines are not flexible with this option and will not offer to stow your item above, with the carry-on items if it does not fit under the seat in front of you.

With United‘s basic economy flight, I was still able to check my first bag for $25 (50 lbs or less) in addition to my personal item. I was also still able to check my stroller at the gate, as well as a car seat if needed for free. This was offered for both a baby under 24 months traveling in arms, as well as a toddler with their own seat. Please know that many airlines offer free travel for babies 24 months and younger traveling in arms.

On the United flights I was also still offered complimentary snacks and beverages, as well as headphones. I did overhear one gentleman request a blanket and the flight attendant informed him that they did not have blankets available on the flight. 

I was also given the opportunity to change our seats during the check-in process through United‘s mobile app.

It has been rumored that the leg room has been reduced on these flights to accommodate more fliers, however, I found the room to be ample enough.

We were also afforded the 24 hour cancellation policy, but the $75 flight change fee was unavailable with the basic economy flights and the charge to make a change to any flight was $100 per person. 

Spirit Airlines Bare Fare

While flying with Spirit Airlines I was afforded a small carry-on, as well as my personal item, although I have heard that this has recently changed and you are no longer afforded a carry-on item for free. (Again, be sure to check the dimensions stated by the airline at the time you purchase your ticket or on the airline’s website as your bag is subject to be measured by the gate agents at the time of boarding.) Here you may be thinking, but I thought you said United gave you the most for your money and you are right, I did, yet they did not offer me a carry-on. I say this because the dimensions of the carry-on items for these specially priced flights are much smaller than your average carry-on that most of the world is accustomed to bringing on a flight. And that is how your seemingly affordable ticket gets extremely expensive, with huge fees for checked luggage when you realize your carry-on is too large and now needs to be checked at the gate.

Traveling with children, I found it much easier to check my bag for a reasonable rate, than lug around another piece of baggage, and possibly pay even more to do so!

All of Spirit‘s fees vary based on the time at which you “reserve” your luggage. You have 3-4 different points from the time you book your flight until the time you board your flight to “reserve” space for your luggage and all of these come with varying prices.

For most domestic flights through Spirit, the fees look something like this:

At the time of booking: Carry-on $37, 1st checked bag (40 lbs or less) $32

Before online check-in: Carry-on $47, 1st checked bag (40 lbs or less) $42

At the airport: Carry-on $57, 1st checked bag (40 lbs or less) $52

At the gate: Carry-on $65, 1st checked bag (40 lbs or less) $65

On these domestic flights we were not offered complimentary snacks or beverages and we were unable to chose or change our seats for free.

We were afforded a free checked stroller and/or car seat at the gate, as well as with United, and Spirit’s policy for infants and children was the same as United’s.

WOW Air Basic

For anyone traveling across the Atlantic, you are sure to see a new airline popping up in your search for an affordable flight named WOW Air with it’s logo (and planes!) a bright pink!

They are the newest in affordable international flights to destinations across the Atlantic with their main hub (and many layovers) in breathtaking Iceland. (Not a bad place to take advantage of a long layover!)

We traveled from Newark to Germany for about $275 and then from Paris to Newark for $179 with one short layover in Iceland both ways and WOW! what a deal!

This really was just enough to get you from A to B without so much as even a complimentary snack, beverage, or movie.

At the time, we were allowed a personal item and we paid a fee for a very small carry-on that was definitely being closely monitored at the gate with many passengers discarding items to avoid being charged the large fees for over-sized bags. I really have never seen anything like it!

The fees for baggage for WOW Air look something like this:

At the time of booking: Carry-on $50, 1st Checked Bag (44 lbs or less) $70

After booking: Carry-on $55, 1st Checked Bag (44 lbs or less) $75

At the check-in desk: Carry-on $70, 1st Checked Bag (44 lbs or less) $80

At the gate: Carry-on $100, 1st Checked Bag (44 lbs or less) $100

There were also options to purchase extra leg room, but those options were complicated and I would recommend speaking with a representative to review those options with you.

You were given the option to chose your seat for $10 per person.

As far as traveling with a baby or infant is concerned, WOW Air offers a free stroller OR car seat, not both and infants traveling in arms do not travel free of charge as with United and Spirit. There is a flat fee that is determined at the time of booking. We were charged $53.60 on our way there and $64.46 on our way home (both before tax and fees).

These new prices make flying affordable, especially for families on a budget so take advantage, just be sure to read all policies and fine print carefully, be prepared to minimize your belongings, and plan ahead before booking to keep all costs to a bare minimum!