Fees for carry-on baggage are coming

One solution to paying fees for checked baggage — carrying your baggage onto the flight — is on its way out. Privately-held Spirit Airlines announced today it’s going to start charging as much as $45 for carry-on luggage that’s put in an overhead bin. The airline said anything stuffed under the seat in front of passengers will still be free, which should add a new headache to the boarding process.

“Bring less; pay less. It’s simple,” Spirit’s Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie said in a statement.

So far no other airlines have followed suit. “I personally think that would spark a major customer backlash,” Standard & Poor’s analyst Jim Corridore told Reuters. “The general public is sick and tired of fees. They pay them because they have to.”

Is that true? Does the paying public have to? Or do they just consider exercising what little power they have as consumers (not flying) a less appealing alternative to paying airline fees?. Airlines charge fees because customers will pay them.

Spirit Air has several schemes to get around the fee. It’s lowering its airfares — in some cases to a penny, and charging “fees” for the cost of getting you to where you want to go. The Seattle Post Intelligencer does the math on that:

If you fly from Detroit to Las Vegas, the 1 cent ticket, plus the $54.22 in fuel costs, plus $18.70 in taxes adds up to be $72.93… and you must be a $9 Fare Club member to have access to this sale, which costs $39.95 a year. Compared with pre-Penny Saver fares, the savings are about $40 — just slightly lower than what travelers on Spirit will have to pay if they carry-on bags. For those of you that travel without any luggage or take quick day-trips, this might be the deal for you.

  • Tyler


    I guess it’s still math – what’s cheaper for a trip I have to take: bus, train, car, plane? “Plane” seems to be pricing itself out.

  • bsimon

    What is perhaps most annoying is the challenge of accurately pricing one’s flying alternatives when trying to buy the ticket in the first place.

    If you know, going in, that you’re going to get hit with various fees throughout the process, its a bit more tolerable than if you think you’ve scored a real deal, then get surprised by baggage fees and the like.

  • Bismuth

    If the charge were $10, I’d be worried that it might soon spread to other airlines. However, with the explanation from Spirit about lowering their ticket price, this all sounds more like a gimmick designed to obscure the actual cost of flying with them — something discount airlines are notorious for. I mean, $45 basically to rent 2 cubic feet of space for 3 hours? Nobody who paid full price for the ticket is going to stomach that.

    I don’t mind that airlines are becoming more ala-carte oriented — those who travel light and don’t need in-air amenities can find some good bargains — but I’ve yet to see an airline be up-front about about the real cost of flying. Either keep selling tickets as an all-inclusive package (as they used to) or lay out all the possible fees up front, especially the ones that used to be provided without charge!

  • Bismuth

    @bsimon – not to mention trying to put an accurate value on your time, eg, is it worth saving a hundred bucks to be stuck on a train or bus (or even in O’Hare) for an extra day? If you’re going somewhere for a month, probably, but if you’re coming home for a weekend, likely not.

  • Bob Collins

    I’d never take a plane unless it saves me an overnight stop. Chicago? In the time it takes to fly there (including getting to the airport etc.), you can drive there.

    And you save the cost of a rental car.

    “Time so spare? Go by air!”

  • John O.

    I can remember as a young lad when flying was an event. “Customer service” was not an oxymoron in those days. Today’s air travel is not much better than bus travel of the late ’50s and early ’60s.

    The Spirit gimmick is just that. A gimmick. I won’t be flying them anytime soon, that is for sure. What’s next? Flight attendants coming through with card scanners to collect an additional in-flight fuel surcharge because the aircraft has been put in a holding pattern?