Air travel used to be simple when the only question was whether to spring for first class seats. In recent years, the big names have been undercut by new discount airlines. Now passengers have to compare multiple airlines and price-points to decide how to get from A to B. Sometimes the fares from local discounters are unbelievable, but what are you really getting for your $29.99? Is a cheap flight worth the savings?

First, customers must figure out the true cost of a cheap flight. Airlines operate on a “you get what you pay for” philosophy. The deepest discounts mean no free bags- not even one you carry on. Many of the low-cost carriers charge for anything more than a purse. The mid-range or full-price tickets will usually include a purse, backpack or duffel bag, and a true carry-on suitcase stowed in the overhead racks. Many big-name airlines allow one or even two checked bags for free. If you’re planning to bring luggage, the cheapest flight can end up being much more expensive. On the other hand, many travelers decide to pack lightly and buy essentials at their destination. Even with a single bag, many discount flights still end up cheaper than the full-price counterparts. The key is to know the policies and avoid any surprises before takeoff.

Second is the misery factor. Discount airlines have been described as buses that fly. People are packed closer together and there are no free services. For the ticket price, passengers get a seat. Aisle or window seats might be extra. Sitting together can cost extra. Changing a flight time, cancelling, or re-booking costs an arm and a leg. Europe’s largest discount airline even charges for water. At a certain point, wouldn’t it be easier to skip airport security and just take a bus or train? If plans are uncertain or a large group wants to be seated together, it may be better to avoid the stress and just book at a slightly higher price.

Customers who don’t mind paying a little extra will probably enjoy the comforts and extras included in a full ticket price. For the single passenger a cheap flight can be freeing. A weekend trip to a different city or an adventure abroad beckons. If customers pack light and keep their expectations in check, discount planes make a lot of sense. With more options than ever, air travel is becoming affordable for everyone. Just make sure to know what the ticket includes and whether it makes sense for your situation.