Allegiant now demanding week’s notice to change flight

An Allegiant Air jet takes off from McCarran International Airport on Friday, Aug. 26, 2011.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air is raising its fees for changing a flight itinerary and will require passengers to give the airline a week’s notice for changes beginning in October.

The discount airline, which specializes in delivering passengers from small U.S. towns to resort cities, will begin charging passengers $75 each way for ticket changes, up from $50. Passengers also have to pay the prevailing fare for rebooking a ticket, which usually is higher.

Allegiant operates 157 flights a week to and from Las Vegas and is the fifth busiest carrier at McCarran International Airport.

Allegiant is the latest airline to charge more for ticket changes. Last month, United Airlines started a parade of higher fees by increasing the cost of a change from $150 to $200. US Airways, Delta and American matched the increase days later.

While Allegiant’s change fees aren’t as steep as the major carriers’, its new policy on changes, which takes effect Oct. 30, may expand the number of affected passengers because the airline will require customers to make changes a week in advance of a flight or lose everything. Currently, passengers can pay to make changes up to 24 hours before flight time.

The move might also make Allegiant’s flight insurance product — Trip Flex — more appealing to customers.

Trip Flex, which costs $11.50 per flight, will allow ticket-holders to make changes for no additional fee up to an hour before the flight. Currently, Trip Flex holders can make free changes up to 24 hours in advance. Allegiant isn’t increasing the cost of Trip Flex with the bump in change fees.

Allegiant justified the new seven-day cutoff by explaining that the company doesn’t overbook its flights like most airlines and it needs at least a week to resell a seat if a cancellation occurs. Officials added that the no-refund policy enables the company to keep its fares low.

Allegiant’s fares are among the lowest in the industry, but many customers complain that the airline’s ancillary charges, which include paying for drinks and snacks, bag and carry-on luggage fees, added costs for booking online or by phone and fees for choosing a specific seat on the plane, make tickets nearly as expensive as what bigger airlines charge.

Allegiant counters that passengers get to choose what additional services they want and don’t have to pay extra for things they don’t want. In addition, Allegiant uses jets to airports dominated by turbo-prop planes or those that aren’t served by major carriers.

Among airlines serving Las Vegas, only Southwest, the busiest carrier at McCarran, doesn’t charge to make ticket changes. On the airline’s cheapest fares, the airline issues a credit for future travel that has to be used within a year of the purchase.

Last month, Southwest tightened its ticket-change process by instituting a “no-show” policy. Passengers have to cancel a flight prior to its departure to get a credit for future travel.