Are you in the process of planning a family vacation that is autism-friendly? Is searching for an autism-friendly air carrier that is affordable 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
Before I begin talking about the ultra-low-cost air carriers, let me share which air carrier is the most autism-friendly. There is only one Autism Certified Air Carrier in the world and it is JSX. This airline is not low cost though. It is a private airline that offers your autistic family the perks you need while traveling.
You can easily arrive at the airport 20 minutes prior to departure. Passing through security is a breeze to reach the private hangar. All the seats are business class. Once you land, you will be heading towards your hotel in no time at all 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 you are traveling. The ones you will hear about the most include:
All these airlines were designed to save you some money, so you can stay within your budget while traveling. You won’t find any frills when flying with these air carriers. But they will get you to where you want to go, most of the time. I will get into that last part a little more in a minute.
What is really 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. This program is similar to IBCCES. I am actually certified as an autism travel professional through both programs! And Allegiant offers the Wings for Autism program.
Extra Charges to Consider While Flying Ultra Low Cost Air Carriers
Okay, so every airline except Southwest has a fee for checked bags. Therefore, you really shouldn’t be shocked about this charge. However, what you need to be aware of is that these low cost air carriers’ baggage fees are dependent on when you pay for your bags.
For example, if you choose to pay for your checked bags when you book your flight, you 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.
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. It will give you peace of mind to know you can sit next to everyone in your family.
Once you are 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 will need to pay for it. The flight attendants will be happy to charge your credit card for any purchases you make.
Arriving at the Airport
Everyone is always told to arrive at the airport 2 hours prior to their flight departure. This arrival time will be the same for the ultra-low-cost air carriers.
However, it is important to note that these airlines do not operate 24/7 like the major airlines. So, if you have a really 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 prior to their first flight of the day.
My Experience with Frontier
I booked a flight for my family on Frontier to fly from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles. That flight was $150 per person.
I had booked this flight well in advance and 2 months prior to our departure date, I received an email stating that our flight was canceled. I was advised to call customer service to change my flights.
The customer service representative was quite tart with me when I called to change my flight. I guess most people simply cancel it 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 instead of the airport I had originally booked my flight from.
The reason these carriers cancel their flights so often is they have a smaller size fleet. So, some airports will decide they don’t want these airlines flying from their location any longer. Other times, the flights are canceled because they overbooked the flight.
I ended up paying for our luggage after the time of booking. The cost for our bags was $120. I also paid $25 per seat so I could 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. I had known prior to booking my flights that I would be nickeled and dimed throughout the entire 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 2 hours prior to 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 an added stress I needed when planning this flight.
My cost for this flight on Frontier cost my family $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 included during the flight.
Saving $102 by flying Frontier and not being as comfortable throughout the entire 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 you are choosing an airline for your next autism-friendly family vacation, you should keep in mind 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 great. 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 still stay within your budget.
And now that you know what to expect with ultra low cost air carriers, it is time to start planning for your next autism-friendly vacation! Contact me and let me help you travel the world with your autistic family.