All You Can....Fly?

Tired of paying per flight? These airlines feature all you can fly subscription offers unlimited air travel each month. It's "all you can eat" but for flights!

All You Can....Fly?
Photo by Ulysse Pointcheval / Unsplash

You’ve had a long work day, you finally get home and turn on Netflix, or Peacock, or Paramount+ or one of various other streaming services where you can gobble up all the content you want for a flat monthly fee. Sure, you can buy TV shows and movies, but that costs much more than getting a bunch of unlimited streaming subscriptions (though with the price increases who knows how long that holds!). Imagine you're out with your family on a holiday, and everyone agrees to go to a nearby Chinese buffet or even the Golden Corral for a wide variety of food. It's an "all you can eat" experience for a reasonable price. Sure, you could visit different restaurants for different cuisines, but that can quickly become expensive and end up costing more than a buffet (although you can always take leftovers home!). Now, let's talk about air travel. If you've flown recently or occasionally, you know how costly it can be. The slightest change or adjustment can lead to a significant increase in fares. Sometimes, you have to book your flights during weekdays, wake up extremely early, or stay up late just to find a somewhat affordable fare. While flying is the safest and fastest mode of transportation, it's not always the most convenient or budget-friendly option. But what if you travel frequently throughout the year? What if you don't want to apply for another credit card just to earn points for discounted flights? What if there was a way to have an "all you can eat" pass for flights? Surprisingly, some domestic and international airlines offer such passes, making it entirely possible and potentially affordable for you.


The Low Cost Frontier

Frontier Airlines is a well-known "ultra low cost" carrier that offers affordable fares. Like Southwest, you only pay for a seat and a boarding position, and the cost increases if you choose to add on additional amenities such as seat selection or carry on bags. However, Frontier serves numerous destinations year-round, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious solo travelers. Frontier has their “GoWild!” all-you-can-fly program and it offers three different plans, with one such plan available at a substantial discount:

  • Monthly Pass: This is by far the most approachable option as it’s month to month, and it allows for a short commitment. There’s a $99 enrollment fee, but it’s free for the first month, and $149 per month thereafter. The website does not indicate if there’s any restrictions on cancelling passes ahead of time, so like a streaming subscription, you can simply cancel the “auto-renew” if it’s not for you. Otherwise, this seems very reasonable for someone who simply wants to try out the program and fly to a few destinations, but you will need to do it within a short period of time. For those who may want to try it out, this might be the best option.
  • Seasonal Passes: As of this writing, Frontier is offering a Summer Pass for $399 the first year, and $499 a year thereafter. The summer pass runs from May 1-September 30, so it gives plenty of time. Also, even if you do the pass now and renew it for next year, it’s cheaper in the long run than staying on the monthly pass. This pass covers all summer travel, and that can get expensive as well. There’s also a much more expensive Fall & Winter Pass for $999 a year (there’s likely a sale for that as we get closer to that time of year) and that runs from September 2-Februrary 29. Considering holiday travel gets very expensive, and with this pass encompassing the holidays, it might be a bargain in the long run. For those solo travelers that need to fly to see their families during the holidays, or return back “home”, this is a great option.
  • Annual Passes: As of this writing (didn’t I just say that?), Frontier is offering an Annual Pass for what appears to be a substantial discount. In this case, the travel window would have to be from May 1, 2024 to April 30, 2025, but it is priced at $599 for the year, with the renewal rate locked in with the same price. For the solo traveler who has at least a few places in mind, along with some holiday travel, and maybe even a little spring break next year, this might be your best bet.

Now, keep in mind, this is simply the base fare. This is just to get you on the plane. You will still need to pay the taxes and fees, and you will still need to pay for the upgrades involved with traveling on Frontier, such as seat selection and amenities. Though, for the solo traveler, this may not be much of an expense. There’s also blackout dates, its non-transferable, and there are various terms and conditions, so check the website and read carefully before purchasing. Be that as it may, this option is incredibly intriguing and should be considered.

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I Wasn’t Planning On Going to Alaska, but sure….

Alaska Airlines is often overlooked among the many carriers out there. It may not have the same widespread presence as American, Delta, and United, but it holds its own as a legacy carrier, particularly on the west coast and in major cities. While I haven't had the chance to fly with Alaska, my friends who have rave about their excellent service. Although their prices may be higher compared to budget airlines, they typically include amenities or offer them for a small additional fee. This kind of airline is perfect for those seeking a simpler and more transparent pricing experience. Alaska Airlines also offers an “all you can eat” flight pass that is called….wait for it….the Alaska Airlines Flight Pass (you guys couldn’t think of a different name?)

The Alaska Airlines Flight Pass has a very approachable and straightforward pricing policy, with two different plans:

  • Flight Pass: This plan allows for you to book your flight 2 weeks or 14 days in advance. The lowest price for this plan is $49/month for 6 trips a year (1 roundtrip flight every 60 days), $99 a month for one roundtrip flight a month, and $189 a month for 2 roundtrip fights a month. There are no blackout dates, but taxes and fees do apply for each flight purchased. And remember, once you commit, you can’t cancel for a year.
  • Flight Pass Pro: This plan allows for you to book your flight up to 2 HOURS in advance, but it will cost you. It is also similar to the Flight Pass. The lowest price for this plan is $199 a month (6 trips a year), $399 a month (12 trips a year), and finally $749 a month (24 trips a year). Does not appear to be different than the Flight Pass, other than when you can book. Same with the flight pass, you’re locked in to the price per month for an entire year and can’t cancel.

Flight Pass subscribers can utilize routes mostly to and from Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Las Vegas and many cities in California but that’s as far as it goes. If you reside in those areas, and like to utilize the routes and possibly do a road trip from there, this is a great option. This is also a great option for regional travelers but you would need to fly at least 6 times a year. To be more specific, here’s a layout from the website:

https://alaska.caravelo.com/images/plans/as_route_map.png

What’s the Catch?

Frontier’s plan has it’s flaws, but has a lot of flexibility. Pricing is attractive, and you can cancel anytime (though like any subscription, it’s generally non-refundable), but there are blackout dates and additional taxes/fees apply. That in mind, it makes me wonder what the experience is like. Kristy Tolley writing for The Points Guy details her experience, and explains the additional costs associated with the subscription model:

Here's a breakdown of what you can expect:
Checked bag: Typically costs $30 to $50.
Carry-on bag: Tends to cost at least $60 each way, even when purchased in advance.
Seat selection: Prices start at $11 per passenger (and can exceed $30).
I originally planned to attempt travel with just a backpack as my personal item. I'm a strategic packer by nature and typically fit everything into a carry-on regardless of the length of my trip.
However, I doubted my ability to pack five days' worth of items (and my laptop) in my backpack. After reading Frontier's definition of personal items, which includes "purses, totes, computer bags, briefcases, diaper bags and kids backpacks," I didn't want to risk missing the mark — especially now that Frontier is cracking down on personal item sizing — and find myself needing to pay more at the airport. So, I purchased the add-on for a carry-on bag.

Carissa Rowson writing for NerdWallet further explains that the Frontier GoWild! Pass is great for frequent travelers, but perhaps not anyone else. So, is it worth it, Carissa?:

To put it baldly: Probably not. There are some limited situations in which someone may be able to put the pass to good use. A remote worker or a freelancer who only needs to bring a spare outfit for the weekend will have the flexibility to make their flights.
Those who have Frontier elite status may also be able to maximize their flights since they receive free seat selection and a carry-on as perks, though they’d still need to have a lot of flexibility for last-minute bookings.
But this is ignoring the fact that — a lot of the time — Frontier’s airfare costs are already minimal. This is exemplified by its frequent sales, in which you can buy tickets for less than $20 one-way.

Alaska Airlines Flight Plan’s review isn’t much better, even with the more straightforward pricing and no blackout dates. Ramsey Qubein  and Sally French writing for Nerdwallet detail their experiences:

If you have the flexibility to book travel two weeks in advance, and you like to travel at least once every two months, the $49-a-month Flight Pass could be a good deal for you…depending on your city pairs, that can represent substantial savings.
But the reality is, airlines sometimes offer fare sales on last-minute bookings. If you're willing to wait for those sales, you might not find value in signing up for an annual subscription program.
When it comes to traveling for leisure, people tend to book several weeks — if not months — in advance. And booking earlier typically means better deals on airfare. So for some leisure travelers — those who are already getting great rates by planning far in advance — the savings benefits of Flight Pass may not be worth the monthly subscription fee.
But the Alaska Flight Pass can be a good deal for some travelers who frequent fly to the cities Flight Pass services. Review your typical travel patterns to see if you’re a good fit — or maybe even plan some new trips to explore more of the region. There are some great savings to be had for travel between select city pairs — all while working toward earning Alaska Airlines elite status.

Like many subscription services, it's all about how you utilize them. Consider the streaming services you're subscribed to. You continue to pay Netflix $20+ per month because you find value in it, and as long as it's worth it to you, you'll keep paying. Maybe you've paid for Disney+, Paramount+, or Peacock but decided to cancel. Why? Because you don't enjoy or connect with their content the same way you do with Netflix or other platforms. The same principle applies to flight plans; their "content" is the flights they offer. It's crucial to understand what you're signing up for. These testimonials aren't meant to discourage you, as every solo traveler is unique. You might need it for work, traveling to different offices, or visiting family/friends in various cities. Perhaps you only need it for a short period or plan to use it for several years. Everyone has their own preferences, which is why it's essential to read the fine print and research before committing to these plans. Make sure it's the right fit for you by reviewing the terms and conditions!

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Final Thoughts

When it comes to air travel, we all have our preferred brands. It could be based on our childhood experiences, simply transactional, or even based on recent experiences. Hotels and airlines have a significant impact on us, and I believe the transportation and hospitality industries are well aware of this. Prices are greatly influenced by supply and demand, which is why fares can vary dramatically, even on an obscure Tuesday. However, brands and people change, especially during times when the economy is tight. We are always on the lookout for deals. As a solo traveler, I usually choose Southwest and Delta airlines and utilize my miles for air travel. However, I would definitely consider trying out Frontier's pass plan, even on a monthly basis, just to see how it goes. I wouldn't mind paying for the pass and then purchasing the selected amenities during the flights. One last thing to consider, the flight is only one part of your trip, and if it’s the worst part, then you had a pretty damn good time.