The Breakdown

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Allegiant Air now charging $5 for check-in at airport

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As the summer travel season ends, Allegiant Air has begun charging passengers to check in and print their boarding passes at the airport. 

Calling it a new initiative to encourage paperless boarding and save passengers time and money, the low-cost airline explained in a statement:

Customers who require the assistance of a ticket agent to print their boarding pass at the airport will pay a $5 charge per boarding pass printed. Customers who use a mobile boarding pass on their mobile device or tablet, or check-in online and print their boarding pass at home will save themselves the small fee, while helping the carrier keep fares low and ticket lines short.

"Allegiant continues to find innovative ways to create a faster, easier travel experience for our customers while at the same time reducing costs," said Andrew Levy, president of  Allegiant Travel Co. in the statement. "We now have mobile scanning technology in even the smallest airports in our network so that every Allegiant customer can `go paperless' and use their smartphone or tablet to check-in, pass through security and board their flight." 

Allegiant flies out of LAX to Honolulu and 20 small market airports in the U.S., including Bellingham, Washington, and Wichita, Kansas.  

Allegiant allows passengers to bring one personal item on board free of charge, but charges fees for checked bags and carry-on bags. 

Susan Rice of Nucla, Colorado, has flown Allegiant at least seven times and plans to fly into Los Angeles from Grand Junction later this week to see friends. She says she and her husband learned online of the possible charge.

"We thought, 'How silly is that?' We'll just print out the ticket 24 hours before because we're trying save money on this airplane," said Rice, who manages a community library. "Five dollars to print something out? My goodness, we charge people who print out their itineraries at our library just 10 cents if they're in black and white."

As "annoying" and "humorous" as she finds Allegiant's extra charges, Rice acknowledges that she got a better deal from the low-cost carrier.

"With Allegiant, I'm still flying pretty cheaply out of a very small airport," Rice says.

Brett Snyder,  founder and author of the Cranky Flier air travel blog, says Allegiant and Spirit airlines are "ultra-low-cost carriers" like Europe's Ryan Air, which also charges the airport check-in fee.

"Their whole goal is to make the ticket price as cheap as possible for you and 'you get to pick and choose what you want'" says Snyder. "That's a way that helps them to make more money, of course, but if they're not earning a lot of fee-related revenue, then the base fare itself is gonna go up."

Snyder says he does not expect the airport check-in fee to take off with legacy carriers like United and American because they rely more on airport agents to handle check in .   

 Allegiant says the airport check-in charge does not apply to passengers who are ineligible for advance check-in, such as passengers traveling with pets in the cabin, or passengers with disabilities who are unable to print or download boarding passes. 

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