Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 with unique Blue/White livery

Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 with unique Blue/White livery

When I first heard this story I thought, “oh yes, I get to award another ‘Crazier Than Ryanair‘ medal.” However as I learned more about Spirit Airline’s new carry-on fees, I wonder if it is really all that crazy?

If you have missed it, Spirit Airlines is looking to charge passengers for carry-ons. There has been a lot of coverage of this, but here are the facts of the new carry-on fees:

* They start August 1st, 2010
* Spirit will be the first airline to charge for carry-on bags
* Your one personal item can go under your seat and is free
* It will cost $45 at the airport, $30 online and $20 for club members to have a carry-on in the overhead bin

Is this THAT crazy? Maybe not. If you have flown in the last few years you might have noticed how HUGE passenger’s carry-on bags have become. Three bags and one bin is totally full. It becomes a rush to the airplane to make sure you get space in the overhead bin. These fees would limit the number of people having a carry-on and would probably guarantee space for everyone who wants it.

Weight costs money. Airlines have been looking at ways to offer a basic ticket which will get your body from one destination to another and anything else going with you will cost money. It was only a matter of time before an airline [Ryanair anyone] would try something like this.

People will still pay. Passengers complain about new fees, but when it comes down to it, the fees make airlines a lot of money. Passengers might say they will never pay the carry-on fee, but when they are confronted with Spirit Airlines possibly having the cheapest fares, they don’t think twice. If passengers weren’t willing to pay these fees, airlines wouldn’t have them.

Yesterday Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood voiced his opposition to Spirit’s new fees. “I think it’s a bit outrageous that an airline is going to charge someone to carry on a bag and put it in the overhead. And I’ve told our people to try and figure out a way to mitigate that. I think it’s ridiculous.” FlyersRights.org also voiced their opinion that the government should step in and stop the madness of the airlines.

I am sorry, but this just angers me. The airlines were rightfully deregulated in the United States long ago and run via the free market. If passengers really don’t want to pay the fees, they won’t and Spirit will lose money and change their policies back. Airlines just don’t make up rules and policies in a vacuum that aren’t influenced by customer demand.

Yes, if the fees were not clear and were hidden, I could see the government stepping into make sure an airline was not deceiving passengers, but if you look at Spirit’s website (or been watching the news over the last few days),  it is quite obvious what the fees are for.

Personally do I want to pay these fees? Heck no! But if I am flying somewhere and Spirit has the cheapest (even with paying the fees) will I care what my money is paying for? Probably not. It will be very interesting to see how this all works out.

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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Marten Verheggen

Finally somebody with an objective opinion.
This will reduce the turnaround times by at least 30 to 50% and that will be an enormous asset for any airline that does that. In turn the ticket price will reduce even more. It’s all about the mighty dollar.

Hey Marten!

I didn’t even think about the turn around time. One of the worst parts of flying (for me) is when we are at the gate and I have to wait for everyone to de-plane. Most of the delay is from people trying to get their HUGE bags from the overhead bin.


Walt Iliff

I frequently fly on Spirit from D.C. to Ft. Lauderdale. I have paid anywhere from $39.00 to 115.00 for a round trip flight. What I will not do is pay for a flight costing sometimes hundreds more on another airline just so my bags can fly free. To borrow a phrase, “It’s the bottom line, stupid!”

Hey Walt!

I think some people argue that it is difficult to find out what the bottom line is. To me it is about being an informed consumer. If I need to check two bags for whatever reason, I know to shop around and see maybe Southwest would be cheaper overall. It is about being an informed customer!


The airlines brought this on themselves – space is on at a premium because they started charging to check bags.. now, to stop the scrum and everyone carrying everything onboard, they want to charge for carry-ons – it’s a double win for the airlines. They created a problem and solve it by dinging the pax again.

I carry camera gear so usually travel with 2 items – my camera bag goes under the seat(it is the largest of my 2 items) and the smaller one in the overhead – this allows me to grab and go on assignments and not wait at the baggage claim for sometimes longer than the flight took.

So yet again they have us over a barrel.

Why can’t airlines publish the CORRECT fare for a sector and them give you a discount for these nickel and dime items, instead of vastly underpriced published prices with all the extras added on aferwards? (taxes, airport fees, baggage, seat assignment etc)

This is just another reason I fly SWA – final price is the final price – done! (plus I can change, cancel, modify flights with NO penalty)

I need to carry camera gear onboard because, guess what, the airline won’t take responsibility for loss or damage as it contains high ticket items.

Hey Paul!

When I travel for the blog, I have a carry-on, two laptops (normally in one bag), camera, video camera, etc. To me, flying on Spirit wouldn’t make sense.

I see it where the airlines are not doing this, but passenger demand (or stupidity). If passengers keep being ok with this and keep paying the fees, then why wouldn’t an airline keep doing it? You are smart. If you disagree with it, don’t fly on an airline you don’t like!

I know some people really want to have seat assignments, so they let their pocket book vote and don’t fly Southwest!


I don’t have much sympathy for women and their purses. Some of them are larger than the computer bags they carry. NOBODY needs that much stuff. Nor do I have much sympathy for people who refuse to carry on bags because they save a whopping 20 minutes on the other end. Assertions that bags take “hours” or “longer than the flight” are grossly exaggerated and are typically the EXCEPTION to most people’s experiences.

Nobody HAS to fly Spirit. Smart travelers already factor in the cost of a checked bag (or not) when making choices. If someone buys a ticket on Southwest because their bags fly free but fails to check other carriers that may even beat the price when bag fees are factored in, then that is their option. (A friend of mine found round-trips form Florida up to the midwest to visit relatives on WN were $30 more than on another carrier, even AFTER he factored in the bag fees.)

There’s something to be said for the notion paying less when you don’t use a service. Why should free baggage be included in a fare if I’m not checking anything? Airlines advertise their fares as required by the DOT. DOT doesn’t require them to incorporate some fees. How could they? If Tom, Dick and Mary check bags, and you don’t they can’t publish a correct fare for both of you. If you travel a different itinerary than I do that doesn’t involve a change of planes (and therefore an additional segment tax and potentially an extra PFC) how can the airline present an accurate price to both of us in an advertisment.

Why not act like a responsible adult and be aware of what you’ll be paying? The beer you bought yesterday didn’t include taxes on the purchase in the sale price at the cooler. Why should an airline ticket be different?

Hey Chris!

You bring up some very good points. It is about being an informed customer. All these fees can also be pre-paid online, so the customer can really see what the full fare it will be.

It becomes more difficult when you use sites like Kayak.com (which I normally do) to compare fares. However they do provide a very helpful page of fees (http://www.kayak.com/airline-fees) that allow the customer to be fully informed.


@ Traci – Are you serious??? Just because you are woman doesn’t mean you HAVE to carry a purse! The very definition of discrimination would be to allow women to carry on a purse and another item which in effect penalizes men by allowing women two personal items including a purse and only allowing men one.


@Chris J.
I found the same thing, from NYC to LAX, it was cheaper by about $20 to fly Midwest or American than Southwest including bag fees. I also discovered that if you buy the membership from Spirit and you take one checked and a carryon for the overhead, the membership pays for itself (when factoring in ticket price too).

This idea might even help speed up the security lines inside the airport.

These bag fees work. They change behaviors and they allow people to save a few bucks too.

I’m in favor of asking people to pay for what they want to use. I won’t buy beer at a football game, but there are thousands of other fans willing to pay the $8 beer fee. If there wasn’t, the cost for beer would go down.

The same is true of these carry-on fees. I won’t pay them because I don’t want to, but thousands of other travelers will be willing to pay them.

Hello Cryme!

Exactly. Like I said airlines aren’t just making stuff up outside of reality. A $200 “boarding fee” to just get on the plane would never work. But a $45 carry-on fee might just work. If it doesn’t, I am sure they will change it or run out of money and go out of business.

It sure as heck is getting them a lot of publicity!


I’m all for fees on things that are “optional” such as blankest, pillows, headsets, meals (on non-international), seats with more legroom, TV/WiFi, etc.

However, when it comes to things that are not optional, they should be included in the price of a ticket. In my opinion bags are generally not “optional.”

I can see the logic in all this though… However… if I fly on Spirit (which I wouldn’t ever really need to), and my airfare is only marginally cheaper or not at all, then what’s the point? Oh yeah… for the airline to squeeze as much money out of me as possible.

Hey Clay!

What about a day flight? If I am just flying to another city for the day and flying back. I just have my laptop bag. Why should my ticket pay for the fuel to fly other people’s bags?

I know that is a rare occurrence, but just an example…


Yeah, that’s why I say generally not optional. I don’t have any metrix on this, but I’m willing to bet that 99% of the people on the plane have at least one bag that’s not under the seat.


I bet you are probably right. One under the seat or in the overhead bin. Not many people travel very light!

Unfortunately most people don’t think about the fees when they book a flight, they just look at who offer the lowest price which gives airlines every incentive to offer the lowest price because they all want to show up on the first page of the search result on Orbitz or Travelocity. Most people don’t even realize that some of the real deals are on the 2nd page or 3rd page (International flights especially). The general public need to realize that airfare is no longer about the lowest fare but about who offers the best deal. Unless this change, we are going to expect to see new fees to come and this isn’t the end of it.

It is about being an informed customer. When I got to the store to buy something, I know there are taxes (and maybe recycle fees) that are added on. I learn how those work and what has tax and what does not. Same thing will be with airlines.

If people feel like they were lied to and not told about the true price from an airline, BAM, they won’t fly (or at least say they won’t fly) any more.

But every time I have checked in online with an airline with fees, they make it obvious during the buying and checking-in procedure to pre-pay for bags and such.


Hey Traci!

I fly with my girlfriend a lot and she will throw her purse into my laptop bag or other carry-on. I am not sure how it would be received if women were allowed two personal items and men only one.

I know women who have a carry-on, laptop bag, and purse and have never been called out on it by TSA or the airline.


Wow man, this is very nice info, appreciated.


The problem is that Spirit said they would be checking bag size before passengers board the aircraft. It will be chaos at the gate. If they had done that to begin with, then maybe there would not be so many people taking oversize bags on-board. Either way I’m not flying Spirit.

How do you suppose they check every bag size to begin with? With online check in being more and more popular, a majority of travelers with just carry on bags have no need to even stop at the main counters in front of the airport. You may argue that they can check the bags at the check points, what bout those that travel on a different airline and the passenger isn’t require to pass through security again. Also do you expect TSA to enforce the carry on bag policy for Spirit? What bout having a spirit representative check the bag size at the check point? I don’t think you want to add more cost by hiring a extra person just to check bag size. So yeah, checking the size of the bags at the gate makes a lot of sense.

Good question James. I actually wrote to Spirit and asked how they will monitor who paid for the carry-ons.

Misty Pinson, with Spirit Communications, told me, “Boarding passes will indicate if someone has purchased a carry-on bag and they will also indicate priority boarding in Zone 1.”

So really, I wouldn’t want to be a flight attendant for Spirit dealing with angry customers who are told they can’t put their carry-ons in the overhead bin.


Also want to add… if Spirit is offering their $9 fare to where you want to go from where you want to leave from while other airlines are offering the same route for $59, I’m pretty sure you’ll go with their $9 fare regardless of the fees… yes they still do have $9 fares

so I have a very small carry on bag but I want to bring my big lap top too both should fit under the seat but if I bring the laptop I will be charged extra right?

The way that airlines charge just remind me of banks and credit card companies. Soon there will be a fee just for sitting down on the aircraft, to go somewhere will cost extra.

Virtual Airlines List

Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

So will I have to pay for a handbag 19″x12″x5″, which will be holding my laptop along with some of my “purse” items, including cash and credit cards? Or will I be able to place it under the seat for free? I’m sooo confused.

I Love spirit airlines.. I got $20 for Dallas to NewYork. Other flights have $300 to $500 dollars just one way..I can pay for baggage $20 but it was worth.
$9 membership program also good. Include this one time charge filight ticket charge is less compare other airways.

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