1. Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines has its headquarters in Florida. Because it is a budget airline, be prepared to pay for any extras, such as food or drinks and even your carry-on luggage.
The study showed the cost per mile is only 20.9 cents with this airline.
2. Frontier Airlines
With its headquarters in Denver, Frontier travels to more than 80 destinations domestically and internationally. It has had its share of bad press, however, being named in 2015 as one of the top five worst airlines in the U.S.
The study showed this company averaged 22.5 cents per mile using their methodology.
3. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines is the biggest airline in Hawaii, providing service to the U.S. mainland, as well as international destinations. It has partnered with Mastercard to offer the Hawaiian Airlines Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard, a credit card that offers bonus miles and three times the miles on Hawaiian Airlines purchases.
Hawaiian Airlines was only slightly higher than Frontier and Spirit Airlines in the study at 25.7 cents per mile.
4. (tie) Allegiant Air
In the study, this low-cost carrier came in at 32.2 cents per mile.
4. (tie) Sun Country Airlines
Sun Country Airlines provides destinations throughout the United States, as well as spots in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Costa Rica. It is headquartered in Minnesota and has approximately 70 routes.
At 32.2 cents per mile, Sun Country Airlines rounds out the top five most affordable airlines in the U.S.
6. Alaska Airlines
This airline came in at 33.8 cents per mile in the study.
7. JetBlue Airways
If you tend to get the munchies while you’re flying but hate to pay for extras, JetBlue offers free snacks and drinks. Headquartered in New York City, it has over 90 destinations and has won awards for its customer service.
JetBlue Airways jumped a bit in price over the No. 6 position at 40.2 cents per mile.
8. American Airlines
With its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, American Airlines is considered the world’s biggest airline in several categories, including fleet size, passengers, and how many destinations they serve. It has almost 350 destinations in a coverage area that includes over 50 countries. It’s also one of the oldest airlines, founded in 1926. With American Airlines you’ll usually pay lower baggage fees than you would with some of the dedicated budget airlines, but the tickets themselves may be a little more expensive.
American Airlines measured in at 41.8 cents per mile in the study.
9. United Airlines
United Airlines is headquartered in Chicago and is another old airline on this list, being founded in 1926 as well. It offers a wide variety of domestic flights and provides flights to 48 countries.
This airline came in at 45.1 cents per mile in the study, which means it costs approximately 45 cents per mile.
10. Southwest Airlines
Based out of Dallas, Southwest Airlines makes finding their deals relatively easy by offering a low-fare calendar. It also offers free snacks and drinks, WiFi when you’re flying, and your bags fly free, which can be a good cost-saving measure. You should note, however, there are stipulations, including weight and size restrictions, you have to follow for the bags to fly free. Southwest tends to rank really well in terms of overall customer satisfaction among all airlines as well.
Finishing out the top 10, Southwest Airlines came in at 46.7 cents per mile in the study.
How to save on airfare
Use a comparison website
The first step you’ll want to take to find a cheap, round-trip flight is to stop looking at each airline’s individual website. You’ll be overlooking some airlines you’ve forgotten about or have possibly never heard of if you look up each one separately.
Instead, you should go to a website that lets you compare multiple airlines at once. That will give you the best indication about which airline routinely offers cheap flights.
Book in advance
You’ll also want look as far in advance as you possibly can because flights generally get higher in price as the date of the flight approaches. That’s hard to do if you have to book an emergency flight to see your family, but it’s easy to do if you’re taking a vacation. Talk to your boss, block off your vacation time, decide on a destination, and book that flight as soon as possible.
Leave on a weekday
If you can leave during the middle of the week instead of on the weekend, you’ll save money since weekday flights are cheaper than flights on a weekend because they aren’t in demand as much. You can also look for any discounts, including last-minute price breaks from undersold flights. But be aware, holding out for a last-minute price break can be risky because you may end up paying a lot more than if you had booked the flight at a much earlier date.
Fly out of a large airport
If possible, try to fly out of larger cities and airport hubs as well. You’re likely to save if you’re able to fly out of Boston, New York, San Francisco or any big city as opposed to leaving from a smaller regional airport.
Watch out for additional costs
If you are flying with a budget carrier or no-frills airline, be cautious of additional costs for checked bags and even carry-on bags. These fees are usually separate from the base ticket price and can add up quickly.
The bottom line
While flying isn’t generally viewed as a low-cost way to travel, there are ways to score deals if you spend a little time and effort planning out your strategy. Make sure to look at all your possible flight options including budget carriers, and don’t get locked into the idea of traveling with one particular airline. Stay open to traveling midweek if you can and you’ll likely save even more money. There are also tools like Hopper that can help you find more affordable travel deals as you search flights.
If you know what you’re doing and keep an eye out for limited time sales, the sky is the limit when it comes to how much you can save in your travel budget.