Everyone wants to find cheap flights so they can save more money on their vacation, but searching discount travel sites can be a hassle.
To save you time and help you get the most bang for your buck, GOBankingRates set out to find the best and worst airlines for cheap flights. In this study, GOBankingRates compares the cheapest available round-trip flights for one person from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK or LaGuardia). Ticket prices were sourced directly from airline websites on July 19, 2017, for travel on Sept. 15, 2017, and Sept. 17, 2017.
Read on to see which airlines have the lowest fees and which are the least affordable.
Expensive Airline: Delta Air Lines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $425
Plan to spend $425 on your round-trip Delta ticket, and don’t book your flight until you’re sure of the dates, as making changes to your itinerary will cost you the difference in fare and a service fee of $200 for domestic Delta-marketed flights. Do note that some tickets — including Basic Economy E fares — cannot be changed.
If you pack lightly, you can save on baggage fees, as Delta allows passengers to bring a carry-on bag and a personal item for free. Otherwise, plan to pay $25 for your first checked bag under 50 pounds and $35 for your second.
Expensive Airline: Spirit Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $443
Though it’s generally regarded as a budget carrier, booking travel with Spirit Airlines won’t always save you money. Flying to and from LaGuardia Airport costs $221 and $222, respectively, which comes to a total of $443 round-trip.
One small laptop bag or purse flies free, but just about everything else will cost you. Standard fees for bringing a carry-on bag range from $35 during booking to $65 at the gate. Checking a bag comes with standard rates of $30 during booking to $65 at the gate. You’ll also pay $1-$50 to choose your seat, $1-$10 for snacks and $1-$15 for drinks.
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Expensive Airline: Sun Country Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $468
Sun Country Airlines is not one of the best airlines for cheap travel. Flying in and out of New York City on Sun Country Airlines costs $234 each way for a total of $468 round-trip. Checking a bag will cost you $25, but it’s free to bring a carry-on and small personal item that meet required size and weight limits.
If you want any airline extras, prepare to pay. Food is available for purchase from $2-$10, and drinks cost $2-$7. You’ll pay $1 for headsets, $5 for a pillow and blanket travel pack and $8 for a Sun Country Digital Entertainment Device, if available on your flight.
Expensive Airline: Southwest Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $554
Southwest Airlines prides itself on low prices, but it definitely isn’t always the cheapest airline. Flying in and out of LaGuardia costs $254 and $300, respectively, bringing the total round-trip price to $554. On the plus side, you can bring a carry-on bag, a personal item and up to two checked bags for free.
Southwest also offers a range of airline perks — such as complimentary beverages, free music and no change fee — so it’s very possible to pay nothing beyond your ticket price. Southwest has an open seating policy, but you can purchase EarlyBird Check-In for $15 each way to get to the front of the line.
Most Expensive Airline: Alaska Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $698
Alaska Airlines tops the list of the worst airlines to save money. Flying into New York City costs $309, rising to $389 for the return trip, amounting to a grand total of $698. You’re allowed to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item for free, but checking a bag will cost you $25.
Changes and cancellations are free when made at least 60 days prior to departure, but will cost $125 otherwise. Complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and snacks are provided, but you have to pay $6-$7 for beer, wine and cocktails — except on select flights — and $6-$8 for in-flight meals and snack boxes.
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Less Expensive Airline: United Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $406
United Airlines is one of the best carriers to find cheap flights. You can fly in and out of LaGuardia for $203 each way on a Basic Economy fare — the airlines’ lowest-price ticket option — for $406. Basic Economy fares come with several restrictions, including no seat selection or upgrade, no flight changes or refunds and no full-size carry-on bags. You are allowed one small personal item.
Of course, United Airlines has experienced a handful of costly public relation scandals in recent months. In April, Kentucky physician David Dao was injured after being forcibly removed from an overbooked United flight. That same month, a giant three-foot rabbit named Simon died in the airline’s care. If these types of news stories bother you, you might want to book your trip with another airline.
Less Expensive Airline: Virgin America
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $398
Catch a flight to New York City on Virgin America for $195 and return home for $205 for a round-trip total of $398. You can bring one carry-on item and one personal item on board for free, but checking a bag will cost you $25. In addition to low fares, Virgin America offers its passengers mood-lit cabins and a lively atmosphere. The airline also serves a selection of complimentary beverages. When available, live Dish Network TV is free.
Founded by Richard Branson, Virgin America was purchased by Alaska Airlines in 2016. Enjoy this fun airline now because the brand will eventually be phased out, likely in 2019.
Less Expensive Airline: American Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $389
In July 2017, the U.S. Transportation Department fined American Airlines $250,000 for failing to make timely customer refunds, which might make some passengers wary of flying American. However, those who do book with the airline will enjoy cheap flights.
A round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York costs just $389. Passengers are permitted to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item for free — except Basic Economy ticket holders, who can only bring a personal item — with a $25 checked bag fee.
Non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary, and meals are free on transcontinental flights, including LAX to JFK. There’s also no charge for in-seat and wireless entertainment, but bring your own earbuds to avoid the airline’s $5 purchase fee.
Less Expensive Airline: JetBlue
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $390
Plan your trip with JetBlue Airlines to fly to and from New York City for $195 each way, amounting to a total of $390. Low ticket prices aren’t the only reason this is one of the best airlines for saving money: You also get a selection of complimentary snacks and drinks. Alcoholic drinks cost $7-$9, and selections from the EatUp Café run $4-$12.
Checking a bag will cost you $25, but you can bring one personal item and one carry-on bag aboard for free. DirectTV, SirusXM Radio and high-speed Internet are also complimentary for all passengers.
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Cheapest Airline: Frontier Airlines
Cost of Round-Trip Flight: $378
In July 2017, budget carrier Frontier Airlines announced plans to double in size by summer 2018. This is great news if you’re cash-strapped because it’s the cheapest airline, with $378 round-trip flights from LAX to LaGuardia, $189 each way.
You’re allowed to bring one personal item for free, but other Frontier baggage fees vary by travel dates and time of purchase. For a trip from Los Angeles to New York, a carry-on bag costs $30 and your first checked bag is $25 when paid at booking. Prices can swell up to $60 each for both, so plan ahead. Do note, there are no TVs or Wi-Fi aboard Frontier planes, and all snacks and drinks must be purchased.
Methodology: GOBankingRates compared the cheapest available round-trip flights departing at any time on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, and returning at any time on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK or LaGuardia). Flights were for one person. Both nonstop flights and flights with stops were considered. Prices were sourced directly from individual airline websites. Research was conducted on July 19, 2017.