Is It Cheaper to Buy Plane Tickets at the Airport? How to Get the Best Deals on Flights

Looking for new and handy travel hacks to save more on your next trip? Plenty of creative ways to save money exist, and budget-conscious travelers know to leave no stone unturned. If saving money means an extra trip to the airport, why not? But is it indeed cheaper to buy flights at the airport? Or is this another urban myth, like Tuesdays being the cheapest day to book flights?

Discover the truth behind buying flight tickets at the airport and the pros and cons of booking your next trip at the ticket counter.

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Can You Buy a Flight at the Airport?

Believe it or not, this question is worth asking, and the simple answer is yes. You can still buy a flight at the airport. In some cases, like buying a ticket a few hours before departure, it may be the only option available. However, it doesn’t come without obstacles.

The 21st century has made it possible to purchase airplane tickets from the comfort of your home with the click of a button—and for cheap too. That said, we’ve all seen the movies where someone flies through the airport on a final hail mary and purchases tickets at the counter. Of course, Hollywood skips over the long lines, longer wait, and airline employees who may not know what they’re doing. 

Because, unlike the old days when the internet was dial-up and airline tickets had to be booked at the airport, airline employees don’t handle as many ticket purchases as they used to. And while most still know how to do it, airlines don’t prefer it. Instead, they want you to book online, and circumventing that may land you with flustered employees or even directed to a kiosk to book online anyway. 

So, while the answer is simple, you may find that purchasing your tickets at the airport is anything but. 

Is It Cheaper to Buy Flights at the Airport? 

Yes and no. If an airline includes online service charges in their fees, you may be better off buying at the airport for cheaper flights. However, not all airlines apply an online booking fee. 

You may already know where this is going, but you’ll find that most airlines applying online booking fees are the same ones with seemingly endless additional fees: budget airlines. We’re talking about ultra-low-cost carriers like Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. 

If you’re flying one of these budget carriers, you may be able to save a few hundred dollars by buying a cheaper flight at the airport counter instead of booking online. However, keep in mind that some tickets purchased at the airport contain fees that aren’t included in online bookings. If that’s the case, the “savings” you get by purchasing flights at the airport may ultimately go up in smoke.

Is It Cheaper to Buy Allegiant Flights at the Airport?

If you want to save money on your next flight with Allegiant Airlines, you may want to consider heading to the airport to buy cheaper tickets at the counter. 

Included in Allegiant’s services and fees is an electronic carrier usage charge of $18. This fee applies to each segment of your flight, so even if you book a round-trip ticket, Allegiant Airlines charges $18 for the flight there and back. And don’t expect to avoid this fee by calling in, either. Allegiant also charges $14.99 to purchase tickets through their call center. 

The only way to avoid these charges is by cruising down to the Allegiant Airlines ticket counter and booking in person. While it’s an added hassle, that extra bit of work can be worth it if you live near your local airport. You can easily save a few hundred dollars on group travel simply by cutting out the online booking fees associated with Allegiant’s fares.

Is It Cheaper to Buy Frontier Flights at the Airport?

Frontier is another airline that subjects its passengers to an online booking fee, and it’s the most expensive one of the bunch. Under the airline’s carrier interface charge, passengers can expect to pay a $23 fee per flight segment. As with Allegiant, that means $23 applied to every one-way ticket and each part of a round-trip flight. 

Surprisingly enough, one of the best ways passengers can save money with Frontier is by buying their tickets at the Frontier Airlines ticket counter. Other options, like third-party sites or purchasing through the Reservation center, could subject you to an additional $5-$35 fee. So, to make your cheap flight even cheaper, consider traveling to the airport and booking with an agent at the counter.

Is It Cheaper to Buy Spirit Flights at the Airport?

Spirit Airlines is known for two things: cheap flights and extensive fees. One such fee is the passenger usage charge, typically $22.99 one way or $45.98 round trip. 

While this is almost as expensive as Frontier’s online booking fee, there are some instances where Spirit’s fee is lower. For example, $9 fare club member fares and other discounted fares may have online booking fees as low as $3.99 one way or $7.98 round trip. 

If you’re trying to cut your travel costs with cheaper airline tickets, heading to the Spirit Airlines ticket counter may yield results. However, keep in mind that while Spirit’s online booking fee no longer applies here, other booking-related fees like fuel and regulatory charges that aren’t charged online do apply in person. 

On top of that, many special privileges you enjoy as a $9 fare club member—along with special discounted fares—are only available online and not at the airport ticket counter. So, remember to cross-check prices and discounts to see which will offer better savings. The last thing you want to do is make a special trip to the airport to buy cheaper flights that aren’t so cheap after all. 

The Pros & Cons of Buying Plane Tickets at the Airport

So, now you know which airlines offer the best savings to make journeying to the airport and purchasing your flight tickets there worth it. But what about buying plane tickets in general? Do the potential pros of buying cheaper flights at the airport outweigh the advantages of booking your flights online? It’s up to you to decide, but we’ve gathered some of the top reasons for and against buying flights at the airport to help you make the right choice.


Buying tickets online is hard to beat in terms of ease, comfort, and convenience. That said, one could make a strong case for buying flights at the airport based on the cheaper tag price alone.

You’ll Avoid Online Booking Fees 

Everyone likes saving money. One significant advantage of buying tickets at the ticket counter versus online is the potential savings you can net. Booking in person allows you to avoid some fees associated with online bookings. For example, cutting your expenses by at least $18 to $46 per passenger is worth a trip to the airport, especially if you’re flying with multiple people. 

However, not all tickets will be cheaper just because you can avoid the online booking fees. Some airlines, like Spirit, will have carrier-imposed fees or government-imposed taxes that apply to in-person tickets, potentially negating any savings you might make by skipping the online fees.


Buying a ticket at the airport could save you money, but it doesn’t always yield the best results. In fact, it could end up costing you time and more money. So, before you rush off to the ticket counters at the airport under the lure of buying your next flight for cheaper, here are some things to consider.

Baggage Fees May Be Higher

Baggage fees can be a real concern regardless of the airline you’re flying. One way or another, they’ll cost you a pretty penny to add to your flight. The only domestic airline where this isn’t a concern is Southwest Airlines, which provides passengers with two free checked bags per flight regardless of the destination.

And while everyone knows that airlines like to tack on additional baggage fees if your bag is over the weight limit, that’s not the only concern here. If you plan to save a few dollars buying cheaper flights at the airport instead of online, your savings may disappear under the weight of checked baggage fees.  

Budget airlines try to disincentivize customers from buying bags at the airport by making their fees higher in person. For example, on a Frontier flight from Cincinnati to Boston, your first checked bag may cost $39 if purchased online during booking. However, that same bag will cost you $79 at the ticket counter. The same is true for Spirit’s bag fees and Allegiant’s. 

And if you’re thinking of avoiding the checked bag fees by buying a carry-on bag instead, think again. That example of Frontier’s pricing? Their carry-on bag fees are even more expensive, starting at $44 during booking and matching the $79 checked bag fee at the airport. 

So really, the best way to save money here is to pack light. Or, at the very least, plan to add checked bags online/via the mobile app later to save some money, though you may still be paying more than if you had reserved your trip online.

You Have to Go to the Airport

There’s a reason most people book their tickets online: convenience. Whether at home, sitting in your office, or on your way somewhere, you can easily pull out your phone or computer and buy your ticket online at the press of a button. In just a few minutes, you go from dreaming of travel to a winter break in Cancun.

On the other hand, buying tickets in person means going to the airport. For people who don’t live right by an airport, this could be over an hour commute just to get there and back. And if you live near a major airport, the traffic alone could make it exponentially worse. That’s before you get into finding parking, a potentially long line at the airport, and guiding the counter agent through the flight you want to book. 

Add to that, many budget airlines aren’t always open. For example, Frontier only operates out of most airports on specific days. In addition, ticket agents are only there a few hours before scheduled departures, so you have to be purposeful in your planning.

That’s not saying it can’t work out under the right circumstances. But taking your location and airport size into account, you may be subjecting yourself to more work than you may deem worth it in the end just to buy flights that are only slightly cheaper.

You Can’t Compare Flights 

Making your flight reservation online means having the opportunity to compare multiple prices from multiple airlines. You can use search engines like Expedia and Priceline, set up price drop alerts, or sign up for a service like Next Vacay to get the best deals delivered to your inbox, all without having to change out of your PJs. You can’t do all of that in person. (Technically, you could wear your PJs to the airport, but you may get some weird looks.)

At the airport, there’s no comparing prices or perks, choosing a better route, or deciding to go with a different airline. You’re basically left to cross your fingers and hope for the best. 

Cancellations and Flight Changes Can Be Tricky

Even the best-laid plans are subject to change at a moment’s notice. If you’re forced to cancel or change your ticket, it’s a whole lot easier and simpler for tickets you purchase online. While booking online, you can review the cancellation policy and know all the rules regarding canceling or changing your ticket before purchase. 

You won’t have that same luxury booking at the airport, so you may find yourself in for a surprise later when you attempt to adjust your trip and find an unexpected fee just waiting to be charged to your credit or debit card.

You May Feel Pressured Into Booking

No one likes feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place, but that’s exactly how it sometimes feels in the airport line—people grumbling behind you and a frustrated airline worker in front of you. You want to save money but don’t want it to be a hassle. And if it’s too much of a hassle, we might just throw our hands up and do whatever we have to get out of the situation, whether throwing more money at a ticket than we meant to or leaving the airport empty-handed.

Booking at the airport comes with added frustrations and inconveniences that you just won’t find online. It makes it all the more important to question if saving a little bit of money on your ticket is worth the added trouble to your travel planning. If it can’t be justified, you may be better off leaving your airport visits for your next scheduled departure.

If You’re Looking for the Cheapest Deals on Flights, Next Vacay Can Help!

Breaking news: you don’t have to go to the airport to buy cheaper flights. Instead of making your next trip more complicated with long drives and long waits, try the smarter, simpler way to travel. 

Get deals delivered straight to your inbox, and you don’t have to worry about going to the airport to save a few dollars on airfare. Next Vacay can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars on travel to destinations all over the globe. So, whether you want to fly to Mexico or Japan, Next Vacay has the cheap flights to make it possible without an extra trip to the airport.

Don’t wait for your next journey to the airport to buy cheaper flights for less. Instead, sign up for Next Vacay and book your next trip with the click of a button!

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