Dollars and Sense: Gateway airport's budget flights to Hawaii - East Valley Tribune: Business

Dollars and Sense: Gateway airport's budget flights to Hawaii

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Linda Hutchings is a Gilbert resident and a life-long frugal consumer—uh, cheap skate. Please reach her at: uberfrugal@outlook.com. Send her your penny-pinching ideas.

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:38 am | Updated: 3:55 pm, Wed Dec 3, 2014.

Imagine the cool orchid lei around your neck, the ukuleles strumming the "Hukilau Song," and your hair frizzing up all carefree in the ocean breeze. You could be getting off the plane in Honolulu soon.

How about a round-trip flight to Hawaii for approximately $400? Starting Feb. 8, Allegiant Airlines, flying out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, offers its Hawaii non-stop flights at prices as low as $119. Caution here as Allegiant charges for carry-on luggage, for checked luggage, for taxes/fees, and for other goods and services. Also, your ticket price rises when the flight gets booked up. If oxygen were needed, would they make you deposit a quarter in the mask for each five minutes of air?

Checked bags cost $35 for each of the first two. The carry-on fee is $10 to $35 if booked ahead, while booking at the airport is $35 to $75. That means your booked-ahead flight to Hawaii with one checked bag ($35), one carry-on ($10-35) and your ticket one way could be about $179 to $189 (add fees). Check all information as I haven’t gotten the same story twice. Baggage prices go up in April. This $400 (or less) round trip to Hawaii can be 50 percent cheaper than it is on other airlines.

Allegiant only charges for what you choose from its salad bar of offerings — no free water. You can get a special seat if needed. Of course, with no luggage, you could get a ticket for $119 if you can cram your woman/man purse (your personal item) under the seat. And, no, your petite girlfriend will not pass as your personal item. If you want anything extra on board, wrestle out your wallet.

On this Hawaii trip ask yourself what you want. Do I desire packed clothes and on-board comfort for extra fees? Or do I want the bare bones cheapest flight and then plan to wash my one outfit in the ocean at night while I sleep in a wrapped towel? You are staying in a hotel with legal towels, right? The Allegiant desk at Gateway is only open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday and Monday nights; you should go late when the line has dwindled down. Or dial (702) 505-8888 and grow arthritically old while you wait.

Whatever you decide, this Allegiant trip to Hawaii is a smoking deal compared to Hawaii flights out of Sky Harbor. Again, "caveat emptor." That’s Caesar speak for "buyer beware." Allegiant customers have complained about announced delays, unannounced delays, and delayed delays. Also, stressed employees grow testy trying to explain the delays. Or, who knows, you could have a frazzle-free, perfect trip while saving mega moolah.

Also, a free ride from a friend to nearby Gateway might be possible while a ride to Sky Harbor might cost you a kidney. If not, Mesa-Gateway parking is adjacent to the terminal for $10 a day. Or shuttle to nearby parking for $6 a day. Pick-up and drop-off parking is immediately in front of the terminal where the first half hour is free; each additional half hour costs one dollar up to $18 a day. Sky Harbor in Phoenix charges $4 an hour in all lots with varying day-long prices ($9 to $25). When you return to either airport and go to get your car, expect difficulty finding it in the uncovered parking lots because your blue car has now turned grey.

Gateway airport is small, simple, and convenient. In contrast, when picking up someone at Sky Harbor, I have a coronary trying to read all the last-minute signage in order to get into the correct lane. Also, at Mesa-Gateway you can eat at the Copper Plate for casual dining, or Flightline Market for light food, and Paradise Bakery offers good stuff, too.

Gateway serves three airlines that all claim to save you money: Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier. Allegiant flights connect small cities to world-class spots (allegiantair.com). Spirit flights crisscross the United States, flying as far as the Caribbean and Lima, Peru (spirit.com). Frontier flies you directly only to Denver where you make connections (flyfrontier.com). Once again, check on all possible extra fees.

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