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I'm from Europe where there are a lot of low cost airlines like easyJet, Ryanair, etc... But these operate mainly in Europe.

Then, my question is if there are airlines which provide cheap flights within the US.

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

There is one airline, Spirit Airlines, which is trying to copy Ryanair with super cheap tickets and aggressively bad service. They serve a limited number of destinations, though, so they may or may not fly where you're going.

There are several airlines in the US which were started as low cost carriers. The biggest are jetBlue and Southwest. However, the entire airline business is so competitive that those airlines don't always have the best prices. Every American airline tries to charge $1 less than the lowest competitor, so sometimes you will see amazingly high prices even on "low cost" airlines if the route is competitive enough, and sometimes big airlines will match Southwest's fares.

Your best bet is always going to be to do a search online to find the lowest fare for a given route. Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines will not appear on any website but their own, so if you are looking for the lowest fare, you will have to search on their two sites individually.

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I must point out that at the present moment, Southwest airlines advertises that they have no baggage fees for up to two checked bags, and they have no fee for changing your flight (fare difference only). – Rice Flour Cookies Dec 2 '11 at 20:57
"Low cost" refers to a business model, not necessarily to fares. – choster Jul 5 '12 at 14:43
Southwest also doesn't usually do the "aggressively bad service" found with some other low cost carriers... – Michael Hampton Jan 7 at 18:38

I always thought that the concept of low-cost airline, or no-frill airlines originates from the US.

According to Wikipedia, the following low-cost arilines can be found in the US.

  • AirTran Airways Domestic Routes, Caribbean Routes and Mexico Routes (acquired by Southwest)
  • Allegiant Air Domestic Routes and International Charter
  • Frontier Airlines Domestic, Mexico, and Central America Routes
  • JetBlue Airways Domestic, Caribbean, and South America Routes
  • Southwest Airlines Domestic Routes
  • Spirit Airlines Domestic, Caribbean, Central and South America Routes
  • Sun Country Airlines Domestic, Mexico, and Caribbean Routes
  • USA3000 Airlines Domestic, Mexico, and Caribbean Routes
  • Virgin America Domestic Routes and Mexico
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There are a few airlines which operate flights at lower fares. I don't know if it is the same "low-cost" concept as known in Europe. Some names that I remember are

  • Southwest
  • jetBlue
  • Virgin America

I personally experienced Virgin America. Tickets have to be purchased online and it's $15 for each bag checked as hold baggage. As opposite to Ryanair, most of the aforementioned airlines operate on the same airports as regular airlines and use terminals with the same amenities. One exception is that, in the Los Angeles area, jetBlue lands in Long Beach (LGB) instead of the main Los Angeles airport (LAX).

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jetBlue and Virgin are no longer low cost airlines in the same way that Ryanair is... they will charge whatever the market will bear, just like anyone else. – Joel Spolsky Jul 23 '11 at 4:18

Spirit Airlines and SouthWest are both "low cost", although SouthWest has become more expensive over the past few years or so.

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