7 Budget Airlines That Flyers Actually Like — But Do They Really Save You Money?

woman with luggage in international airport terminal
encrier / iStock.com

Air travel isn’t cheap. When you’re planning an upcoming trip and looking for budget airlines that actually offer a good customer experience, where do you start? How do you know if the newest low-cost airline is the best? Keep reading to learn more.

7 Highest-Rated Budget Airlines

Searching for the best budget airlines? Here are seven of the best low-cost carriers in North America for 2023.

1. Flair Airlines

At first glance, flying roundtrip from Nashville, Tennessee to Toronto for $163.92 — travel dates Aug. 12 to 22 — seems unbelievable. However, unless you plan to bring nothing but one personal item with you, it actually is too good to be true.

With this airline, you’ll have to pick a bundle that will increase your cost. You’ll pay $51.37 for a Basic Bundle, which includes one personal item, a carry-on bag and a checked bag. You can also opt for a Big Bundle, which costs $60.30 and includes all of the above features, plus priority boarding and the ability to modify or cancel your flight.

What Is a Budget Airline?

Also known as low-cost carriers, budget airlines cut fares by offering no-frills service. If your main focus is getting from point A to point B as affordably as possible, taking budget airlines is probably your best option.

Some also operate regionally, offering shorter flights and basing service out of a secondary airport. If you’re traveling on a tight budget, these fares can mean the difference between getting to take a trip and having to stay home.

Make Your Money Work for You

2. Avelo Airlines

You might feel like you need to check your eyes, when you see you can book a roundtrip flight from Orlando, Florida to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina for just $78 — with travel dates of Aug. 13 to 20.

However, if you want to select a seat, you’ll need to add $11 to $64 to your ticket price each way. You’ll get to bring one personal item for free, but you’ll pay additional fees for any carry-on bag, checked bag and priority boarding. Your bag prices will be based on your reservation date.

3. Frontier Airlines

A roundtrip flight from Atlanta to San Francisco — travel dates Aug. 12 to 20 — will cost you a base rate of $140.46. However, unless you only plan to bring one personal item with you, that’s not the end of your costs.

Bag rates vary by flight, but you can expect to face a fee for your carry-on bags and first checked bag. There are plenty of other optional fees, including the ability to board first, pre-paid airport assistance, priority boarding and web check-in. All these fees can add $100 to $200 to your trip.

4. Spirit Airlines

A roundtrip flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles — travel dates Aug. 13 to 22 — can cost as low as $155.07 with Spirit Airlines. But you’ll pay additional fees for a carry-on bag and for your first checked bag. The fees will be applied on your trip to Los Angeles and on the way back to Atlanta.

If you want to choose a seat, that will cost you $1 to $750. You can print your boarding pass at home for free, but if you want an airport agent to do it, it will cost you $25.

Make Your Money Work for You

5. Air Canada Rouge

Air Canada Rouge was created to offer more economical trips to vacation destinations. For example, the cheapest basic economy ticket from Toronto to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic — travel dates Aug. 14 to 22 — costs $731.06.

However, traveling basic economy comes with risks, including no refunds or future travel credits. You also will not be able to make changes to your booking. Be sure to include a fee for your first checked bag in your trip cost, if needed. To choose your seat, you can expect to pay anywhere from $14 to $61, depending on the flight.

6. Southwest Airlines

One of the most well-known budget carriers in the U.S., you can fly roundtrip on Southwest from Pittsburgh to Orlando, Florida — travel dates Aug. 15 to 22 — for just $207.97. All passengers get to bring two checked bags for free, flight credits don’t expire and there are no change or cancellation fees.

Southwest Airlines has an open seating policy, which means no fees for choosing your seat and free inflight entertainment. One of the only added fees is an optional $15 to $25 one-way fee for EarlyBird Check-In, which allows you to check in 36 hours before your flight for a better boarding position.

7. Sun Country Airlines

One of the highest-rated budget airlines in the U.S. is Sun Country Airlines. Their tickets are one of the most affordable. You can fly from Detroit to Las Vegas for $204.40 — travel dates Aug. 10 to 17.

Bag pricing options vary by flight, but you’ll get to bring one complimentary item that fits under the seat. If you need to make changes to your reservation, you can do so for free if it is at least 60 days in advance. If you need to make changes before that period, you will face a fee that can be up to $79.

Make Your Money Work for You

If you’re okay with sitting anywhere, you’ll be given a seat at check-in for no charge. If you want to pick your seat in advance, you can expect to pay a fee per flight segment.

Average Cost of Airline Travel in the U.S.

The average cost of plane tickets varies by several factors. This includes flight origin, destination, airline and travel dates — just to name a few.

Here’s a look at a few average airline fares for Q4 2022 according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics:

  • The average flight from Atlanta costs $408.76.
  • The average flight from Los Angeles costs $438.87.
  • The average flight from Denver costs $346.03.
  • The average flight from Orlando, Florida costs $272.39.

Final Take

Flying on a budget airline can be a great deal. However, add-on fees can easily increase your ticket to the price of flying with a more traditional, non-budget carrier. Therefore, it’s important to look at more than just the cost of the fare before booking. Add up all the extra fees you’ll incur on your journey to make sure you’re actually saving money.


Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding budget airlines.
  • Why is Avelo Air so cheap?
    • Avelo Airlines is a budget airline. These airlines cut costs by offering no-frills service. Keep in mind that with these airlines, there might be added fees for bags and seat reservations.
  • What is the cheapest airline to fly with?
    • Here are a few of the best budget airlines for 2023:
      • Flair Airlines
      • Avelo Airlines
      • Frontier Airlines
      • Spirit Airlines
      • Air Canada Rouge
      • Southwest Airlines
      • Sun Country Airlines
    • While these are some of the cheapest airlines, you should know that the cost of plane tickets varies by several factors including flight origin, destination and travel dates.
Make Your Money Work for You

Data is accurate as of July 21, 2023, and is subject to change.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.


See Today's Best
Banking Offers