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Are Ultra Low Cost Air Carriers Autism Friendly?

Updated: Mar 9

A photo of an airplane on the taxi way at night.  All the lights are on, on the run way there are yellow and green lights.  There are also lights on from the city in the background.  A title reads Autism Friendly Travel Are Ultra Low Cost Air Carries Autism Friendly? Read the blog to find more!

Are you in the process of planning an autism-friendly family vacation? Is searching for an affordable autism-friendly air carrier proving to be a challenge? Well, today, I am sharing my thoughts on the ultra-low-cost air carriers out there and whether or not they are autism-friendly. This should help you decide which air carriers you should choose for your next autism-friendly family vacation. Of course, I am also available to chat if you still have more questions about traveling with your autistic child.

Are Ultra Low Cost Air Carriers Autism Friendly?

The Most Autism Friendly Air Carrier

A airplane taxing from the terminal to the taxiway.

Before I discuss ultra-low-cost airlines, let me share which airline is the most autism-friendly. There is only one Autism-Certified Airline in the world, JSX. This airline is not low-cost, though. It is a private airline that offers your autistic family the perks you need while traveling.

Arriving at the airport 20 minutes before departure is easy. Passing through security is a breeze to reach the private hangar, where all the seats are business class. Once you land, you will be heading towards your hotel in no time since you won’t need to collect your luggage from the main baggage claim area.

The Ultra Low Cost Air Carriers

There are quite a few ultra-low-cost air carriers to choose from when traveling. The ones you will hear about the most include:

  • Southwest

  • Breeze

  • Jet Blue

  • Allegiant

  • Spirit

  • Frontier

All these airlines were designed to save you money so you can stay within your budget while traveling. You won’t find any frills when flying with these airlines, but they will usually get you to where you want to go. I will get into that last part a little more in a minute.

What is important to note is airlines like Jet Blue, Southwest, Breeze, and Allegiant all have programs to assist autistic families like yours.

Jet Blue offers disability seating, pre—and post-boarding, and so much more. Breeze is Autism Double-Checked Certified, a program similar to IBCCES. I am actually certified as an autism travel professional through both programs! Allegiant offers the Wings for Autism program.

Extra Charges to Consider While Flying Ultra Low Cost Air Carriers

Checked Bags

Okay, so every airline except Southwest charges a fee for checked bags. Therefore, you shouldn’t be shocked about this charge. However, you need to be aware that these low-cost air carriers’ baggage fees depend on when you pay for your bags.

For example, paying for your checked bags when you book your flight will only pay $30 per bag. If you wait until you reach the check-in counter on the day of your flight, you will pay $65.

These low-cost air carriers also charge for carry-on luggage. So, don’t think you can escape the fee for checked luggage by simply shoving everything into a carry-on for your family. The carry-on fees are the same as the checked bag fees.

They do not charge for personal items like purses, diaper bags, or briefcases. But you can’t pack a week’s worth of clothing and other items into those bags for vacation.

Assigned Seats

These air carriers also charge a fee if you want to choose your seats in advance when you are booking. You don’t need to pay to choose your seats in advance. However, if you don’t pay the fee, you may find that you are not sitting with your family. Since you are traveling with an autistic child, I recommend always paying for assigned seats on these air carriers. Knowing you can sit next to everyone in your family will give you peace of mind.

In-Flight Services

Once on the airplane, you shouldn’t expect any drink or snack service as you receive on regular airlines. If you ask for water, they will give you that. But if you want soda, juice, snacks, or anything else, you must pay for it. The flight attendants will happily charge your credit card for any purchases you make.

Arriving at the Airport

Everyone is always told to arrive at the airport 2 hours before their flight departure. This arrival time will be the same for ultra-low-cost air carriers.

However, it is essential to note that these airlines do not operate 24/7 like the major airlines. So, if you have an early morning flight and want to arrive more than 2 hours early due to the long TSA security lines, you won't find anyone at the check-in counter. There will be a sign stating that staff will be available 2 hours before their day's first flight.

My Experience with Frontier

I booked a Frontier flight for my family from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles, which was $150 per person.

I had booked this flight well in advance, and two months before our departure date, I received an email stating that our flight had been canceled. I was advised to call customer service to change my flight.

When I called to change my flight, the customer service representative was quite rude. I guess most people cancel their flights altogether since it is common for these ultra-low-cost air carriers to cancel their flights. I also had to go to a different airport than where I had initially booked my flight.

These carriers cancel their flights so often because they have a smaller fleet. Some airports decide they don’t want these airlines flying from their location any longer. Other times, the flights are canceled because they are overbooked.

I ended up paying for our luggage after booking. The cost for our bags was $120. I also paid $25 per seat to guarantee we were all together. I could have paid less for the seats by sitting further back, but I wanted the extra comfort seats towards the front so we had more room during the flight.

At the end of our trip, I felt like we saved a little money by flying Frontier. Before booking my flights, I knew I would be nickeled and dimed throughout the process.

Yes, there were a few headaches along the way. Our one flight was canceled and needed to be rebooked. We arrived at the airport a little more than two hours before our flight and needed to wait for the agents. And I hadn’t realized I needed to pay for carry-ons in addition to checked luggage.

Also, paying to sit next to my autistic child wasn’t the added stress I needed when planning this flight.

My family's cost for this Frontier flight was $838. To put this into perspective, my family recently flew on Southwest and paid $940. That flight included an open seat selection, two free checked bags per person, and snacks and drinks during the flight.

Saving $102 by flying Frontier and not being as comfortable throughout the process makes me feel less inclined to fly with them again. I feel like all those extras I paid for were excessive. And let me tell you, having snacks and drinks for free during the flight is just what this mom needs when traveling with her autistic family. Yes, I always pack snacks for my boys, but we all get excited about our options to get something different!

When choosing an airline for your next autism-friendly family vacation, consider what is truly important to you. Do you mind rebooking flights if your original ones are canceled? Do you want to pay for seats to sit next to your kids? Do you want to pay for snacks and drinks?

I don’t want to dissuade you from flying on an ultra-low-cost air carrier. If you think it is worth it to pay for all the extras I mentioned above and you are still saving money, these airlines can be significant. But don’t think all the extra small charges will always be worth it. Sometimes, you can find similar pricing on the major airlines, so you can be comfortable and stay within your budget.

Now that you know what to expect with ultra-low-cost air carriers, it is time to start planning your next autism-friendly vacation! Contact me, and let me help you travel the world with your autistic family.

There are United Airlines planes parked at the terminal gates.  There is a title that reads Autism-Friendly Ultra low cost airlines that are autism-friendly

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