Why does Allegiant Air charge $5 for airport check-in?


Allegiant Air charges customers $5 if they check in at most airports. But why? Photo: Aero Icarus/Flicr, via creative commons.

Allegiant Air charges customers $5 if they check in at most airports. But why? Photo: Aero Icarus/Flicr, via creative commons.

Why is Allegiant Air charging customers $5 if they want to check in at the airport?

As I detailed last month, this fee applies to just about everyone who doesn't check in on a mobile phone or computer before heading to the airport. It is even assessed on passengers who use airport kiosks and never speak with an agent. 

We could call this a money grab -- a chance for an airline to earn  a bit of extra revenue on something that used to be free -- but I never thought that was the rationale. As former COO Andrew Levy said a couple of months ago, there is a cost to Allegiant when you, as the customer, use that kiosk. Allegiant wants to eliminate those costs. 

On this month's earning conference call, CEO Maurice Gallagher expanded on the theme, telling analysts that Allegiant wants to do all it can to make the process as self-service as possible. Airport rent, he said, is pricey. 

"We are trying to less our footprint at airports," Gallagher said. "Some of the most expensive real estate in the entire country, maybe even the world, is inside a traditional airport, particularly in big cities. Square foot prices are just off the charts. To the extent you can push activities to the consumer and away from the airport, those are pluses. You want the consumer to come to you first at the gate, and we'll deal with them at that point."

What do you think of his comments? Is it possible that other airlines are renting too much space at airports? Might your ticket prices on United, American and Delta go down, if they told you to take more advantage of your mobile phones and cut back on the kiosks? Probably not, but I suppose you never know.