Spirit Airlines will begin charging $100 per bag for passengers who bring luggage for stowing in overhead bins. This is the first U.S. carrier to impose such fees for carry-on bags. Currently, the airline charges $45 when passengers show up at a gate with a carry-on bag. The rate hike is scheduled to go into effect on November 6, according to the airline’s website.
The change means that any passenger who comes to a boarding gate without having pre-paid for the privilege of stowing their carry-on will be charged at the new rate. Spirit offers a confusing menu of fees for baggage that are linked to the point during reservations when passengers ‘buy’ the option of taking a carry-on bag. Spirit offers to passengers "ultra low base fares" for airline tickets by paying fees only for "the extras they value," the website says.
For passengers on Spirit, the $100 one-way fee for carry-on bags will drop to $50 on November 6 if paid at ticket counters or check-in kiosks. The fee drops to $35 each way if reserved online before check-in, or to $40 if reserved through Spirit's call center.
Ellen Creager, who is a travel writer for the Detroit Free Press, wrote about the change “Spirit Airlines' entire business model is based on taking advantage of the naive, the newbies and the confused. Its latest move -- charging up to $100 each way for a carry-on bag starting in November -- shows contempt for inexperienced travelers. It especially shows contempt for the elderly, who are less likely to use the Internet and more likely to be unfamiliar with baggage rules.”
Other fees are rising: for example, Spirit will charge $35 for a carry-on bag purchased at the time reservations are made, $50 if the option is bought at the airport counter or kiosk, or $100 if passengers wait until reaching the gate. The airline also is raising some fees for checked baggage.
In February, the U.S. Department of Transportation required enhanced transparency for airline ticket prices, including government taxes and fees in advertised airfares. Just the same, baggage fees and other extras remain hidden, and thus add to passengers’ costs.
Spirit made a profit of $76.4 million in 2011, with one third of its operating revenue coming from fees for carry-on and checked bags, choosing seats in advance and extra legroom.