The United States of America is a great, big, beautiful place. In my travels, I’ve found that journeying around the country is just as eye-opening as journeying to the other side of the planet. If you’ve been thinking about vacationing somewhere inside the US, or even just traveling to see friends or family, it helps knowing the cheapest airlines in the US.
From the beaches of California to the vineyards of New York, there’s no shortage of unique places in the US. Whether you like to spend your vacation hiking in the mountains or lounging next to the ocean, exploring the nooks and crannies of upscale urban cities or enjoying the peace and quiet in the middle of nowhere, there are plenty of hidden vacation spots in the US worth checking out.
Best of all, you don’t have to break the bank to travel domestically. There are plenty of cheap places to fly in the US, and plenty of low-cost airlines in the US to get you there. To help you make the most of your travels, I sat down and crunched the numbers to learn what airlines are the cheapest and the best. Want to know which US discount airlines offer the best bang for your buck? Keep reading to find my picks for the 8 cheapest airlines in the US right now!
How to save money using inexpensive airlines in the US
Before we get into my roundup of the cheapest airlines in the US in 2023, I’d like to share with you my secret to making cheap domestic flights even cheaper. With this simple travel hack, you can go more places and have more fun while spending less money.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been using Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going) to score incredible deals with several low-cost airlines in the U.S.A. If you want to do likewise, all you have to do is type in the name of where you’re leaving from and where you’re traveling to. Before you know it, Going will start sending mistake fares and other extra cheap flight deals directly to your inbox for FREE!
In 2022, Going’s email alerts helped me save thousands of dollars on flights. How much exactly? Well, on average, I save between $300 and $500 roundtrip on selected flight routes. Going also offers premium memberships for just $49 a year, giving you access to even more features and bigger, better discounts.
Use my discount code Jon20 to save 20% when you join!
Low-Cost Airlines in the US: The Cheapest and Best Airlines to Fly Domestic
Flying domestically is a great way of saving money on your vacation. That doesn’t mean you can’t save even more money by choosing the right carrier though. With that in mind, here are my picks for the 8 cheapest airlines in the US right now:
1. Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines is one of the largest budget carriers in the world. If you’re looking for what airline is the cheapest for domestic flights in the United States, this one is an ideal choice.
Southwest is known for being one of the most accommodating airlines in the world, with its luggage policy standing out in particular. Passengers are allowed the standard carry-on bag and personal items, plus two checked bags at no cost. Southwest also allows you to change your flight all the way up to ten minutes before boarding time, again at no cost and with no cancellation fee.
Southwest offers extensive coverage of domestic flights within the US, including a non-stop route to Hawaii from Sacramento. They also have one of the fairest and most highly rated reward points programs of any airline. Not only is Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program usable on all flights with no blackout dates for rewards flights, but the points you accumulate from being a loyal customer never expire, unlike those for most other airlines.
JetBlue is well-known as an affordable airline for budget-conscious travelers. However, their commitment to offering high-quality amenities despite their low ticket prices makes them more than just one of the cheapest US airlines. They’re also one of the very best.
Although a little pricier than Spirit (see below), JetBlue flights offer more perks, including ample legroom, complimentary snacks, and seatback screens on every airplane. They also don’t nickel-and-dime their customers with hidden fees. What’s more, JetBlue’s luggage policy allows travelers both one carry-on item and an under-the-seat item at no cost.
JetBlue’s rewards program is called TrueBlue and is one of the best out there. In addition to classic rewards system features like preferred seating selection and free or reduced flight costs, TrueBlue also has some unique benefits. The best of these is the “point pooling” feature, which allows you to share points with your friends or family members. It’s a great way to save if you’re traveling together with loved ones.
Spirit might not have all the amenities that JetBlue offers, but it has its own advantages that make it attractive to many travelers. First and foremost is its reputation as the absolute cheapest US budget airline you can possibly find. That said, there are pros and cons to flying with them. If you get a handle on their policies and practices, you can take advantage of some of the best travel deals in the country.
One thing to bear in mind is Spirit allows passengers only one under-the-seat personal item. Every bag after that (including carry-ons) incurs a charge. Tickets that allow the customer to choose a seat also add a fee to the ticket’s cost. This helps them keep flight costs exceptionally low, however, so it’s a give-and-take.
Another thing to keep in mind about Spirit’s-ultra low-cost business model is how it might affect your physical comfort. Spirit’s seats have 28 inches of legroom, whereas the average for most airlines is 32. This allows Spirit to fit more passengers onto a single plane, another way they keep their costs so low. That said, passengers can upgrade to a seat with 36 inches of legroom, though I wouldn’t recommend it except for those who are particularly tall and really need the extra space.
4. Breeze Airways
Breeze Airways is one of the more unique airlines on this list, in that it offers domestic flights to airports that, in many cases, aren’t as actively served by larger airlines. While you won’t find prices as low as Spirit, there are still plenty of good deals. For example, economy tickets from Pittsburgh, PA, to Tampa, FL, start at just $102.
Breeze has three different flight packages to accommodate different kinds of travelers. Their starting tier is “Nice”, a low-cost option that allows for one personal item (though a carry-on bag will incur a fee). “Nicer” offers extra legroom, one checked bag, and one carry-on. Last but not least is the first-class tier, “Nicest.” This option comes with all the same features as “Nicer,” but with the added bonus of a first-class seat and priority boarding.
Breeze Airways also has a rewards program called BreezePoints that grants you one point for every cent spent; if you are traveling in “Nicer” or above, you also earn 4% more points. Breeze points can be used to directly reduce the cost of your flight. Keep in mind, though, that the points expire within two years after you earn them. My advice? Use ‘em before you lose ‘em.
5. Hawaiian Airlines
One of the most popular travel destinations in the US is undoubtedly Hawaii. If you’re planning to fly to, from, or through Hawaii, then Hawaiian Airlines is your best choice for domestic travel.
With Hawaiian Airlines, you can fly direct to Hawaii from a number of locations, including Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. If you are planning a tropical vacation, Hawaiian Airlines is one of the safest and cheapest airlines to fly around. In fact, for an airline that has been in continuous operation for nearly 100 years, Hawaiian Airlines has an exceptional safety record. You’re in good hands when you fly Hawaiian.
Due to long flight times being standard on most routes to Hawaiian flights (whether traveling into or out of the islands), Hawaiian Airlines’ seating is premium. Designed for maximum comfort during long flights, Hawaiian’s seats are fully upholstered. They also have between 37 inches and 39 inches of legroom (well above the industry standard of 31 inches).
6. Avelo Airlines
If you want similar prices to Spirit (or even better) and are specifically looking for flights along the coast, Avelo Airlines is the carrier for you. Avelo is unique in that it serves cities along both coasts but has no intersection between them. In other words, you can’t go from the east coast to the west coast, but if you’re looking to travel from New York to Florida, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal.
Of course, that isn’t the only thing that makes Avelo one of the cheapest US airlines. It’s also very competitive when it comes to upgrading. For example, Avelo’s seats have a pitch of 29 inches of legroom, below the industry standard but on par with other budget airlines. However, the cost of upgrading to a seat with 37 inches of legroom starts at just $11!
That said, it’s worth noting that Avelo charges a small fee for carry-on bags. This encourages people to check their luggage (thus making for faster boarding times). Also, Avelo’s ultra-low-cost business model means that they don’t offer full meals. Dining options are limited to a complimentary snack and water bottle on certain routes. Keep in mind that, as a part of Avelo’s ultra-low-cost business model, they do not offer in-flight meals of any kind. And only on some flights will they offer a complimentary snack and water bottle.
7. Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines is one of the oldest carriers still operating in America. This means they have a higher level of experience than just about any other low-cost US airline. With high levels of customer satisfaction, Delta is a great option for bargain hunters and frequent flyers alike.
Delta has routes going to numerous destinations all across the US, as well as six fare classes with a variety of options. If you are looking for the best deals for a first-class trip, Delta also has very good prices for their Delta One fare class, which provides travelers with a pod-style seat and plenty of room to lie down. There’s even a side table and divider walls that can be raised so you can enjoy total privacy.
Delta Air Lines’ loyalty program, Delta SkyMiles, is considered one of the best among domestic airlines due to its ample rewards, airport hospitality services, and fast accumulating miles that don’t expire. You can also sign up for a Delta SkyMiles Reserve Credit Card. This will give you complimentary access to Sky Club lounges at many airports around the US.
8. Alaska Airlines
Like Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines is a specialized carrier servicing travel in and out of one of the more remote US states. It’s also one of the most inexpensive airlines in the US, with no hidden fees to worry about. Alaska Airlines currently services passengers in five cities along the west coast, including Los Angeles and Seattle.
For flights between 775 and 1,100 miles, customers are provided with a complimentary in-flight snack. Customers on flights that cover 1,100 miles, meanwhile, have access to a variety of tasty sandwiches, wraps, and platters. Alaska’s first-class flights also have some of the best deals around, with round-trip first-class flights available for less than $500. The seat pitch on economy class seats is just over 31 inches, while first-class seats offer a whopping 41 inches of legroom.
Like many of the other airlines listed in this post, Alaska Airlines has its own comprehensive loyalty program. Called the Mileage Plan, the system allows customers to earn miles while flying. They can be used for airfare discounts, hotel credits, cruise deals, and upgrades to first class.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the cheapest airlines in the US
It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling to the other side of the world or the other side of your home state. It’s always important to be prepared before you head out the door. To ensure you have all the knowledge you need for an unforgettable vacation, here are some of the most common questions I get about the cheapest airlines in the United States:
How can I save money when flying with cheap US airlines?
In addition to flying with the cheapest airlines in the US., there are multiple travel hacks I use to drive down my costs for domestic flights.
My first tip is to book your flight sooner rather than later. The longer you wait to book, the fewer seats will be available. This means that customers looking to travel the same route as you will have to compete over those seats. As such, the airline can charge higher for them. First come doesn’t just mean first served; it’s also what separates those who pay a little from those who pay a lot.
Next, try to avoid paying unnecessary fees for extra luggage or in-flight meals. Spend some time researching the low-cost US. airlines you’ll be flying with and see what amenities are included and which require payment. You might be better off packing light or even bringing your own food rather than paying additional fees.
The final hack I’ll recommend here is to use Going (formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights). It’s incredibly easy to use; all you have to do is indicate your point of origin and your desired destination. From there, Going will send amazing airfare deals right to your inbox. Best of all, it’s completely free. If you want even better deals, though, consider signing up for the premium version. It only costs $49 a year and it can save you hundreds of dollars.
You can save even more by using my discount code Jon20 to save 20% when you sign up!
How many different airlines are currently active in the United States?
At the time of this writing, there are currently 63 different airlines in the United States. However, 90% of the domestic travel market is dominated by the ten largest carriers. Surprisingly, some of the cheapest airlines in the US are also the largest, including Delta, Spirit, JetBlue, and Alaska.
As of 2023, the biggest domestic airlines in the US are:
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- United Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Spirit Airlines
- Air Canada
Are there budget airlines in the US?
Absolutely! Budget airlines are a great option for travelers looking to save some bucks. In the US, choose from a variety of budget airlines, including Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant Air, and JetBlue. These airlines offer cheaper fares than traditional airlines. They provide fewer frills and charging extra for additional services like baggage and seat selection. So if you’re looking to save money on your next trip, book a flight with one of these US budget airlines.
What time of year are domestic flight tickets cheapest?
Even when traveling with the cheapest airlines in the US, airfare prices can fluctuate over time. To ensure you get the best possible bargain, it’s important to pay attention to how seasonality affects prices.
Summer is typically the busy season for domestic US flights, as this is when the weather is mildest. It’s also when students and those who work in education have the most flexible schedules. As a result, if you’re concerned about sticking to a tight budget, summer is the worst time to travel.
By contrast, fewer people travel during the winter, which means airlines have to compete harder to attract customers. This drives prices down, which makes it a great time to score a discount at one of the many low-cost US airlines listed in this post.
If you are unable to travel during the winter, the “shoulder seasons” of fall and spring are considered the second best time to find cheap flight deals in the US. Keep that in mind when planning a trip or vacation.
What is the US biggest low-cost airline?
If you’re looking for a low-cost airline that offers affordable travel options in the US, you’ll be excited to know that there are a few to choose from. However, the biggest low-cost airline in the US is Southwest Airlines. Not only does Southwest offer reasonable fares, but it also prides itself on excellent customer service, no baggage fees, and a relaxed boarding process. So, whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, consider flying with Southwest to save some cash and have a great flying experience.
What are the best budget-friendly vacation spots in the US?
You may think that traveling domestically limits you. You may think that trying to travel cheaply limits you even further. But the truth is that there are plenty of great vacation destinations right here in the US. Best of all, you don’t have to go broke to enjoy popular getaways like Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans, and Fort Lauderdale.
To learn more about which domestic travel locations are best suited for a low-cost vacation, check out my blog post on the 15 Cheapest Places to Fly in the US. It has everything you need to know about finding fun, affordable vacation spots. It also includes recommendations for various activities and attractions at each location, as well as tips on how to save even more money while you’re traveling.